We get asked a lot about the way our cows live. Here are the answers to the most common questions we receive.
free ranging cows
For most of the year round, you can find our girls grazing freely on the lush and wildlife rich marshes of Stow Fen, in the beautiful Waveney River Valley. They keep peaceful company with otters, kingfishers, egrets, herons, marsh harriers, water voles and a myriad of other watermeadow creatures.
Due to the good British climate and the wet nature of the marshland around the farm, there are certain months during the winter when it’s not possible for the cows to graze (they’d need boats!). Or sometimes it’s just so cold or dry that the grass doesn’t grow. During those months (Nov-March), the girls are housed in deep open-sided straw barns, with plenty of fresh air, sunlight and back scratchers for a good massage, whenever the need takes them.They enjoy one another’s peaceful company in the straw and actually (contrary to everything we expect from cows) seem to prefer the barn to the pasture. They are secretly massive couch potatoes and whenever we turn them out onto the grass in the spring, they get excited, skip around for half an hour, then stand by the gate, mooing to come back inside. Once the summer comes along however, they are usually content to graze and relax in the fields. They are creatures of habit though. They enjoy the routine of milking time and will often be found forming an orderly queue for the milking parlour before we arrive!
When the herd are inside for the winter, they eat a diet of home-grown hay, haylage, grass and maize silage. We try to feed them as much of a home-grown diet as possible, but our cow’s health and well-being is our top priority, so if our own forage is not providing everything they need for optimum health, we will sometimes buy in small amounts of other suitable feeds, vitamins and minerals, to top up their diets and keep them glossy and happy.
Unlike the vast majority of dairy herds in the UK, we don’t push our cows to give too much milk. We would rather have a farm full of happy, healthy and relaxed cows who live longer.
Why Montbeliarde Cows?
The Montbeliarde is an ancient breed and she is a relaxed type of beast. She originates from the meadows of the Jura region in the French Alps and is happiest when dining on a diet of fresh grass and home grown forage. She won’t give very much milk but the milk she does give is protein rich, flavoursome and perfect for cheesemaking. In fact, some of the best French cheeses are made exclusively from Montbeliarde milk, including Comte, Vacherin Mont D’ Or and Reblochon.
Our Montbeliarde herd were hand-picked by Jonny from small farms in the French Jura and are very well suited to the Suffolk climate. They appear to be enjoying life here very much indeed.
IS YOUR HERD FULLY GRASS-FED?
In the months of spring, summer and autumn, we keep the cows out and grazing as much as possible.
We grow our own forage (Grass, maize, etc.) and store it as silage or hay for winter feed, in order to ensure that they have as much of a home-grown diet as possible during the winter.
Our aim is to make sure that our girls are as healthy and happy as possible, so we are continually analysing their diet in relation to their body condition, stage of pregnancy/lactation and general wellbeing. We look after every cow as an individual. Sometimes this means that if our home grown forage is not providing 100% of the nutrients that each cow needs, we will buy in some extra ingredients to add to their food. This could be extra vitamins and minerals, or other ingredients that will benefit the health of the cows.
If you have any questions about either our herd and our farming values, please feel free to drop us a line.