Half term is here and as our Factory courtyard is host to piglets and lambs I thought I would write this blog about some of the specific breeds of farm animals that adorn Matthew Rice’s new range of farmyard mugs.
As a nation we fell out of love with many of our heritage breeds after World War 2 when British farming changed rapidly. We needed to farm more and more land to feed a growing population. The days of back gardeners and smallholders having poultry and pigs became a rarity and farming became a more industrial and alien concept to the public. Hybrid animals produced higher yields and took the place of our traditional breeds which were left to slowly vanish being unable to compete with these new, machine-like animal producers.
If it was not for a few dedicated people who chose to keep a few breeding animals during this age of progress for the sake of progress, then many such breeds would be extinct today and it is only thanks to organisations such as the Rare Breed Survival Trust who are also coming to the factory this week, that we still have many of our native farm animals. The charity ensures that breeders are linked together to help with individual breeds genetics so that breeders can connect with one another easily to exchange livestock and holds important data bases which record their populations.
Visit Chatsworth Farmyard and Adventure playground this spring, an hour’s drive on a good day from the factory, to see both commercial and rare breeds at first hand and indeed at large this coming spring – www.chatsworth.org/attractions-and-events/farmyard
Oxfordshire Sandy and Black pigs
Emma and Matthew have two of these pigs. They arrived at their farm as piglets and both are now very large sows who have far have resisted any advances from the summer visits of a pedigree bore. The Oxfordshire Sandy Black was almost extinct twenty years ago, today it has gained popularity as a pig for beginner farmers being docile in its temperament and maturing quickly with flavoursome meat. All pigs love to wallow in mud on hot days; as pigs cannot sweat they have to do so as a way of keeping cool. A mother pig will make a nest of straw instinctively, shortly before giving birth to her piglets.
Jacob’s are the most stylish of sheep with rounded horns and dotty, woolly coats marked with deep dark chocolate brown. They are thought to be one of the oldest breeds of farm animals being mentioned in the Old Testament book of Genesis and being native in fact to Northern Africa! These sheep are very hardy with the ewes rarely needing to be given help during lambing which for some sheep breeds can be a traumatic experience. The fleece of a Jacob sheep makes a beautiful rug and their meat is very lean and of intense flavour. Matthew and Emma have a very beautiful flock of jet black fleeced and curved horned Hebridean sheep, no prizes for guessing their native origins!
The Hereford Cow is a British beef breed, thought to have been indeed bred by the farmers of Herefordshire in the 1600s. They are large but generally docile and sweetly natured beasts. I am delighted to tell you that we have had our first calf born on Emma and Matthew’s farm this week, it is a little Hereford cow and both mum and daughter and her two aunts, who are also expecting, are doing very well. The cows are kept in an airy, straw bedded stable over the winter so that they do not churn up their summer grazing fields. They have to be moved several times over the summer to new areas of the farm so that they have fresh grass to graze.