Hi there!

 

I'm Peter, I keep cattle in Farndale, a valley in the North York Moors National Park.

Starting out in 2010 with no experience of farming, I've immersed myself in a farm environment crash course!

Over the years I've kept sheep, free range pigs and cattle, producing meat and wool for direct sale to customers at home. From a personal position of next to zero knowledge of our food system it's become apparent to me that as a whole, our population functions without understanding the challenges involved with getting food on to the plate.

In the past decade it's become increasingly difficult to offer my meat as a product as the number of small local abattoirs has declined to nothing. There's only one butcher with the staff, skills and scale to cut and pack the meat to a high standard.

Mother nature, the land and animals

 

Instead of working with nature most of the farming I see works against her, bullying land into submission with ploughs and cutters, prophylactically medicating animals, overgrazing and draining etc.

It may be surprising but humans still don't fully understand soil, yet we depend on it for our survival. The microbial life is fascinating, little understood but drives a eco-system that humans demolish with machines and chemicals.

Observation

I've come to understand that the most important tools we have as human farmers are our brains, eyes and ears.

Even our most bucolic impression of a farm, a nice house, walls, green manicured fields is closer to a factory than you may want to be believe. The use of process, of specific dates and times for tasks, chemical applications to achieve fixed outcomes is reminicent more of industry than nature.

Letting nature lead requires a change of perspective. To begin with, understanding soil signals is essential; what are the nettles, thistles and docks etc telling us? If you ignore them the land will never reach its potential.

Mimicking nature

I've come to think of the hunters who would admire the best animal, track it and kill it to feed their family. In that scenario you would want the best, the fittest animal possible. I've often heard it said that the best meat is wild; take that idea on, the goal should be to admire the best animals in our domesticated, regulated, sense and eat the quality of wild meat, not just the fastest grown carcass.

In nature ruminant animals would herd together and keep moving, with access to clean pasture. An obvious difference would be the 'untidy' appearance of the grazing area; nature isn't uniform in height, colour or texture.

Using electric fence I move the cattle once or twice a day to mimick the behaviour created by predators. I'm not limited by field size (the walls and hedges), I can create a paddock to match the availability of forage and the desired outcome, perhaps feeding the beasts and trampling nettle.