From 2016 to 2025 the farm is in the Countryside Stewardship scheme at the Higher Tier level - a very competitive and complex agreement for the most environmentally significant sites in the UK, building on the previous decade of environmental improvement work that we carried out through Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) 2006 - 2016. Countryside Stewardship’s priority is to protect and enhance the natural environment, in particular the diversity of wildlife (biodiversity) and water quality. Work focuses on: restoration and management of species-rich grassland, enhancing precious culm grassland, continued management of hedgerows for diversity and ongoing management of the traditional orchard. Our native breed cattle and sheep will be key players in managing our swards for diversity.
Environmental work carried out on the farm for the ten years to 2016 was wide-ranging and included the building of an otter holt, restoration of Devon hedgebanks, restoration of and new planting for the traditional orchard, increasing the area of culm grassland in the woodland, fencing the woodland from poaching livestock, and the restoration of an 18th century stone and cob barn.
The farm is run on a low input, no artificial fertiliser system, using well rotted farmyard manure on those fields where we work to maximise grass for the livestock. There are also a number of fields that are left unimproved to encourage the significant numbers and varieties of native wildflowers, grasses, insects, small mammals and birds that thrive on poorer soils. We also produce our own solar generated electricity; our cow barn roof is covered with photovoltaic cells.
All our animals are free-range, and the breeds are native, traditional or rare breed, ideally suited to non-intensive conditions. The welfare of our livestock is paramount and we take great care to ensure that each animal gets what it needs to thrive year round and is as stress free as possible. Although not certified organic, we follow the organic principles of:
- No factory farming (ours is a very extensive, low stocked system)
- Lots of outdoor space and fresh air
- Encouragement of normal animal behaviour
- No genetically modified (GM) feed or growth hormones
- Minimised stress in transport and slaughter
- and we use vaccinations and other medication only where necessary as part of our animal health plan which is reviewed at least every year to ensure that we are doing what is best for the livestock
The cattle overwinter in barns that are mucked out daily, so our cows are exceptionally clean and have deep straw beds to rest on. They eat hay or haylage grown on the farm, have constant access to water and rock salt and are given natural seaweed mineral supplement. From Spring to late Autumn they live out at pasture with their young.
Our pigs are free range and live in straw filled arks, but we do bring them into a barn if the winter months are exceptionally wet as those conditions are not beneficial to the pigs or our land. Piglets never have their tails or teeth cut, nor are they castrated, and are weaned at eight weeks when they are strong and active, allowing the sows to maintain good condition too.
Lambing is delayed until mid March so that the lambs and new mothers have access to fresh spring grass, and to avoid freezing winter nights in the lambing shed. Our lambs are fed solely on their mother’s milk and grass, which results in slow maturing, excellently flavoured meat. As hardy animals with a low stocking ratio, our sheep are naturally well covered and don’t need concentrates to bulk them up. Hard feed is only given to the in-lamb ewes for the weeks leading up to lambing and for a short while after in the early stages of producing milk. Antibiotics are only used where an individual animal’s welfare means treatment is necessary.
Our poultry and wildfowl live outdoors with roomy, secure, straw filled housing at night - the quality of their meat and eggs are second to none.