Exciting Plans for Euridge Manor Organics
Back in September I caught up with Matthew Aspinall, the Farm Manager at Euridge Manor Farm, to talk about the farm and his plans for its future. Matt started working at Euridge Manor two and half years ago. The farm is now home to over 300 cattle and a flock of sheep. Matt spoke to us about his passions for his livestock, organic farming and his animals’ welfare. He then informed us of his imminent plans to create a local meat box scheme and to then build a farm shop. Take a read below to find out more.
So first off Matt, how has the farm changed since you took up the role as farm manager?
When I first took up the position two and a half years ago, the farm was being run quite intensively. In addition to farming livestock, we were also growing corn. On a farm which is just short of 500 acres, rotating the cows and growing the corn wasn’t working. We took the decision to take corn out of the rotation. Since the change, the farm has been running very smoothly – meaning that we’re planning to stick with this new rotation for the foreseeable future.
Last Autumn we introduced sheep as they complement the cattle grazing. This is because the cattle act as “hoovers” when grazing and therefore provide a clean pasture for the ewes and lambs.
Recently we have created some cross breeds. We want to produce different meat that no one else has really come across. We crossed a Wagyu bull with female Herefords and we now have 100-150 Wagyu/Hereford crosses. Wagyu cattle are a Japanese breed with high levels of marbling, which is a determination of meat quality. Hereford cattle are a much more prominent breed, reared all over the world.
How much cattle do you have on the farm? Do you have any other breeds?
Including the Wagyu/Hereford crosses we are just short of 310 at the moment but can have up to 400. We have Aberdeen Angus, Herefords and the Wagyu/Hereford crosses. Our cattle are grass fed and have a silage diet throughout the winter. This all-important animal feed, created from fermented grass, is made by us on our very own farm.
Why have you created these Wagyu/Hereford cross breeds of cattle?
Normally pure-bred Wagyu are intensively fed, putting a lot of white fat into the animal which isn’t healthy for us to consume. We’re not interested in intensive feeding, which is why we finish all our cross-breeds on grass. The crossed meat will have good marbling throughout but the Hereford part will give a dark yellow coloured fat, providing high levels of Omega 3. Wagyu beef is normally a very high end, fine quality meat. We have created the cross to bring this meat to the all. We want to sell our meat to everybody, not just to just high-end clients.
Why do you work on an organic farm? What does organic farming mean to you?
As a farmer, I don’t feel that there is a place in the current market for intensively bred animals and I don’t see any need to be supplementing grassland with fertilisers or crops with synthetic pesticides. They weren’t doing this 100 years ago, so why now? Intensive, non-organic livestock are eating a lot of food which they wouldn’t eat naturally. They eat food which is designed to make them grow faster and fatter. In my opinion, this is not healthy for them or to us when consuming this meat. We are organic because we want to produce meat which is unique and healthy, in the most natural way.
Can you tell us more about your animal welfare standards?
We are running very high-level animal welfare standards on our cattle and sheep. We test regularly for deficiencies and we find ways to supplement them. We have state of the art housing and handling facilities for our livestock. We are very conscious of our animal welfare, and are always striving and pushing to be the best.
Are you doing anything in particular on your farm to help our wildlife?
We are doubling fencing around our hedgerows at the moment to let them expand from 2 meters to 6 meters wide. This process will create a larger habitat for our wildlife and increase biodiversity. We let nesting birds have their pick of the hedgerows as we cut our hedges very late in the cutting season.
So let’s talk about your plans for the future.
When I started working here, I wanted to try and diversify a little bit on this 500-acre farm. I want to do something which will bring in a better income and give our finishing animals the market they deserve as fine beef. We’re looking to produce the healthiest beef and lamb you can buy and have put in a lot of effort into doing this. We’ve devoted our time to ensuring livestock graze on the best varieties of grass: a third of our fields now have Herbal Ley which provide a nutritious and diverse mix of vitamins and minerals . Another third of our fields have Higher Growing Rye grasses which provide protein in the winter.
And you have plans to start a box scheme?
Yes, we want to push on very rapidly with this. We currently process our meat off site however we want to start processing the meat on the farm. Within processing, the meat is aged and cut. We want to age our meat for at least 28 days, so we are going to install a state of the art processor which makes sure that our meat is aged and cut properly.
Within our boxes we aim to include different cuts of beef, including roasting joints, mince beef and stewing steak. We are currently deciding on our packaging for the boxes and want them to look very unique. Although the plan is to start very soon, we are not wanting to rush the process. Once we have started our meat box scheme, we will then have the encouragement to open our own shop.
Tell us more about your plans for a farm shop.
We want to open our own farm shop and bring in a lot of local produce. There are a lot of nice niche companies in the area which may not have the finance or structure to open their own shop. Opening a farm shop here will benefit our local community. The shop will be a one stop shop for produce from the local area.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us Matt, is there anything else you’d like to say?
I want to raise awareness of Euridge Manor Farm. It hasn’t always been known as a productive farm. The owner John, before being a business man, his main passion is farming. I am passionate about taking the farm forward. I want it to be a great example of an organic farming. Euridge Manor Farm is going to go somewhere!
To find out more about Euridge Manor Farm have a look at their Facebook page.
This blog was written by the Soil Association's digital communications volunteer, Rebecca McGowan.
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