High Welfare Farming

OUR Cattle herd

Spring is always a busy time at Old Rides. Our family-farm is just three miles up the road from The Ferry House, where our ‘suckler herd’ is all about raising calves. With March well underway we’re in the middle of our busy calving season. Now, our family-farmed beef is our pride at The Ferry House, but as important as the quality of our produce is the welfare of our herd. We practice high welfare, low intensity farming and are passionate about reducing the environmental impact of our operations – here’s how we do just that.

During Calving

This little beauty is a Hereford calf at just one day old and 30kg! Mothers and calves are housed in straw pens during the calving season. Here they’re fed a nutritious and bespoke diet that yields slower, natural growth. Feed is made up of organic hay from Elmley Nature Reserve grasses, combined with our custom mix of nutritionally balanced grain - a mix of maize, sileage, grass sileage, fodder beat and brewer’s grain. The brewer’s grain is our own farmed grains, used by Copper Rivet for distilling, and then returned to us to avoid wastage and lower the environmental impact of our farming.

Grass Grazing The Herd

In early April the herd - along with the mothers and calves - are put out to pasture so they can graze on 3000 acres of natural grass on the pesticide-free Elmley Nature Reserve, flanking The Ferry House. It has to be noted we don’t use calves for veal. We don’t snatch them early from their mothers, and they stay together for the seven to eight months of the year that they spend on Elmley. We also graze a smaller number of cattle on the Swale Nature Reserve.

Welfare Benefits of Grass Grazing

There are enormous welfare benefits to grass grazing. Grass provides slow, natural growth and optimal nutrition to the herd, as opposed to grain fed cows. Mothers and calves stay together, so the mother gets to feed naturally on a pasture free of chemical fertilisers to develop her milk supply and support her calf. As calves get bigger, we provide a creep feeder specifically for extra nutrition, that only they can access. Doing so means the mother cow doesn’t expend all of her reserves providing nutrition for a large calf. Essentially this would be like exclusively breastfeeding a four year old, so it’s important for the welfare of both!

During the eight to nine months the herd spend on Elmley, some will also be pregnant. Like us, they’re pregnant with their calves for nine months and during this time they get the optimum nutrition for themselves, and their developing calf.

Environmental Benefits of Grass Grazing

We’re incredibly proud of our partnership with the Elmley Nature Reserve and in supporting their conservation efforts, with the herd promoting both biodiversity and wildlife preservation. Not only does their waste fertilise the reserve, their grazing crops the grass perfectly for the many species of ground nesting birds. Leaving turfs of grass as they roam, these provide handy hiding place for chicks as they avoid the abundant birds of prey of the area!

Herd Health

As well as enjoying abundant natural grazing, our herd is not dosed with hormones and antibiotics. As well as being higher welfare for the herd, this also doesn’t contaminate their pasture area in the nature reserve, allowing for organic grazing and improved conservation of the area. Handled only once for necessary vaccinations in September, they are otherwise free to roam and graze on 3000 acres. We have tested the grasses locally and determined they are low in copper (a natural factor of pasture in this geographic area), therefore the herd get one vitamin/copper bolus for health and well-being purposes.

The Ferry House Beef

Slow grazing and natural growth equals a happy, high welfare herd, but also high quality, well marbled beef, which is what we use at The Ferry House. We’re incredibly proud of our beef produce, but also of the sustainable and high welfare farming practices that goes into it.

Our Food Ethos

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