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.
Emma's flock of Beltex is called 'St Theobalds'.
After visiting Emma and meeting her flock of Beltex sheep, I returned to the studio to look through all the photographs I had taken. I had never really taken much notice or come across Beltex sheep before. The Beltex sheep arrived in the UK from Belgium in 1989, and with their double muscle traits they have brought a new dimension to British lamb production. They are extremely distinctive to look at with a very short, thick face which is square in shape.
The Beltex face is short and thick.
Pencil sketches of a Beltex ewe.
These are the hand stamped prints of the beltex sheep which I created from the pencil sketches that I did to begin with. It is always difficult doing an animal that doesn't have a bold colour, especially when it is white/cream and making it stand out. However, the Beltex is so distinctive and striking looking that I think that the portrait is really effective.
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Emma for taking the time to introduce me to her flock of sheep me and showing me around her farm yard!
This week I spent the afternoon with Emma and her two flocks of sheep. Emma keeps both commercial and pedigree Beltex sheep which she runs separately on her family farm in Coltishall. With the help of her 11 month old sheep dog, Tink, Emma runs her sheep enterprise single handedly with an emphasis on homebred, grass reared lambs which are then sold on at local farmers markets. It was really interesting to meet such a young farmer who has already found an outlet at local markets for her product which is selling successfully, with all her stock selling out at last weeks farmers market!
Emma with some of her commercial mule ewe's with Beltex cross lambs.
How long have you been interested in sheep and how did you become so involved with them?
I had always wanted sheep and kept asking my Dad if I could have some lambs but on a particular day in March 2014 he said ‘yes!’. I started with five orphan lambs, I then sold the two male lambs to a local vendor and kept the three ewe lambs for breeding. This was the beginning my commercial flock. I bought cross beltex ewes and a beltex cross tup and I liked the lambs and this was when I decided I liked the breed. I then went on to buy three pedigree Beltex shearlings and two ewe lambs in 2017. As well running my pedigree flock of Beltex which MV accredited, I run separate commercial flock alongside.
Why did you choose the Beltex breed?
I was first attracted to the Beltex because of their conformation and pretty heads. As well as this they are popular for the meat trade with their muscle conformation, producing lean meat which grades well. They do take a little longer to finish but there is more taste in the meat for the customer. I have found that using a Beltex tup on my commercial flock has been successful and produce better shaped lambs. The Beltex ewe produces a small lamb, which is strong and fast growing, they have good maternal instinct and make extremely good mothers.
A few of Emma's Beltex from her 'St. Theobalds' flock.
How many Beltex sheep do you now have in your flock?
In my Beltex flock In total I have 6 ewes, 5 ewe lambs and 2 ram lambs, 2 tups and 10 shearlings to breed with this year. In my commercial flock I have 80 ewes, 4 tups and 170 lambs (I have already sold quite a few of the early lambs).
What do you plan to do with this year’s lambs; will you be selling them on or retaining some for breeding stock?
I will keep all my Beltex ewe lambs to go to the tup in september 2019, I plan to sell the ram lambs as shearlings for other flocks. With my commercial lambs, I sell them all to a combination of local butchers and private customers as meat boxes. I started doing farmers markets in August 2017, I was approached by Hickling Farmers Market who were interested in having home reared lamb. Since then I have started attending more farmers markets including Stalham and Aldborough. Farmers Markets has been a great place for me to promote my stock and the home reared lamb I produce and has lead to a lot of repeat custom.
Emma with some of her 2018 Beltex lambs.
You have recently sheared your sheep, why is this important to do at this time of year?
I started to shear in February but this was purely just for my show shearlings, so that by the time the agricultural shows come about their fleece has come back. Otherwise I shear in May and this is important to prevent them from getting fly strike in the warmer weather. When a sheep sweats they can’t release the heat through their wool this is when the flies start hanging around and lay their eggs in the fleece, which turns into maggots which then begins to eat the sheep alive. This is a big problem with sheep in the Summer months and the main reason we have to shear them.
You show your Beltex sheep, what do you look for in a prize-winning Beltex?
When I am looking for a good animal I want good muscle conformation, an animal that stands nice and square and walks well, an animal that catches your eye with presence in the field. Straight back and good width between the loin. Specific traits within a Beltex you would definitely want is a small head.
What is involved in your show preparation?
To start my show preparation I have to halter train the sheep so I know that the can walk and get in and out of the ring with out too much embarrassment! When they are in the ring they are shown off the halter so you want to be able to catch them reasonably easily. Bathing is the main preparation to get the grease out their fleece and also trim their fleece so that they look shapely and well presented.
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your sheep?
I feel showing is important as it is a chance to show my stock off to potential buyers, especially as I am hoping to sell my ram lambs onto breeders. It is also a chance to promote my meat as people get the chance to see the animals I am producing.
Emma with one of her Beltex's which she is taking to the Norfolk Show.
What advice would you give someone looking to get sheep?
Have patience, they can make you very stressed! Sheep are idol, they always want to do the opposite of what you want. You have got to love sheep! If you want to get into them on a larger scale get a dog as this will make your life easier.
Tink, Emma's 11 month old sheepdog.
What are your plans for your flock over the next few years?
I hope to expand my pedigree Beltex flock to 100 and to be able to take my stock to the larger sales to help promote my flock (St.Theobalds) and get my name out there. With my commercials I plan to get up to 500 breeding ewes, continuing to cross them with Beltex tups and continue to sell the meat both to butchers, markets and farmers markets.
A big thank you to Emma for taking the time to show me around her farm and telling me all about her sheep!
After visiting Emily's farm and meeting her goats, I came back to the studio to look through all the photographs that I took. The goats have so much personality and character, it was fantastic to see Emily working and interacting with them. They are so cheeky and such busy bodies, Emily puts lots of boxes and objects for the goats to climb on, sit on and lie in to keep them occupied. It was great looking through all the photos and seeing all the moments I captured.
Emily's buck Goliath.
Above are some of the pencil sketches that I drew from the photographs that I took of Emily's goats. I really enjoyed drawing the goats and I felt as though I could have kept going as there were so many great images. I never realised how photogenic goats are, they are just so inquisitive and friendly I think thats why they love the camera!
These are the prints which I have created from the pencil sketches, I am really happy with the prints of the buck and I think this is because of the colour! It is always really difficult when animals are white, as I don't really like to use 'outlines' but I had to with these prints. I am already really excited to see these on cards as I can tell these will be really popular!
Another BIG thank you to Emily for taking the afternoon to show me around her farm and introducing me to her herd of goats. If you would like to see more of Homeleigh Farm Boer Goats, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook - @HomeleighFarmBoerGoats
Instagram - @homeleigh_farm_boer_goats
I recently got the chance to visit Emily, a passionate goat breeder based in South Norfolk. Emily has been brought up on her family farm which also includes pigs, cattle, sheep and donkeys! Emily first introduced goats onto the farm at the age of 15 and has grown her herd rapidly since then. I was really looking forward to meeting Emily and her goats, as goats are something I really have very little understanding about, or come into much contact with. What I realised was they have very inquisitive natures and rather stubborn but they will do anything for food!
Emily's herd consists of 35 goats including her handsome buck, Goliath pictured here with one of his 2018 kids.
How long have you had goats and how did you become interested in them?
I first bought two pedigree female Saanen goats (A dairy breed) at the age of fourteen; after carrying out lots of research into keeping goats and a fascination of the species itself. My grandfather and uncle used to have goats when I was younger, and can vividly remember helping with kids from a young age.
How many goats do you have?
At present, I own two herds of goats. My main herd consists of 35 Boer Goats (which includes all Does, Kids, Doelings and my Buck, Goliath) and my second herd consists of 5 Pygmy goats, a new new venture for me!
What numbers do you hope to get up to?
Myself and my father have just purchased another herd of Commercial Boer Goats, consisting of 33 breeding females. We plan to keep the herds separate so we can monitor closely which goats give progeny to have the best growth rates, to compare. We hope that by 2020 we will be breeding 75-100 Does from our closed herd … Watch this space!
One of Emily's commercial goats.
What made you choose Boer Goats?
I soon realised that the dairy goats were producing far more milk than we could get through and with being at school at the time it was a huge commitment to get up and milk. So, in the summer of 2010 I purchased Peace, who was in kid at the time. Peace is a 75% Boer. When she kidded she produced far less milk, but enough to sustain her kid- I then made the decision to sell my dairy goats and go more into Boer goats. I always knew that there was a gap in the market for goat meat around this area through going into local butcher shops and asking for it, so I knew that it would be worthwhile looking into raising the kids for meat. (May I remind you that I made this decision at the young age of fifteen!)
Where do they originate and what is their history?
The Boer Goat originates from South Africa and was developed in the early 1900’s for meat production. Its ability to produce excellent carcass conformation coupled with a fast growth rate is second to none, which has been improved over the years through a selective breeding programme. UK Boers were imported from Europe in the late 1980’s although, the year 2000 had seen more importations from Canada and New Zealand to strengthen the genetic pool; this is due to the EEC regulation dis-allowing direct imports from South Africa to UK.
Emily with one of her breeding Boer does.
Boer goats are well known for their meat, is this something you are interested in developing and promoting with your herd?
Goat meat has a taste between lamb and beef, so it appeals to many people. In addition, it is low in cholesterol, high in iron and ounce for ounce having less fat than chicken with about the same amount of calories- this is what makes this meat so popular and a great alternative for the health conscious. The meat taken from a Boer or a Boer cross kid is generally better in both texture and flavour than the meat taken from a dairy animal, as is the compassion between dairy and beef cows.
I plan to keep all of my castrated male kids from 2019 onwards to fatten for meat, which I shall supply local butchers and sell direct to customers. All of our meat produced shall be from young stock which will be bred on our farm in South Norfolk, and shall be between the ages of 6 – 18 months old, as we believe this is when kid meat is at its prime for flavour.
In regards to promoting the meat, I believe that the power of social media will help us lots, I already have a Facebook page; Homeleigh Farm Boer Goats which has a huge following- check us out!
Boer goats are known for their excellent carcass conformation.
Do you find the Boer goats to be good mothers?
Definitely, I find that they are very docile and attentive to their young. They are far easier to kid than what a sheep is to lamb, in my personal experience!
What do you plan to do with this years kids (2018)?
I have sold all of my male, castrated kids for this year, they will leave the farm in mid June. I have had so many emails and messages of people wanting to ‘Give Goat A Go’ this year and I have happily sold them. I think its really important to encourage other people to get the enjoyment out of them, as I do!
All of the doe kids which I have bred this year, I plan to keep to form as replacements for my herd number one! These doe kids will be first bred in 2020.
How many kids does one goat tend to have?
Goats are very much like sheep, in that you would hope that they will give birth to twins. I always have said that I would rather have a herd of goats giving birth to twins than anything else; this is due to goats having two teats. If a goat gives birth to a single, there is usually too much milk produced and therefore a risk of mastits to the doe, similarly if the doe gives birth to triplets, it usually results in the fostering of one of the kids onto another doe (which can result in the kid becoming abandoned) or bottle feeding every 4 hours!
How long do you keep the kids with their mothers?
As a general rule of thumb, we wean when the youngest kid reaches three months old. By this point they are eating creep feed more than they are drinking from their mother. I always monitor both kid and mother closely during the first three months and if I feel a mother isn’t giving the kid/kids what they need I will wean early and/or bottle feed supplement, depending on the age of the kid at the time.
A group of Emily's 2018 born kids enjoying the creep feed.
What do you look for in a ‘good goat’?
A very good question! … As I breed primarily for the meat market, I would look for good conformation (structural correctness), good appearance (size, width and depth of body along with good muscling), good length in the back loin is important as this is one of the best cuts and good health and condition. I always ask, when buying a goat what the sellers health status is, if the goat is up to date with its vaccination and worming programme and if the goat / herd has been CLA, CAE and Johnes monitored.
What is your favourite thing about owning goats?
I love the way that they always seem so happy to see me, they all have different personalities. I also like the way that they all keep me on my toes, I am forever having to out think them… where are they going to try to escape from next is usually the thought that goes through my mind on a daily basis!
What advise would you give someone looking to get into goats?
I have owned goats for rising 8 years now, Its had its highs and lows but that is livestock for you! If you are willing to work hard, never give up and strive to succeed with them, you will go far. Advice that my father gave me right from the start is ‘Where there is livestock, there is dead-stock...’ - This is a hard fact of life that you need to be prepared to deal with, as long as you do your up most best for a goat you will do well!… other advice includes make sure you have good fencing, I have seen a goat jump a 5ft high gate!
A massive thank you to Emily for taking the afternoon to show me around her farm and introducing me to her herd of goats. If you would like to see more of Homeleigh Farm Boer Goats, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook - @HomeleighFarmBoerGoats
Instagram - @homeleigh_farm_boer_goats
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.
Doug, Fern and Skye.
After visiting Zara's farm and meeting her Southdown and Texel Mule sheep, as well as her beautiful dogs I was really looking forward to getting back to the studio and looking through all the pictures I had taken. I haven't done any prints of dogs before, so this is a complete first since starting 'IzziRainey'. I really wanted the dogs to be part of my design's as they are an essential part of Zara's work, she shares such a close relationship with them, especially Doug,
These are the pencil sketches that I did of the ewe's and Doug and Fern. It was actually more difficult than I thought, drawing the dogs, I think I tried to draw them too small. There is so much detail, expression and personality in a dogs face.
These are the hand stamped prints that I created from taking the most simple shapes from my pencil drawings. I am really pleased with how they have turned out. Especially this print of Doug, Zara's 'main man' I feel that it really portrays Doug's loyal nature as he never takes his eyes of her. I like the way in the print he is looking away as I know when I took the photo he was looking at her, always waiting for his next job or instruction.
Another BIG thank you to Zara for taking the time to show me round her farm at probably one of the busiest times of the year!
Last week I got the chance to have a quick catch up with my friend, Zara with her Southdown and Texel Mule sheep. This is an extremely busy time of the year for Zara so I was very grateful that she could take the time to show me her latest lambs and tell me a little more about her sheep. As well as having her own sheep, Zara contract lambs at this time of year, often covering the night shifts. Then when the shearing season arrives she will be out and about contract shearing for whoever requires her. Never a dull moment with Zara!
Twin Southdown lambs with their mother keeping a close eye.
How long have you been interested in sheep and how did you become so involved with them?
I always loved being outside, around animals. From an early age I knew I would either work with animals or in sport…. animals it was. My family always had sheep, enjoyed working with the sheep and the partnership with the dog, there’s always something new to learn and a challenge to overcome.
Zara with the expectant Ewes, both Southdown and Textel Mules.
What made you choose Southdown sheep?
They are easy to handle, very good meat and good wool which excellent for knitting as it has a short staple which is converted into a light arran wool which makes a very warm soft garment, perfect for the British winters!!!!
What you looking for in a good Southdown Sheep?
Good conformation, alertness, wool needs to be fine and dense, even in colour. Bright in the eye, good mouth and must not be lame!
The Southdown wool makes excellent knitting wool.
What you do with the wool?
Once I’ve sheared them, we send the Southdown wool off to The Natural Fibre Company, Launceston, Cornwall to get made into knitting wool which we sell at local craft markets across North Norfolk, or from our home address. We have a small team of Knitters that make anything from socks, gloves, hats, scarfs and jumpers. For the house the wool is made into pillows and throws for the sofas making it extra cosy in front of the fire during the winter months, it’s a rewarding feeling to know that the produce has come from the animals you have breed on your own farm and is being used in its natural form.
The rest of the wool is sent to the British Wool Board where it is graded and depending on its quality is either used for carpets, loft insulation, packaging and many other useful products, all being environmentally friendly.
This is a cushion and throw, created from Zara's Southdown wool and made by her mother, Ann.
Cecily wearing a couple of jumpers handmade my Zara's amazingly clever mother, Ann. The Southdown wool creates a light arran wool which makes a very warm soft garment. Zara and her mother sell their clothing and homeware and products at local fairs.
You also have Texel Mules, what made you choose these?
The Texel Mule is a commercial breed, it’s a North Country Mule crossed a Texel Tup. They are good strong ewes, don’t need as much food pre-lambing, plenty of milk, strong maternal instinct and the lambs are fast growers.
A Texel Mule Ewe.
You are in the middle of lambing as we speak, how come you are lambing your flock later?
Usually... apart from this year! It is warmer and the grass is starting to grow, the lambs get more of a kick start from the better weather. The ewes milk well and keep their condition up on the fresh new grass. As I don’t have much barn space it also means I don’t have to worry about the bad weather taking its toll on the sheep.
How many lambs are you hoping to have by the end of the years lambing.
Always try to get the best from the flock as I can, be happy with 1.8% upwards.
What do you plan to do with this year’s lambs? Will you be selling them on or retaining some for breeding stock?
I will keep back the best ewe lambs for the flock, the rest will be sold on in the meat trade.
A Texel Mule ewe with her twin lambs.
Do you find the Southdown’s easy to lamb or do you have to help out a lot?
We don't tend to have too many problems for lambing they are easy lambers most of the time. They’re very good mothers, they look after the lambs very well and a majority of the time the lambs will get up and suck, but sometimes they need some help finding their way onto the ewe’s teats. The lambs are born with a very thin coat so on very cold days or nights they tend to need a bit more attention, but soon pick up and grow very well, makes a good carcass.
A Southdown ewe with her twin lambs.
How many dogs do you have? How important are the dogs to your work?
I have 3 dogs, Doug being my right-hand man, He’s the main man really, he is a strong dog, listens, works well on the sheep, makes my work a lot easier with a good dog and they make good company as well. Doug gets the sheep where I want them, so I can’t complain. When I contract out, lambing, shearing, etc its good to have a dog you know that will be well behaved and quiet and do the job.
Zara with her three dogs Doug, Sky and Fern. Doug is her 'right hand man'.
What’s your favourite thing about owning sheep?
Seeing them do well, that all the hard work, time and money you have put into them has paid off, going to the field and being proud of what you have got.
What advice would you give someone looking to get sheep?
Sheep can look like it’s a walk in the park, they are very enjoyable and rewarding at times, but you need to know what you are doing, so do your research. If you can, get some experience with them, make sure you are well equipped and have good fencing as they will find the smallest of holes and escape but not be able to find their way back! Make sure you have time for them… helps if you know someone who already has sheep. Let the fun begin!
One of my favourite quotes…. Piss poor preparation leads to piss poor performance!
I would like to say the biggest thank you to Zara for taking part in this blog. I know she has been up most nights for many weeks now and will continue to do so in the weeks to come, until lambing finishes. I just wanted to take the opportunity to share Zara's story and her work, she is so talented in everything that she does and I really admire her skill and determination. I am really excited to get back in the studio with all the photographs I have taken, especially of the dogs as this will be the first dog print I have done. Watch this space!
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’