Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 71

FOOD & DRINK Chillerton Farm, We made our move to Parkwater in 1987. Q. What is the biggest change in farming methods you have seen during your career? The demise of the small family run farm. Twenty years ago it was possible to make a living on a 6080 acre farm; today it would be a struggle to survive with less than 250 acres. Q. How many animals do you look after at any one time and where are they? We currently have 1200 ewes and depending on the time of year we graze them at Chillerton and around Newtown estuary. The Landowners allow the sheep to graze, and in return they fertilise the land in a natural way! Q. How long does it take to rear an animal and how does this differ from intensive methods? It takes up to a maximum of nine months. We lamb in May and the youngsters are on their Mothers until mid-September. Then they graze on grass until November. Finally we finish the animals on root crop stubble until March, when they are sent to slaughter. After weaning, intensively reared lambs are bought indoors and fed concentrates to encourage them to put on weight more quickly. They reach their slaughter weights by six months at the latest. As with most animals, humans included, some lambs grow and mature more quickly than others. We pull the faster maturing animals and finish them earlier, about 20 every two weeks. We sell three per week through Farmer Jacks, three through Farmers markets, three by box scheme and one to your restaurant. Q. What difference does this make? Yes, without a doubt. It would reduce transport cost and therefore product cost, and animal stress and increase availability. Our lambs put on weight more naturally, which leads to a more mature tasting meat, increased further by a two-week hanging period after slaughter. Intensive lamb is under cellophane and in the shops within a couple of days of being killed. Q. How do you provide your customers with lamb throughout the year? Q. Would having an Island abattoir make a difference to your business? - life Q. Finally If you could have your time again, would you still have become a sheep farmer? Yes, because I’ve always been a bit daft! Although looking b 6