All our cattle are born and bred as naturally as possible on our farms at Hertford Heath. Our own selective breeding since the 80s has led us today, to a Hereford/Simmental herd of single-suckler beef cattle running with an Aberdeen Angus Bull.
This cross-breeding has created a relatively placid herd with a large form and delicious flavour from the Angus – traditionally a very small breed of cattle. We farm all of our cattle extensively, not intensively. They forage on open pasture and meadowland and at the King’s Meads Nature Reserve.
We always transport our own cattle to the abattoir, ensuring they remain calm and correctly cared for. All year round, our herds are fed and bedded down on fresh pasture land, with complimentary feed of home grown silage, maize and straw from our own arable farms. This ensures minimum food miles, reducing costs and preserving the environment.
Beef Production Annual Cycle
We run a suckler beef herd, of mainly Hereford and Simmental Cross cows whereby each cow has a calf (sometimes two) each year. The gestation period for a cow is nine months. When each calf is born it is given an ear tag to identify it from another calf. A passport is then issued for each calf with details of the mother, father, breed, sex and date of birth; this stays with the animal for its entire life for traceability. The male calves are castrated at birth to produce ‘steers’ not ‘bulls’ which in turn gives a more mature flavour to the animal. Each calf is also de-horned at birth to safeguard the other animals and the handlers!
The calves stay with their mother for the first six to eight months on the grass fields around the farm before being weaned off. This gives the mother time to build herself into good condition for the next calving season.
We have our own bull to put with the cows and calves from May onwards to get the cows in calf for next year. During the calves’ first winter they are housed in loose straw yards and fed on grass silage (preserved grass from the summer months). As soon as the weather permits – about March – they are back out on our Hertfordshire grazing pastures, before coming back in for the winter where they are fattened up or ‘finished’ on forage maize (field sweetcorn) and rolled cereal mix (all home grown).
Foxholes Farm Saddleback Pork
The runaway success of our incredibly popular Saddleback pork took us completely by surprise.Our intention, to possibly supply the shop with six or eight rare breed pigs over a year, seemed a plausible one. The reaction we received from our customers, to our product, was so overwhelming, we ‘upped’ our breeding programme and now use our Saddleback pork, not only as joints, steaks, chops and traditional cuts of pork, but also for our wonderful and varied flavours of homemade, hand-linked pork sausages.
We run an open farm policy. You are free to walk around and see all our animals, all year round.
Whilst this, we hope, will ensure your peace of mind, please bear in mind, this is a working farm. Please ensure children are always supervised… and that wellies may be required!
Pig Production Annual Cycle
We have a small herd of rare-breed pigs, called Saddleback, which started off as two female piglets as pets for Catherine’s daughters four years ago. But then the girls wanted baby pigs, so a boar (Daddy Pig) was purchased and since then we have had numerous litters of baby piglets on the farm.
The gestation period for a sow (Mummy Pig) is three months, three weeks, three days (that’s four months!). Rare breed pigs have an average of 10 piglets in each litter (whereas commercial pigs, which supply supermarkets, have 16). The piglets are born outside in the pig arcs and are left alone for a week, as too much interaction in the first week can cause the mothers to abandon them. Then they start to venture out and run about in their paddocks. They stay with their mother for 8 -12 weeks depending on the size of the litter and how strong the babies are. Then they are separated (weaned) away from their mother, into separate pens and fattened up on pig feed for another three months before they are slaughtered.
The sow is put back with the boar in a paddock, to mate, and wait another four months for another litter of babies. You can see a pattern developing now and see that each sow will have 2.5 litters per year. That is a lot of piglets (25) a year from each sow. Wow! A cow only has one or perhaps two.
Our free range chickens
What farmyard would really be complete without chickens scratching around and cockerels welcoming in the new day? We asked ourselves this question back in Spring 2012.
So, for some fun and the enjoyment of our customers, we acquired 40 day-old chicks. All Spring and Summer everyone enjoyed watching them grow. As the Summer drew to a close, we re-housed them along with their new ‘laying ark’.
To our delight, and even more, the delight of our customers, our lovely chickens are now supplying our Farm Shop with eggs laid right here on our doorstep, collected fresh every morning. Do come along and enjoy watching our birds, free ranging alongside our piglets,then purchase some to enjoy with our Saddleback sausages and bacon.
In the spring we often have orphan lambs on the farm; they are bottle fed for a few months, which is always a huge attraction to all who visit our farm and shop. We currently have three in a paddock next to the pigs. They are very friendly and like to see visitors as do the many furry and feathery friends you’ll meet in Pets Corner at Foxholes Farm.