After such a brilliant and inspirational visit to 'The Calf at Foot Dairy' I began going through all the photos that I had taken. (I took over 400 photos, it was a lot to work through!) I couldn't help but just continue to take photos of these gentle and serene cows. They have to be some of the easiest animals I have photographed, I think partly as they are so well handled they did not feel threatened by my presence in the yard or feel that I was invading their personal space. They didn't run away or fret when I was kneeling down or approaching them as they nursed their calves, sometimes it felt as though they were posing for me!
Jersey cows are so pretty and 'dainty', they have such an elegant and graceful presence which you just sense when you are around them. With their delicate features and distinctive facial markings they have such a strong sense of character. Not one cow looks the same, every cow has its own individual and unique characteristics and markings.
As you can see from these three pictures the colours and marking can vary so much from cow to cow.
This is my pencil sketch of one of the Jersey cows.
This is the hand stamped print I created, using the shapes within my pencil drawings to create the stamps and then referring back to my photographs for the colours. I am really pleased with the print, as I feel it translates the personality and character of the Jersey cow. I think her eyes show the kindness of this docile breed, and the soft textural nature of the print suits their gentle nature.
I would like to say another HUGE thank you to Fiona, Zoe, Amy and their wonderful volunteers who made me feel so welcome and for sharing their story with me. If you want to find out more about The Calf at Foot Dairy please take a look at their website www.the-calf-at-foot-dairy.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @thecalfatfootdairy. They give fantastic daily updates on the day to day running of the farm!
Last week I had a fantastic trip over to Somerleyton in Suffolk to visit the extraordinary 'Calf at Foot Dairy'. I have been following this idyllic micro dairy on Instagram for a while now and I was so excited when the owner, Fiona Provan, said I could pop over and write a blog. The ethos behind the 'Calf at Foot Dairy' is based upon the well-being of the cows, being calf-friendly and cow-kind which is summed up by their strap line; 'You can taste the kindness'. I was absolutely fascinated to see their day in action as they do everything from start to finish here, from milking the cows in the morning to bottling up the raw milk ready for customers in the afternoon!
'Calf at Foot Dairy' was started in 2012 by the very passionate and inspiring Fiona Proven, who now has her 'Dairy Angels', Zoe and Amy running day to day life on the farm. As well as her 'Dairy Angels' Fiona has a constant string of volunteers and work experience students who share the same passion for cow welfare, the environment and for raw milk!
As the 'label' says 'Calf at Foot Dairy', this micro dairy is unlike the stereo typical 'mega dairy' as all the cows get to keep their calves, with Zoe and Amy only taking half of the cows milk once a day, in the morning, leaving the rest of the milk for the calf. Watching the milking was so interesting for me, seeing each cow jump up to their name. They are milked one by one to make sure extreme cleanliness is kept at all times. Then they are let straight back out into the yard and reunited with their calves, they have no anxiety about leaving their calves as they know they will be there waiting for them. Having beef cattle myself, we always keep our calves on our cows so I understand the strong bond a cow builds with her calf. It really was so special to see the attention they give their calves on their return and then one by one all the calves take their turn for breakfast off their Mum.
A cow grooming her calf after being milked in the micro parlour.
The cows relaxing in the sun after being milked, in the afternoon they are then walked down to graze on the marshes.
One cow sheltering from the morning sun.
When did you first come up with the idea of the ‘Calf at Foot Dairy’?
It was something I’ve always wanted to do, but The Calf at Foot Dairy seed germinated in 2009
What breed of cow do you use for your milk production, and what made you choose this particular breed?
The herd is mostly made up of Jersey cows, but we have crossed a few Red Polls in for robustness, helping to cut down on inputs. I chose the Jersey breed because my father recommended them when I bought my first house cow for my young family. The reason being, Jersey cows are quiet and small but with a big personality. They are easy to handle, very affectionate, easy calving and they weren’t so high yielding then and the milk is delicious and very creamy.
How many milking cows do you have?
We have around 18 milking cows but are only milking 14 a day due to some cows nursing their calves exclusively. We do not take milk if the calf needs it.
As well as pure Jersey cows, Fiona also has a hand full of Jersey x Red Poll cows to just 'beef' them out a little bit.
What does the average day consist of on your farm?
In the warmer months we gather the cows from the marsh at sunrise (too flipping early), then it’s up the lane ready for milking. The cows are milked just once a day and one at a time, coming into the parlour when their name is called. After milking, the parlour is washed down and the milking machine is cleansed by mid-morning. All the milk is bottled and cooled, the washing up is done and the bottling shed is cleaned down. We muck out all the sheds and yards/lounging areas and straw/bed up with pitch forks and barrow. At around lunchtime we pack up the milk into delivery boxes ready for the collection driver/courier in the afternoon. Sometime in the afternoon/ when the cows decide they are ready, we walk them back down to their grazing marshes for the night. We return to the yard to finish off any mucking out, filling feeders, checking water troughs etc for the morning. The self-service customer fridges are restocked. Office work has to be squeezed in and around the farming chores taking up about 4hrs per day.
During the winter months the cows stay on the yard and the extra work is more mucking out and more feeders need filling (hay/haylage)
The idea behind your whole business is the health, happiness and welfare of the cows; how does your milk yields compare to ‘normal’ dairy farming?
Yield is not a priority to us so we don’t compare (but much less if we did, we probably get a third of the milk in comparison)
Each cow is milked one by one in the micro parlour, with each cow being thoroughly cleaned and the surrounding area to make sure that everything is as clean as possible which is extremely important when you are supplying raw milk! This is Zoe one of the 'Dairy Angels' in action.
Why do you feel it is so important for the cows to keep their calves until weaning?
To make a cow have a calf to produce milk exclusively for us is going against nature and is one of the most extreme forms of animal exploitation. This is the whole essence of why I started the dairy; if you look on the website you will see the reasons.
A cow feeding and grooming her calf after being milked in the micro dairy.
You sell your raw milk directly from the farm, which is the lowest food miles possible! Do you have any other outlets for your raw milk?
Yes, as well as our 24/7 self-service farm gate shop, we also have an online national delivery service. So we can send milk all over the UK for next day delivery!
Here is Amy, one of the 'Dairy Angels' seperating the mornings fresh milk, making milk and cream.
Once seperated the milk and cream is bottled up, left to cool and then sold from the farm or sent off by a next day courier all over the UK.
There aren't many shops you can go to where you can see the product being created, customers are in fact encouraged to come and buy straight from the farm. I witnessed one customer purchasing milk early in the morning whilst Zoe was milking. You don't get a better shopping experience than that!
What obstacles have you come up along the way with your business?
Being told it’s a ridiculous idea to keep the calves with the cows.
Misogyny, finding money/land/farm, bad landlords, no locals doing things differently so advice and understanding is hard to come by as it’s all conventional thinking.
Where do you plan to take your business next?
To use more regenerative holistic farming methods. As well as cutting down on inputs and plastic use.
Jersey steers enjoying the sunshine, these are finished off on grass and sold at the small farm shop for beef.
You are a first generation farmer; do you have any advice to someone looking to get into farming that is not from a farming background?
To make sure you are 100% committed because you will fail if you have any other hopes/dreams/aspirations as livestock farming is a hard and relentless slog and if you have another calling you ain’t gonna last. However if you know this is your calling then don’t ever let anyone convince you that you can’t do it, follow your dreams. Surround yourself with support from positive people who believe in you and your dream. Don’t be put off by other people and remember when/if they laugh it’s either because they do not understand or they feel threatened. Focus and specialise on the one thing that grabs you the most, put everything into that and only once you have perfected that, then think about introducing the other things that will compliment it. So for me the one thing that I really ever wanted to do was high welfare dairying. I loved and wanted to do so many other things but I have learnt over the years that by spreading myself too thinly I can’t be effective at anything. The other thing that grabs me is regenerative agriculture and holistic grazing methods, and only now after 7 years of becoming a registered dairy business I can think about implementing these to compliment my dairy and restore, soils, and the ecology in the environment I work.
Also make sure you have the right animal and system for your environment and use social media well, to sell your story and your product.
'Dairy Angel' - Zoe
'Dairy Angel' - Amy
Founder - Fiona
I took home a bottle of their AMAZING raw milk which has been thoroughly enjoyed by me and my family!
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Fiona, Zoe, Amy and their wonderful volunteers who made me feel so welcome and for sharing their story with me. I came away feeling completely inspired and in awe of the amazing work that they all do, with such passion, knowledge and enthusiasm. I just hope I have managed to portray their incredible hard work and compassion for the animals they work with through this blog. If you want to find out more about The Calf at Foot Dairy please take a look at their website www.the-calf-at-foot-dairy.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @thecalfatfootdairy.
I had such a fantastic visit to the Pointer Farm, I don't think I have ever taken so many photos in one day. I focused on the majestic English Longhorn cattle, but Jamie did kindly introduce me to all the different breeds which are also at the Pointer Farm. I came back to the studio with so much inspiration! It was fantastic, as well as the Longhorns, I have drawn from three of the different breeds of sheep and the Middle White pigs.
The Longhorns do not have to have symmetrical horns, and no two cows have the same horns. They come in quite literally any shape and size, going in any direction they fancy! This meant it was really hard to choose which cow to draw from, but I decided on this cow as she just caught my eye. I loved her delicate mottled markings and her horns are beautiful.
My pencil sketch of the Longhorn cow.
This is my final print of the Longhorn cow, I am really pleased with the outcome. The Longhorn is so very distinctive and they have so much character and I think that this has translated through the print.
As I said before Jamie works with 5 different breeds of sheep at the Pointer Farm and I have drawn from three! It was hard to choose!
The Valais Blackness Sheep - these have been recently sheared and are usually REALLY fluffy. I can't wait to draw them when their fleeces have grown back!
Sketch and print of Exmoor Horn Ewe.
My new favourite sheep - the Greyface Dartmoor, I loved drawing this ewe, she had the most amazing curly fleece.
Finally... The Middle White Pig!
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Jamie, for taking the time to show we around the amazing Pointer farm. I have really enjoyed putting this blog together and drawing so many different breeds. I certainly learnt a lot and gathered so much inspiration that I can't wait to use on products in the future. If you would like to learn more about Pointer Pedigrees take a look at their website > www.pointerpedigrees.com and follow them on Instagram > @pointerpedigrees.
Last week I travelled to Wotton in Buckinghamshire, to meet Jamie Brewer the head stockman at Pointer Pedigrees. Pointer Pedigrees is home to cattle, sheep and pigs (including many different breeds). However, in this blog I have mainly focused on the majestic Longhorn Cattle which were originally established in 2006 on the farm. I had a great morning meeting all the various residents of the farm and was especially lucky with the weather! The Longhorns are such an iconic native breed and it was great to catch up with Jamie and hear about the progression of the breed over the years.
How long have you been working with Longhorn Cattle?
I moved to Buckinghamshire in 2013, I was drawn to David’s (my boss) enthusiasm so I knew it was the right decision for me to come and work with a breed I hadn’t worked with before It was a challenge to get to the top. It was also a great opportunity for me to shine, with the backing and support to get where we wanted to with the breed.
Where do the Longhorn originate from and what is their history?
History is being made by me!... The Longhorns are beef cattle that originate from Craven, in the North of England. The breed was initially used as a draught animal, which its body is well suited for; the milk was also collected for butter and cheese because of its high butterfat content. The notable long, curved horns that serve to distinguish this breed from others can make an individual appear aggressive, although by temperament they are usually friendly.
What would you say the most attractive attributes of the Longhorn’s are?
People seem to see a lot of negatives to the Longhorns, the horns are probably one of the first things to put people off. People need extra space because of the horns and they carry the negative stigma of many native breeds of being slow finishing. However, with the improvements within the breed this is no longer the case, if farmed correctly. There is such improvement in the breed now people look past the horns and see a good suckler cow. They have a strong maternal instinct, easy calving, high milk yield; they flesh out well with the right food. They will finish on grass (turning grass into flesh) better than a continental, and finishing quicker than most native breeds. Higher profit margins within a beast, with not as much supplement feeding.
How many Longhorn’s do you now have in the Pointer herd?
We have 42 Longhorn cows, 15 two year old heifers which being introduced to the bull this spring. 5 bulls, 2 bought in and 3 homebred and all working. As well as the Longhorns we have Highland cattle. We have 5 different breeds of sheep; Hampshire Downs, Coloured Rylands, Exmoor Horns, Greyface Dartmoors and Valais Black Nose and finally... Middle White Pigs. All pedigree!
The latest addition to Pointer Pedigrees are these Swiss beauties, Valais Black Nose sheep. Jamie imported these only a few weeks ago so I was very lucky and excited to meet them!
Feeding Time! Pointer Pedigrees have 5 different breeds of sheep on the farm; Hampshire Downs, Coloured Rylands, Exmoor Horns, Greyface Dartmoors and Valais Black Nose.
Special treatment for this orphan lamb!
My personal favourites! The Greyface Dartmoors... aren't they just adorable.
Back to the Longhorns...You are in the middle of calving at the moment; do you find the Longhorns to be good mothers?
Yes, excellent mothers and good temperament, but I am always cautious and I treat everyday like a new day every time I see them. As my temperament changes daily, so does theirs.
What do you do with your young stock; do you sell them on to other breeders or retain them for your own breeding stock?
We do a bit of everything, we wean all our young stock at 9 months then go through them all and work out what we want to be kept back to reintroduce in the herd. These are chosen for specific attributes, I am looking for length, locomotion (keeping fit and healthy on their feet), and decent growth rates. You start to understand what cows are breeding what! Anything that doesn’t make the grade has their horns removed and males will be castrated. These are then sold as stores straight away. The ones that make the top 25% are retained and haltered and any we don’t keep ourselves are available to buy both privately and at society sales.
A few of the 2019 born calves.
Longhorns make excellent mothers, here is a cow with her calf which was born while I was there!
Do you sell your Longhorn beef locally, if so what feedback have you had?
Our boss keeps a few for himself, just for his own private functions and events. Otherwise we sell the young stock as stores so not finishing them ourselves.
You show your cattle, what do you look for in a show animal?
I am looking for conformation, something that is stocky not fat but well fleshed. Length is important but you can’t always get flesh and length together. For the cows I want a nice feminine head and a bull to have a strong masculine head. I want width for easy calving and something, which walks well. The horns are irrelevant, with this breed the horns do not have to be symmetrical and can go any direction, the horns are irrelevant to the butcher!
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your cattle?
I think it is more important for the breed, whether it does me a favour or not because I have a good cow. It does a favour for the breed, which has had hard, times but is now on the up! It is a great selling platform for both the breed and me. It is even better when you are winning! Nothing better than your hard work paying off.
Pointer Pedigrees have had a lot of success in the show ring!
What is your favourite thing about owning cattle?
I am just addicted to cattle since my Grandfather introduced me to them. I couldn’t think of anything better than being with him and his beloved Dairy Friesian cows. I bought my first Highland cow with money I got from the Government to fund my college, but I realised my money would be better spent on a cow which I paid off £25 a week for a year! Now the rest is history!
What advice would you give someone looking to get cattle?
Don’t bother! No joking… it brings you great joys but sometimes it can be hard work and painful with loss but the good overcomes the bad and I wouldn’t want my life without cows in it!
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Jamie, for taking the time to show we around the amazing Pointer farm. I had a fantastic morning learning all about the Longhorn cattle and being introduced to all the other breeds on the farm. I certainly learnt a lot and got a massive amount of inspiration for drawings and prints. If you would like to learn more about Pointer Pedigrees take a look at their website > www.pointerpedigrees.com and follow them on Instagram > @pointerpedigrees.
After my visit to Carr Farm to meet Nicola and her Waveney herd of Belted Galloway's, I came back to the studio to go through the many photos I had taken to try and pick one to draw from. The Belted Galloway are such a distinctive looking breed and to the untrained eye they may all look identical. However, Nicola told me that a Belted Galloway cow should have a short, feminine head and that a long face was less preferable, especially in the show ring. The Belted Galloway, are a tough native breed with so much character, I was really looking forward to drawing them.
The only thing I was worried about was their features!!! With such a black face and with so much heavy winter coat it is very difficult to see their eyes. Eyes being an important feature and often the make or brake of drawing an animal... anyway I tried my best!
Here is the pencil sketch which I did from a 2 year old heifer, her face was a especially difficult, even now I am not completely convinced by it. I spent so long trying to put the suggestion of her eyes, it is hard because you can barely make out their eyes through all their hair. After finding the drawing a little tricky I knew that the print would be even harder, as it is always difficult to put subtle detail into my hand stamped prints.
Here is my final print, I feel that the texture within the print translates the shaggy, thick coats of the Belted Galloway well. In the end I am pleased with the result, after being quite anxious as to how it would turn out!
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Nicola for taking the time to show me her Waveney Herd of Belted Galloway, I had a fantastic morning looking round the farm and meeting the cattle. If you would like to learn more about Carr Farm or maybe purchase one of their meat boxes please take a look at their website, www.carrfarm.org.
On a very blustery Monday morning this week I visited Nicola and her Waveney herd of Belted Galloway. As soon as I arrived at Carr Farm I spotted the Belted Galloways in the distance with their distinctive black and white markings against the green landscape. It was really interesting to hear about how Nicola has grown and established her Belted Galloway herd, especially as she is not from a farming background. I was so impressed to see how much Nicola and her husband David have achieved in just 8 years since moving to Carr Farm. They are so passionate about promoting the breed and its tasty beef, selling it online, at farmers markets and at local pubs. I admire how proactive they have been in such a short period of time, beginning to establish an Eastern Belted Galloway Breeders group to support and learn from fellow breeders.
Last year's calves enjoying a corner of sun on a windy day.
What made you choose the Belted Galloway breed originally?
Hardy and good on poor grazing, polled, easy calvers, not too large, native…..distinctive looking (or quirky), great tasting and different (not many in Norfolk/Suffolk).
What is the history of the Belted Galloway’s?
No-one knows for sure where they came from but it is believed to be from crossing Scotlands native black galloways with the dutch belted lakenvelder in the C17th. The original Breeders Society was set up in the 1920’s.
Belted Galloways are most commonly thought of as being black with a white belt but they can also be red and dun.
How many Belted Galloway’s do you now have in your herd?
44 (2 bulls, 14 cows, 8 heifers, 8 steers, 12 youngsters)
What numbers do you plan to get up to in your herd?
2 bulls, 18/20 cows plus followers – because we are finishing (and that can take up to 3 years) that would take total numbers up to 60+
The Belted Galloway is a hardy, native breed, do you keep them out all year round?
Here is Nicola with some of her expectant cows which are due to calve from April onwards, all the cows are kept out all year round and fed only on grass and hay. In the run up to calving Nicola has the cows in fields near by so she can keep a close eye on them.
What do you plan to do with this years calves, do you plan to sell them on to other breeders or retain them for your own breeding stock?
Bulls are likely to be castrated unless they look particularly special, we may retain 2/3 heifers for our own breeding stock the remainder will either be sold as breeders or kept as stores.
You take your Belted Galloway beef to local farmers markets, you must have a great reaction from customers, do you find it a good promotion for yourself and the beef?
We do a couple of farmers markets and I enjoy the interaction with customers and hearing their recipe ideas and they in turn like to hear what we are doing on the farm. It’s also been useful to get feedback on different cuts of beef, hanging times etc. We also sell alot on-line but the markets are a good barometer for what is important to people at any particular time; price, taste, welfare, feeding, farming methods etc.
Waveney's current stock bull, Meadowhall Idris, has been out wintered with a group of steers (castrated males), which Nicola will eventually sell at farmers markets or through their website where she sells her popular meat boxes.
You show your cattle, what do you look for in a show animal?
Nice and square, level top line, good feet, locomotion and a wide head with thick coat and good belt – a steady temperament also helps – if its too lively or naughty it won’t be going to a show however nice it is!
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your cattle?
We love getting the animals out there for the public to see and interact with – farming needs to connect more with the public and the shows are a great opportunity for this. In the future showing success may lead to us being able to sell more breeding cattle, but currently we are just happy to participate. It provides a good shop window for our farm, the belties, our beef and our PFLA certification
Here is Nicola and Harnser with his Sire Southfield Sonny Boy – who won the best in breed and bull class at the Royal Norfolk Show.
What is your favourite thing about owning cattle?
They are all such great characters – whatever else is going on in my life and whatever the weather I love spending time with the cattle whether it be feeding them, keeping an eye on them calving, training the youngsters for shows or just carrying out the daily checks they are great levellers.
Nicola with her homebred Dun bull Harnser.
What advice would you give someone looking to get cattle?
I’m not from a farming background and ever since I can remember wanted to keep cattle but never had the confidence to get on and do it – now I have them I wish I hadn’t wasted so many years. I’d recommend going and helping someone who already has them to get used to handling them, have a plan for what you want from them and consider the handling equipment you will need. Then if you have the space and the time take the plunge –there’s lots of help out there for new cattle keepers.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Nicola for taking the time to show me her Waveney Herd of Belted Galloway, I had a fantastic morning looking round the farm and meeting the cattle. It just proves if you have the passion and drive you can go into farming even without a farming background. If you would like to learn more about Carr Farm or maybe purchase one of their meat boxes please take a look at there website, www.carrfarm.org. Keep your eyes peeled for my next blog when I will be drawings these striking cattle.
Last Friday I took a trip to Spilsby to visit young cattle farmer, Edward Middleton. Edward, 25, runs his Lincoln Red and Limousin cattle on his family farm in the heart of Lincolnshire. It was great to be able to visit Edward's farm and see his cattle grazing in the meadows. Especially as Edward is very busy on the show circuit this year at which he has had great success, including Female Champion at Woodall Spa County Show and Lincoln Red Champion at Rutland Show. As well as success in the show ring, Edward and his cattle have had a lot of media attention this year including being featured in Hello! magazine and have featured on 'Look North'.
How long have you been interested in cattle and how did you become so involved with them?
I've been interested in farming and livestock from an early age, my passion for cattle has grown the last 10 years, we had fattening cattle on the farm previously but I started out on my own with pedigree Lincoln Reds in 2013 and more recently pedigree Limousin. I got the cattle showing bug after taking part in the young farmers heifer handling competition at Lincolnshire Show and a year later I bought my first Lincoln red heifers.
Edward, 25, established his Lincoln Red herd in 2013 and recently introduced a Limousin Herd.
What made you choose the Lincoln Red breed?
I guess it’s the local breed, I've always liked them and they look great to look at in a field with the sun shining on their dark, red coats! There great mothers, docile, and finish easy off grass without the need to use a lot of expensive concentrate feed.
Can you tell me little more about the history of the breed?
The Lincoln Red is a breed with ancient origins, it is one of the oldest of the UK's native breeds. The Lincoln Red is a polled animal, well fleshed with a deep cherry-red coat, a wide muzzle and well placed legs, ideally suited to a range of conditions. They were originally a dual-purpose breed, making them an excellent easy calving suckler cow.
How many cattle do you now have in your herd?
At present I've around 80 head of cattle in the herd which includes calves, stock bulls etc.
What numbers do you plan to get up to in your herd?
I have 20 in calf heifers to calve this year which will bring the herd to calving just under 50, but the plan is to push this to 100 calving within 2 – 3 years.
What do you plan to do with this year's calves?
90% of the heifer calves will be kept for future breeding then I'll only keep 1 or 2 bull calves to keep and sell for breeding.
You show your Lincoln Reds, what do you look for in a show animal?
Personally, I look for shape! The breed has come on so much in the past 20 years and at the end of the day it's what the butcher wants! I like a dark red colour to them especially in the bulls and I like there tail to be set properly, a nice straight back from the tail to the shoulders. But most importantly shows itself off well!
Edward winning Overall Champion Lincoln Red with his 2yr old heifer at Rutland Show 2018.
What is involved in your show preparation?
Show prep starts in January with cattle being halter trained and slowly start to increase feed. My first show is the beginning of May at Newark so throughout march and April cattle are clipped and washed to get the coat looking its best. Once at the show we use numerous things to make the cattle stand out... I'll have to leave that bit a secret!!
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your herd?
I feel showing is very important for my herd. It shows off what you've got at home and hopefully generates sales, a red rosette always stands out in a sale catalogue! It's also important to educate the public on farming and agricultural shows are a fantastic way of doing that.
Edward meeting Prince Charles at Louth Livestock Market, which was featured in Hello! magazine.
What is your favourite thing about Lincoln Reds?
I'd say their quietness, you can walk upto them in a field and they won't run off!
What are the toughest challenges you have faced so far being a young farmer?
The toughest thing I'd say is the cost of everything I.e. land, machinery, feed etc, if you weren’t brought up into farming it's very difficult to get going, I've been lucky that there's a lot of grazing land available to rent locally but with cattle it’s a long wait before you see any real income … I'm waiting for that £100,000 bull to come along!
What advice would you give someone looking to get involved with Lincoln Red cattle?
Start with something good! Even if you can only afford one, buy quality not quantity. If you buy rubbish you'll always have rubbish so start as you mean to go on. Personally, they are a very affordable breed to get involved with, you don’t have to spend thousands to buy something good. The society's members are a great bunch and will make you feel very welcome.
A BIG thank you to Edward for showing me around his family farm and giving me the chance to meet his herd of cattle. If you would like the chance to find out more about Edward's herd 'Holegate Lincoln Reds and Limousins' you can follow updates on Facebook.
I am really excited to announce the launch of my first collection of cards which have been inspired by my farm visits as part of 'Over The Farm Gate'. I started this blog in January with the aim to combine both my passions, design and farming. I wanted to visit other peoples farms, hear their stories and meet their livestock. I have had a fantastic time visiting other peoples farm yards and learning so much about all the different breeds. Having looked through all my drawings and designs Lara and I have picked 12 prints which make up the first 'Over The Farm Gate' card collection. Each card has been personalised on the back with the farmers name, the animals breed and a little quote from the farmer.
Each card has been personalised to every farmer.
My first blog all the way back in February was about chicken breeder, my sister Cecily with her Buff Orpingtons and Light Sussex. Cecily has had chickens throughout our childhood and I as my first blog I was so happy that she agreed to be my first farmer/breeder!
My next visit was with pig breeder, Hayley who has British Lop and British Saddleback pigs which are both on the RBST rare breeds list. These pigs have to be some of the best looked after pigs I have ever come across! Hayley attended South Suffolk show yesterday and won Champion with Jilly, her British Lop and Reserve Champion with Minty her British Saddleback. Hayley and I are attending lots of similar agricultural shows this summer and I am looking forward to seeing her winning streak continue!
At the end of February I visited cattle farmer, Annabelle who has Charolais cattle. Annabelle has grown up on a cattle farm but at only 16 years old the Charolais are her own venture. Annabelle is so passionate and knowledgeable about the breed, I am looking forward to following her progress through the show season.
At the beginning of march I visited young sheep farmers, Archie and Oscar with their flock of Suffolk sheep. I was amazed at the knowledge the brothers both had about their sheep. The boys will be busy this summer at local shows, I will be keeping my eyes peeled to see how they get on!
At the end of March I was lucky enough to meet Esme with her Original Population Dairy Shorthorn which are on the RBST critical list. This means that there are only 150 or less of these left, Esme and her father Granger are doing a fantastic job at preserving this historic breed.
At the beginning of April I visited Zara, it was one of her busiest times of the year because as well as having to lamb her own Ewes she was contract lambing through the nights for other farmers. I spent a morning with Zara and her sheep learning about both her breeds, the Southdown and the Texel Mule and the attributes which attract Zara to these breeds.
I am already looking forward to continuing to visiting more farmers with their livestock and creating more prints for future design ideas!
These 12 cards will be available to purchase on the website individually and in a pack of 12, take a look at the 'CARDS' section in the 'SHOP'.
After my visit to Eves Hill Farm I came back to my studio to look through all the photos that I had taken of the Hereford cattle. It had been a really wet and miserable morning yet the cattle still look striking on the backdrop of the fresh spring grass. When I draw from all these different breeds, I always ask the farmer what is 'typical' for that specific breed and what colours or markings are preferred. With the Hereford, Jeremy said that breeders look for a completely white face, especially in the show ring. So when I was trying to pick out cattle to draw from I was looking for this, luckily Jeremy has lots to choose from!
One of the 2018 spring calves having a break from the milk bar.
The Herefords are such calm and docile breed, it was so lovely to watch Jeremy interact with the cattle, they were so friendly. This is one of the main characteristics that attracted Jeremy to the breed in the first place and I could definitely see why! I was really keen to be able to portray the relaxed and placid nature of the Herefords through my drawings and prints.
Pencil sketch of one of the cows from Eves Hill Farm.
Hand stamped print.
The Herefords are such a striking native breed with their strong contrasting markings, I was really looking forward to working from the photographs I had taken. Especially after how striking the herd looked on the backdrop of the spring grass. I am really pleased with how the print has turned out as I feel the texture of the print reflects the curls and coat of the Hereford.
A mother keeping a close eye on her calf out on the spring grass.
Another BIG thank you to Jeremy for taking the time to show me are his farm farm and giving me the chance to meet the Eves Hill Herd of Herefords. Don't forget you can follow Eves Hill Farm on social media.
Last Friday morning I go the chance to meet cattle farmer Jeremy Buxton and his herd of native Hereford cattle. Jeremy established his herd of Eves Hill Herefords at his family farm in Booton in March 2013 and I was lucky enough to meet them. It was a rather dull drizzly morning, which sadly has really been the ongoing saga of this winter and spring. However, the Herefords still looked a picture on the fresh Spring grazing. There is nothing better than seeing cows and their new calves turned out and enjoying the grass. It was great to be introduced to the herd by Jeremy and hear a little more about his story.
How long have you been interested in cattle?
When I was growing up on the family farm my father run a herd of commercial beef cattle, I always use to help him as most farmers sons do. Cattle have always been my favourite farm animal and I’ve always enjoyed seeing cattle out at grass, they are amazing animals and I really believe they are good for the soul!
What made you decide to introduce cattle back onto your farm?
When I returned to the farm in 2012 we had some permanent pasture which I felt wasn’t being used to its full potential (rented to another nearby cattle farmer) so I decided that we would get back into livestock. This decision was also supported by the fact that I felt our farm was best suited as mixed farm, using the FYM on our arable land. At first I thought sheep would do a good job, but may people told me sheep either want to escape or kill themselves! So cattle it was.
What characteristics attracted you to the Hereford?
We went for Hereford cattle because we wanted a native breed that would suit our grazing. I also wanted a breed that was easy to handle as most of the time its just me on my own, so the docility of the Hereford was another reason we chose them. I also think that Herefords are such beautiful creatures and they look fantastic out as grass, their rich dark brown coats against the green grass.
What is the breeds history?
I’m no authority on the breeds history, but they have changed a lot over the years. From big animals to small cattle that would fit onto boats to export abroad, I think they were called belt cattle as they only grew to belt height at this point. Since then they have gradually increased in size to the cattle you see today. Sorry not too hot on my Hereford history!
To find out more about the Hereford breed and it's history take a look at the breed society http://www.herefordcattle.org
How many Herefords do you have in your herd?
At present we have 50 cattle in the Eves Hill herd, with another five calves expected in the coming weeks. We started with 8 cows with calves at foot, two heifers and we bought a stock bull. We are a closed herd, except for buying in stock bulls, so herd growth is slow but this is the way we want to go to reduce bringing disease into the herd. We have worked hard to achieve Elite Hihealth status and don’t want risk losing this by buying in stock.
A few of Eves Hill 2018 born calves.
How has 2018’s calving gone? Do you find the Herefords easy calvers and good mothers?
2018 calving has gone very well so far, we’ve had nine calves (3bulls and 6 heifers) the last heifer did decide to enter the world backwards but is doing really well now. Herefords are excellent mothers and they are easy calving. Our stock bull Bondes Hubert (from Denmark) is a really easy calving bull, producing small calves at birth that grow on really well. The only thing with Herefords is that they get fat on fresh air, so it’s really important to keep the weight off them prior to calving so they do calve easily.
Do you plan to sell this year’s calves or retain them for your own breeding stock?
We will sell all bull calves from our stock bull, providing we are happy to sell them as breeding bulls. Otherwise we sell them in beef boxes at 16 – 18 months, we are really strict on selling breeding stock. If we wouldn’t use a bull ourselves then we wouldn’t sell it to someone else to breed with. This is to maintain both our own reputation and that of the Hereford breed. We are now at a stage where we are more selective about heifers we keep, only the very best stay in the herd and then we either sell the rest as breeding stock if we feel they are good enough or again put them into beef boxes.
In the Autumn we are expecting are first AI calves from 4 of Huberts daughters which we are very excited about as this is a great opportunity to progress and develop our herd!
What is your favourite thing about owning cattle?
I love working with the cattle, they give so much satisfaction from calving to showing. They are also a vital part of our farming business, they still have to pay their way despite how much we love them! I love spending time with young calves and earning their trust, which pays off later!
What advice would you give someone looking to choose the Hereford breed?
Go for it, you won’t regret it. The Hereford breed is so well suited to our climate and grazing which is why it is such a successful and popular native breed. AND of course come to Eves Hill Herefords to buy your cattle!
There is a big promotion around ‘Native Beef’ at the moment, have you felt a positive impact on your business?
Most definitely, this is illustrated is our beef box sales. We sell a carcass in 24 hours. We have a loyal customer base who cant get enough of our beef which is predominantly grass fed and Red Tractor assured. A lot of consumers are not so interested in food provenance and want to know where their food comes from and the story behind it.
As well as arable and livestock, you also run a successful caravan and campsite on the farm, do you feel it is important for farms to diversify to succeed these days?
As a small family farm we have no other choice but to diversify. We would not be able to survive for long on just the arable and cattle. Which is why we are always looking for opportunities to diversify, the campsite is going really well and we are planning to expand on this next year. We are also planning to open a farm shop/tea room in the not too distant future, and there are lots more ideas that we hope to get going as some point!
I would like to add that despite all our diversification farming will always remain our core business and none of our diversifications will ever detract from this or how we farm, in particular our love of the countryside and nature. Everything we do at Eves Hill is aimed at improving what we have and hopefully leaving it in a better state than we found it. We feel that our diversifications add value to our business whilst at the same time bring people on to the farm to hopefully learn about British farming, food production and the countryside.
A huge thank you to Jeremy for taking the time to show me round his farm, and introducing me to his fantastic herd of Hereford cattle. If you want to find out more about Eves Hill Farm and see what they are up to, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates.
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’