Breed selections, for natural, outdoors, hardy.
The Dexter cattle breed is a throwback to the way almost all beef cattle were in Ireland 70 years ago or more, before the 1950s brought in industrialised commercial farming methods. They are smaller animals, not overbred, capable of living outdoors and calving themselves, growing slowly on grass outdoors not being forced on rations etc.
By contrast modern beef production is geared around the rapid production of large quantities of beef as quickly as possible, size became increasingly important.
In the race for efficiency beef producers became specialists, sucklers, stores, finishers, etc. Cattle have been bred bigger and bigger, they are fed on cheap (but environmentally destructive and transport dependent) imported soya and maize. Living large proportions of their relatively shorter existence on concrete and in sheds.
We have selected older, rarer, natural breeds of pigs and sheep also. The Pigs are Gloucestershire old spots aka ‘the orchard pig’ capable of living and thriving all year round outdoors on a natural diet.
Our sheep breed easy care https://www.easycaresheep.com/
We respect the ‘Pigness of the pig’
A phrase borrowed from one off our farming heroes Joel Salatin. Not just the pigs but all our animals should be free to express their natural instincts, whether grazing, rooting, scratching, pecking, flying, nesting., etc, we don’t dock tails, pull teeth (pigs), Actually this is just one of the 5 internationally recognised ‘5 freedoms’. All of which we adhere to.
Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
‘Everyone needs a mother’ closely related to ‘Milk makes meat.’ closely related to ‘no bad dads’
Family units of animals are lower stressed for many reasons, separation of animals (removing calves for weaning, or bulls to get breeding timing right) are significant stressors of a herd or flock.
Unlike nearly all commercial cattle and pigs we don’t force wean any youngstock. We allow the young to wean when they are good and ready (in the case of cattle naturally when last years calf is around 10 months old. Much of the beef in supermarkets is dairy beef, that is beef from the male offspring of the dairy herd, separated within a day or two of birth from the mothers and raised on cheap milk replacer until ready to eat meal, the quality of beef is much lower,
Similarly for the pigs and sheep, they live in year round family units which massively reduces animal stress. (Stress is a major cause of poor quality meat also incidentally, our meat is exceptionally tender and flavoursome)
We keep bulls, boars and rams (and roosters for that matter!) with their respective herds and flocks year round, separation is a major cause of stress, we only keep calm and docile bulls, boars and rams, as those genetics get passed along into the herds. We have a few grumpy roosters!
‘How does nature do it?’ is a go-to question.
Our cows don’t do drugs
Another phrase nicked from Joel, or maybe it was Greg Judy.
A nasty by-product of almost all commercial beef, lamb, pork and poultry production is the need to prophylactically medicate the animals in order to keep animals growing fast. They are routinely dosed with chemical wormers and antibiotics, even growth hormones. (outlawed now in Ireland in cattle though they pop up now and again, they are completely normal practice still in many countries including USA and Australia). Natural agriculture doesn't require chemicals, if you move animals regularly, the worm parasites don’t get a chance to cycle in the soil.
Our soil doesn’t do drugs either
We are keen students and wannabe practitioners of what is now popularly termed regenerative agriculture, which essentially treats soil as biology not chemistry. Soil is a living ecosystem to be nurtured, built and enhanced through animal impacts of trampling and fertilising , rest and recuperation, allowing sward cover to grow to natural levels, allowing the interactions between roots and micro-organisms to flourish and develop, rather than rudely interrupting them by ploughing, rotavating, or (worst of all) feeding them with synthetic nitrogen, which gives the current crop of grass a short term growth spurt, but which interrupts the soil’s ability to synthesize and deploy nitrogen for itself the next time around. Synthetic fertiliser is agriculture’s version of fast food, nutrition free, addictive, calories.