All our cows and calves are outside and enjoying the sunshine after a very wet and muddy May. Lyra and Clara’s calves are still at foot and getting bigger and stronger every day. Whilst the calves are kept with their mothers for the first weeks, they usually have the run of the place to themselves, as they’re small enough to duck under the electric fence and go where they please. We often struggle to find them in the tall grass (as can their mothers too) but once the cows are walking in to be milked we usually see them darting in from behind. Lyra and Clara’s girls have become so big that it’s rather difficult for them to escape the electric fence and they have to stick to the areas their mothers are grazing – but at least we can all keep an eye on them that way!
It’s not been the best of springs, the rain was welcome at first but became a bit of a drag in the end and it wasn’t particularly warm either. It was only a couple of weeks ago we were all still in our winter clothing for those cold early starts at morning milking. All-in-all the pasture isn’t quite where we’d like it to be. The fields where the cows are currently grazing have done okay, but some of the fields we’ve ear marked for silage cutting aren’t looking their best, with some areas too short to cut! Hopefully we can get some silage cut this week that’ll turn out great for winter milk production, but the best silage we’ve made in years gone by would have been cut in May when the grass was a bit younger. Unfortunately our tractors aren’t quite amphibious enough to have done any May cutting this year and there’s still quite a few boggy, wet patches out there now but a few more days of sun should clear those up.
If you receive Eggs from us you may have noticed we’ve changed supplier. FAI farms in Wytham (where the eggs used to come from) informed us they’ve switched to a regenerative farming system with fewer birds which means they can no longer supply us. They’re now using a set-up where their laying hens live in fully mobile sheds that follow the other livestock around the farm, foraging fresh grass and insects each day and contributing to the health of the soils with their scratching and waste. - Very admirable stuff and perhaps some of our long-time customers will remember we attempted something similar with our own hens many years ago - following the cows as they grazed in our rotational paddock system. Unfortunately the North Aston fox was a crafty old so-and-so and always managed to evade our fences, so our endeavour with hens didn’t last very long. But maybe one day we will pay FAI a visit and see how their mobile sheds operate to keep out those unwanted predators. In the meantime we’ve had to source eggs from further away; Haresfield Farm in Wiltshire to be precise. Their eggs are organic and we’ve had a couple of reports they taste even better too!
This month we’ve been very busy on the farm making Fior-di-latte, Stracciatella, Salted Honey, Chocolate, Vanilla and Blackberry Ice creams. Sorry we know! We promised Blackberry ice cream last autumn but things worked out in a way that there was never enough spare milk for us to do it…better late than never though! Now that summer’s finally arrived hopefully the mint plants will flourish and it won’t be long before we’ve got some Mint Choc Chip in stock too.
There’s a good selection of Rose Veal available from the freezer with an enormous amount of mince, stewing steak and stock bones. Hopefully you will have read our previous email explaining why we can’t label this meat organic, but we think it’s worth repeating. Currently we’re unable to find a Soil Association certified butcher in the local area to prepare our meat and so we can’t put an organic label on the packs. Nothing’s changed to our own high standards and animal welfare - the rearing of our calves is the same as it’s always been. The Soil Association require butchers to be certified and pay a licence fee to prepare organic meat. (There is no difference between the way organic and non-organic meat is butchered). The soil association require butcher’s to keep organic and non-organic meat separate on the supply line to ensure there’s no cross contamination between the two types of meat, and to show evidence of this though paperwork. We think cross contamination is a serious issue, an issue for an environmental health officer perhaps, what it’s got to do with organic standards we’re not so sure? We’ve asked the Soil Association to provide us with a list of organic butchers we could use. They’ve said they’re unable to provide us with this information so it could be a while before we find a suitable butcher. It’s a shame there isn’t an easier way for producers to show their products have been made to high standards. Perhaps we should compose a survey listing some of the reasons why a customer may choose to buy high welfare, organic meat and distribute it to the public. It would be interesting to see how highly having a certified butcher prepare the meat rates on the list. We could always present our findings to the Soil Association too.