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.
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’