COWS and goats could help to restore flower-rich meadows at a Colchester beauty spot as part of an innovative research project.

A new collaboration involving Essex University researchers will see sensors used to track the eating habits of the animals’ living at High Woods Country Park.

Prof Edward Codling, of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science, and Prof Tom Cameron, of the School of Life Sciences, are working alongside conservation grazing experts from Legacy Grazing and technology firm Nofence to monitor the movements of the animals.

They will collect data via a sensor fitted with GPS tracking and an accelerometer which will be used to establish where and when they are eating, offering a glimpse into the behaviour of the animals.

Gazette: Livestock - cows at High Woods Country ParkLivestock - cows at High Woods Country Park (Image: Essex University)

It is hoped the data will also give the team an idea of which areas of land are productive for grazing and others which are not.

Prof Codling said: “Our project specifically focuses on identifying feeding behaviour in grazing animals such as the cattle and goats currently at High Woods.

“By recording movement in the neck-mounted Nofence sensor and linking this to their spatial position we aim to map out where they graze in an automated way.

"Importantly, this will enable us to gain a better understanding of how the animals interact with their local environment and how this could be beneficial for restoring and managing the natural landscape.

“We hope to continue working with Legacy Grazing and Nofence in future projects to develop this research further."

Legacy Grazing is working alongside Colchester Council to restore a series of flower-rich meadows in the park, which is a valuable refuge for wildlife in the heart of the city.

Luke Bristow, principal ecological consultant for Essex County Council’s place services team, said his team is “really pleased” to be working with the university and Nofence on the project.

“The new insights provided by the research will greatly improve the impact our livestock will have upon the scarce and threatened habitats they are helping partners, like Colchester Council, manage and improve,” he added.