Rare Breeds

Posted: Mon, 15 Apr 2013 14:26

Rare Breeds

It's been a while since pen was put to paper, but a very exciting development in the farming department has taken place! On yet another cold winter's day in mid-February, a trip was made to our neighbouring farmer Mr Keith Siddorn and a small selection of cows and calves was chosen. Not ordinary commercial 'dolly mix' sucklers, but pedigree traditional Herefords. The girls and their offspring were chosen for their outstanding temperament, superior meat quality, ease to keep and suitability for the environment they are going to be living in. With only 700 traditional Herefords left in the world it's a nice thought that we're helping the Rare Breeds Trust with their sterling work to help preserve some of the most precious bloodlines for many farm animals.

Our ancient unfertilised meadow at Bank Farm represents a style of farming that was evident some 200 years ago in England, so it seems fitting that these distinguished beasts should roam, graze and 'plodge' the land as they had previously done, to help preserve our high level conservation status and themselves as a 'rare breed'. Mr Siddorn informs us we are the second biggest herd in Cheshire after his, but as previously stated, they are 'rare breed'. We are now proud owners of four cows, three calves and 'Billy the Bull' who has been kindly loaned to us for nine weeks by Mr Siddorn in the hope that the time duration is sufficient for Billy to successfully 'bull' our cows in calf again for next year's calving.

Again like most things, the purchasing was the easy bit! A week after the cows were settled into Bank Farm the onerous task of castrating two of our young bull calves had to be undertaken. It was a bleak dark day and our 'homemade' cattle run terminating in our borrowed cattle crush was devised. Again none of this would have been possible without our trusted team of Neil and Paul.

Ewan the cattle vet from Hampton met us cheerily on site and the first bull calf was restrained in the crush. This is where I broke my first self-made rule. I'd promised myself if we were going to keep our own livestock for meat, then we would eat all possible derivatives in order to respect our act and not 'waste' any of the beast in a modern fashion of just preferring select cuts. As Ewan tore open the wrapper on a shiny new scalpel blade and rested it between gritted teeth, his shoulder jammed firmly against our red bull calf, he asked 'Are these sweetbreads for the plate?' I replied 'Oh yes, ideally.' 'Oh' was his reply. On prompting I asked what difference it made and he casually replied that the calf wouldn't need any local anaesthetic as the delicacies wouldn't taste quite so refined if the aftertaste of them left a completely numbing sensation for an unrecognised period of time.

My conscience got the better of me as I glanced at the poor beast's eyes, then Neil and Paul's slightly pale faces. I quickly instructed for 'plenty of pain relief – as much as possible!' Ewan half grinned as he then jabbed (with pain relief), cut, slid and twisted a not very appetizing fleshy blob, plop into a bucket.

The same procedure was carried out for number two bull calf, waiting in line. At this point it was hard to keep our nerve let alone the poor calves' and then as if hardly a procedure had taken place, the bars on the pen were swung open and both young animals gambled off much to my amazement, and our combined relief, to join their mums. Twice daily checks were carried out and no side effects or bulges were evident. Just weaning to look forward to next! This farming business is tough, even with our holistic, gentle as we can, welfare foremost approach!

All going well and if we manage to keep the sentiment away, in 12 months' time orders will be taken for our hopefully sublime quality, home reared, free range beef. All cuts available… except sweetbreads – sorry!

Didy
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