High welfare, pasture fed livestock
Our small herd (about 50 animals) are mostly Welsh Black. This is one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the UK and there is evidence that the breed, or its forerunners, existed in Roman times and certainly black cattle have been bred in Wales for over 1,000 years. We chose them as they are very well suited to cope for the harsh conditions sometimes found on Dartmoor. They are a nice calm breed, so easy for us to handle when needed and are not bothered by people by people walking through the farm. Although relatively slow growing, they produce very high quality, tasty beef.
Being Pasture Fed accredited, they allowed to graze extensively across the farm from spring to the autumn, whilst in the winter they are ‘confined’ to a 40 acre field next to our barns, so they can come in or go out as they choose. There is barn with a deep straw bed to allow the cattle to sleep indoors if they want to get out of the weather. The young calves are often to be found indoors in rough weather with one of the older cows who has been left to look after them whilst the younger mothers go out to graze. As there isn’t enough grass in the winter to sustain them, they are fed haylage (a cross between hay and silage) in a covered yard next to the barn that we harvest from our meadows in the summer.
Our bull, Eric is with his cows and their calves all year round, and is a very chilled chap, so there is no need to worry if you spot him whilst walking on the farm. This means that we have calves born throughout the year and almost all of these are born outside without any human intervention. Our cattle have small calves (hence why they rarely have problems calving) and normally the cows will go off somewhere quiet to give birth and then hide the calf away. So, whilst we may know that a cow has had a calf, unless the weather is really bad and we want to get them in, we leave mum and baby to bond in peace, and it may be some days before we get to see it and they re-join the rest of the herd