The Farmer and Her objectives
A grass farm based solely on livestock, with the opportunity to enhance and develop a well established and well adapted ecosystem, albeit on a seriously run down farm that had had little or no investment of care, was a challenge.
Cattle breeding, cattle genetics and above all herd behavior is an endlessly interesting topic to me. Within the Devon cattle society I have found some people who share my deep interest, have knowledge to share and who, like me believe that it is still possible to farm native British cattle to an extremely high standard and still have a commercial future.
Finally but most importantly, I believe that good husbandry produces healthy animals. Good husbandry is not achieved by the tick box farming currently sponsored by all the various assurance and certification schemes and the government but by paying attention to the herding instincts of cattle.
Welfare in agriculture has become a cheap and useless word. Welfare is not achieved by so much cubic meters of space per animal or by carefully recording quantities of feed and forage while ignoring the fact that cattle are not pure grazers but also need to browse on trees and woody shrubs.
It is achieved by knowing animals both as individuals but especially as herd animals that have deeply innate needs for social bonding and grouping and so adjusting ones herdsman ship to meeting these needs. Modern farming ignores this basic factor. It ignores the need to forage and eat a varied diet. It ignores the fact that constantly changing groups that do not have a stable hierarchy or matriarchy creates high levels of stress in cattle.
I wonder how these farmers and so called standards creators would feel if they had to spend days on the London underground constantly facing new faces and having to jostle for space and have no means of escape.
I attempt to provide for the needs detailed while avoiding causing stress. The mere fact that farming is an artificial or imposed system will always cause some stress but the essence of good husbandry is to be alive to these possibilities and not to assume that changes will not effect animals simply because they can’t complain, except by getting sick or dying. I have areas of great success and others in which I am still seeking solutions and falling into unexpected “pit traps”. Anyone who is interested in any of the above or have helpful or interesting ideas is most welcome to e-mail me. If you would like to visit please call and you will be welcome.