Our first batch of calves

Regular visitors to our holiday lets will know that we have been working towards establishing a beef herd at Stolford, and that I have changed my mind dozens of times regarding breed.  In the end we settled on British Friesian Hereford crosses, from an organic dairy farm in Leicestershire. 

We wanted to kick off with twenty or so, but finding organic dairy crosses is not as easy as I thought, so we settled for 16, made up of nine heifers, and seven steers.  We re-purposed about a third of top barn for them, and fitted a rainwater harvesting system, and a new poly tank.  The plan is to buy in about twenty every year.  We will finish the steers here, and look to selling the heifers either in calf, or with calf at foot.  Depending how it goes, another possibility is to work towards creating a small herd of about twenty suckler cows, which would make us self sufficient over the next three or four years.  They are feeding on organic meadow hay we made ourselves in Middle Barn field in July, plus a small ration of Lucerne nuts that we buy in from an organic source.  They are bedded on barley straw from Brown Lane field. 

Given that we are primarily a holiday let business, I wanted dairy crosses because they are raised on a bucket, and are usually calm and placid around people.  From a commercial perspective, British Friesians are a lot less leggy than modern dairy cattle, and Herefords are a fine beef breed.  We’ll probably put our heifers to either a Hereford or an Angus bull, but we’ve got a year or so to make up our minds.  Bottom line, they’ll get close to pure beef animals with every passing generation.  Our grazing for the beef is on the left and right of the drive as you come in, so visitors will probably see them when they first turn up.