Sustainable Livestock

We believe that livestock form an essential part of a sustainable farming system, allowing us to build and maintain our soil fertility naturally and without artificial fertilisers. Livestock provide a source of nutrient rich food from diverse pastureland that is home to an abundance of wildlife. We raise pasture fed beef cattle and sheep, as well as free-range pigs and poultry fed on home grown, organic feed. We grow a small amount of arable, currently a mixture of barley and oats, which provide feed and straw bedding for our livestock. We choose native breeds of livestock that naturally adapt to their local environment and growing conditions. This helps us to manage the land in a sensitive and environmentally appropriate way, generating increased diversity and, of course, providing better quality meat as a result.
The health of our animals is paramount; they are all fed on a varied and natural diet, we do not use any routine medications and they are allowed to practice their natural behaviour. We practice mob grazing, a system which mimics the natural movement of grazing livestock.
 Extract of a talk by Joel Salatin on Mob Grazing given at Fir Farm.
 
The animals thrive on diverse pasture, allowing them to self-medicate, choosing certain plants to maintain their overall health. These grazing techniques benefit the pastures and allow us to harvest the finest quality meat.
We use a local abattoir which is 50 minutes away. For us, it is vitally important to slaughter as close to where the animals are born and raised as possible. This reduces the animal’s stress, which can also affect the taste and quality of the meat, as well as reducing food miles and the carbon footprint of our meat. Local abattoirs are essential for local food systems, without which we could not have locally produced, traceable meat. This is why we are supporting the Sustainable Food Trust's campaign for local abattoirs as, unfortunately, due to high running costs and the pressures of bureaucracy, many small abattoirs have been forced to close in recent years.
Fir Farm is enjoying a growing reputation for breeding high quality, pasture fed livestock, especially cattle, with our nationally recognised Firbosa Hereford herd.
Read More
To find out more about the Campaign for Local Abattoirs click here.
To read more about the importance of native breeds click here.
The importance of livestock in sustainable systems by the Sustainable Food Trust

Why Pasture? by the Pasture Fed Livestock Association
 

Cattle

Our Herefords spend their time grazing a diverse mix of plants and moving across the farm helping to regenerate our soils. They move on to fresh grass every day for as long as possible during the year.  As ruminants, they are not designed to eat grain but rather to graze, forage and convert that forage into protein. When these animals are fed a forage only diet they provide much healthier meat for the consumer. Ruminants raised this way have been shown to contain higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acids, beta-carotene and vitamin E. 
 Our Firbosa Hereford herd is recognised throughout the farming industry and is in the top 5% of breeding beef cattle herds in the UK. All of our cattle are named and we have many years of history. Our committment to a 100% pasture-fed herd produces incredible high-quality, distinctive tasting marbled beef.  100% pasture fed beef is in growing demand both within the UK and throughout the rest of the world.
To choose our suckler herd, we first bought a 14 month old Ruby Red Devon and a 14 month old Polled Hereford steer. We grazed them over the summer at Fir Farm and then had a blind taste testing. The Hereford came out top, hence we now have over 200 pedigree Hereford polled cattle on the farm.
We initially bought the Bosa herd, which was founded in 1981 by Gerald Blandford and was beef suckler herd of the year 2012.  We went to buy 20 suckler cows from him and during our visit he announced that he was going to retire and would we like to buy the whole herd. So our five year plan of growing from 20 cows to 80 cows happened in about four hours! 
 Click here to read more about our herd and see the animals we have for sale.
Click here to read more about the Hereford breed.
Click here to find out how our cattle are a key part of maintaining healthy soil.
 

Sheep

Our sheep graze all areas of the farm including newly planted woodlands, tracks and pastures. They help maintain the condition of our pastures by thinning out the undergrowth in our woodland areas which reduces mowing requirements and our fossil fuel usage. Our Wiltshire sheep have been selected for ease of lambing, low input costs and quality meat. 
We also have other rare breeds in order to help maintain and protect them, including Norfolk Horn, Shetland, Kerry Hill and White Faced Dartmoor and some recently acquired Hebrideans. These also produce very good quality meat. 
 

Pigs

We graze our pigs on old pastures, red clover pastures and in the woodlands. They get moved to dry ground in colder months where they can help cultivate the old leys. They are often used on fields of arable stubble, which sheep cannot graze on because it gives them bloat. TWe try to ensure that all of our animals play an important role in a holistic farm system, utilising all resources and ensuring nothing goes to waste.
Their diet is supplemented by home grown barley and whey from the neighbouring organic dairy farmer and cheese maker.
We rear Gloucester Oldspot and also have British Saddleback and Hampshire pigs which we will continue to breed from, with the aim of producing 10 weaners per month for sausages and pork. It’s crucial we keep these rare breeds going – in fact there are more Giant Pandas in the world than there are pedigree British Saddleback pigs.
 

Chickens

Our chickens are all free range and live out on pasture. We have designed and built two ‘egg mobiles’ as inspired by Joel Salatin, the cult American livestock farmer. This is a mobile chicken shed which can be moved from one pasture to another. The door opens automatically, powered by a solar panel and battery. The hens are not confined and are allowed to peck and scratch where they choose.  Unlike ruminants, chickens have evolved to consume grains.  Our chickens are fed home grown barley, oats and triticale, as well as mealworms which are grown on the farm. The egg mobile allows us to move the chickens in a rotation after the cows.  They are also effective muck spreaders scattering the cow pats and eating worms and bugs, which helps to reduce parasites in our pastures.
We are rearing Cotswold Legbars, Maran Crosses and Dorkings to produce an all-purpose chicken which both lays a number of good quality eggs and is a good eating bird. 
The eggs are sold at the end of the farm drive to local customers and are in high demand.
 

Goats

Our small flock of goats are an important land management tool, grazing areas of the farm where we need particular help in dealing with brambles and weeds. 
Image courtesy of Megan Perry
 

Turkeys

We breed and rear our own pure bred Norfolk Black turkeys which we sell for the Christmas market. They are a rare, traditional breed and are slower growing and tastier than many commercial breeds. We keep a breeding flock so that we can produce turkeys all year round. We rear them in woodland areas and they are fed on home grown organic feed.
 

Bees and Honey

We have 12 hives on the farm and the bees pollinate our orchard and wild flower meadows.  Honey is collected and can be purchased here.
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