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.
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’