We feel it is vitally important for the health of our soils to have a mixed farming enterprise. Livestock are an essential part of any integrated sustainable system and each species brings its own merits. Cattle eat different herbage to sheep and at different stages in growth so are ideal for long pasture (sheep prefer shorter grazing). We introduced our first cattle to the farm in 2005 after carefully selecting Dexter cattle.
Dexters are an ancient breed originally from Ireland and are renowned for their meat and milking abilities. They are also one of the smallest breeds of cattle which are ideal for our small farm.
Dexters are traditionally all black with very long tails and are usually horned although this has been bred out of some individuals. They are a very impressive sight with their long two toned curved horns but they are placid creatures who are very curious about the world and in our experience are not aggressive.
All our cattle like our sheep are grass fed most of the year and only have supplementary organic hay or silage at other times. Apart from ear tagging for identification and ring castrating the baby steers the cattle have few requirements and love nothing better than wandering their paddocks as one big happy family.
Our bull, Billy, lives with the herd at all times which makes him very easy to handle and allows the cows to breed when they are ready. Most of the cows drop their calves as the winter feed comes in which ensures when the calves are starting to wean they get a plentiful supply of green feed before summer.
All our cattle are grass fed and are never put in a feedlot and fed with concentrates. This practice has managed to raise productivity in the beef industry but relies on growth promoters and antibiotics to work. None of our livestock are given hormones, antibiotics (unless sick and prescribed by a vet) or growth promotors.
Grain fed beef which has become a fashionable way to produce intensively reared cattle resultsing in a meat with intramuscular fat which gives it its tenderness. However, alarm bells are beginning to ring about the health side effects of this kind of fat which is not normally produced in cattle as they are not meant to eat grain but are designed to eat grass and other roughage like hay and silage. There are plenty of reports about this on the internet if you would like to read more.
Some people believe grass fed beef is always tough but as we explain in our cook section how an animal is raised is only part of the story and the butchering is just as important.
Raising an animal slowly as we do and waiting until it is fully grown allows all the superb natural flavours of beef to develop. Hanging the meat properly then allows this meat to tenderise literally in its own juices. The side of beef is hung in the coolroom, at a steady low ambient temperature of about 2 degrees C, for between 14 and 21 days, under the carefull observation of our master butcher.
Our dry aged beef is succulent, juicy and tender and tastes how beef should taste - just beautiful.