This year the Society’s AGM was based in Derbyshire, with visits to Mike and Yvonne Smith’s Hennisfield herd, Ben and Tori Stanley’s Melbourne Park herd and Calke Abbey. Around 80 members, including members from Germany and Holland joined in all or part of the weekend’s activities.
Saturday 14 October
The weekend started with a visit to the breeding portion of the Hennisfield herd belonging to Mike and Yvonne Smith. Mike and Yvonne bought Hennisfield Farm in 2003, initially rearing free range poultry and sheep. They bought two cows and calves from the Blackbrook/Fishwick/Southfield sale in 2007 to start their Longhorn herd and five years ago gave up free range egg production. The sheep enterprise has also been reduced so all efforts are now concentrated on the Longhorns. The herd now comprises 20 cows and followers, with heifers being retained as replacements and steers being finished for local butchers shops. The herd has had success in both the show and sale ring.
We didn’t have far to go to see the cattle as they were running in the parkland adjacent to the Hilton Hotel, our base for the weekend.
The formal AGM business was conducted with a change to the General Rules being voted in and David Blockley and Paul Ashcroft being re-elected back onto Council. Sarah Coleman was announced as the Society’s President for 2018 and 2019.
The awards were presented, with David Howden winning the Bull of the Year Award with Pointer Can Dance, Vicki Hopkinson winning the Cow of the Year Award with Gorse Valentine Rose and Mark and Bev Wheeler winning the Heifer of the Year with Carreg Quicksilver. The Junior Handler’s Award was won by William Edwards. The President’s Award was awarded by President Dr Phil Cleland to Charles and Angela Cottrell-Dormer of the Rousham herd for the work they had done to preserve the breed.
After lunch a number of members visited Calke Abbey which has been home to Longhorn cattle since the 18th Century. As well as cattle grazing in the park there are a number of Longhorn heads in the Entrance Hall to greet visitors.
In the evening we had a meal at the Hilton Hotel and along with a raffle we were entertained by our outgoing President, Dr Phil Cleland.
Sunday 15 October
On Sunday the day was spent at the various enterprises of Ben and Tori Stanley of the Melbourne Park herd. Ben and Tori recently secured the long term tenancy on Park Farm, part of the Melbourne Hall Estate and they also farm land nearby at Langley Abbey Priory. As well as the Longhorn herd there are also flocks of Jacob and Texel sheep, as well as a flock of Portlands managed by Tori and Ben on behalf of Lady Ralph Kerr. The Longhorn cattle are taken through to finishing and sold through their own butcher’s shop at King’s Newton as well as farmers markets, local farm shops and butchers.
Tori and Ben won the Farmer’s Guardian Awards ‘Beef Innovator of the Year’ award in 2016. They were recently featured in Farmers Guardian – a copy of the interview is in the ‘AGM booking details’ news item on the Society website.
Ben and Tori farm 600 acres over four tenancies, the main one being 400 acres at Park Farm, part of the Melbourne Hall Estate. They have been selling Longhorn beef for seven years and it is their main farming enterprise and therefore their living. Initially beef was sold in boxes but when the first tenancy was secured a more regular cashflow was needed so they started attending farmers markets and for the last five years have attended three in London every Saturday. The tenancy at Park Farm is for 30 years, allowing for long-term plans to be put in place which include renovating the farm and buildings to make them more fit for purpose.. Tori and Ben finish 150 cattle a year, mostly Longhorns but supplemented with other native breeds when there aren’t any Longhorns ready. The aim is to rear steers or heifers over two summers at grass to 24-30 months and finish them at R4H or O+.
Currently the breeding herd consists of just over 40 cows and they aim to get numbers up to around 100 cows meaning they are breeding around 2/3 of the finishing cattle they need. An HLS application to turn 100 acres of Melbourne Hall land that is currently in arable back into permanent pasture will facilitate this.
There is 300 acres of arable growing barley for home milling, and oilseed rape. Around 300 sheep are also kept, mostly Mules with some Texel and Cheviot half breds and there is also a flock of pedigree Jacobs which are very successful in the show ring. The farm employs four people for the shop, butchery and farmer’s markets and Ben is the only person on the farm.
We started off at Tori and Ben’s Butchery in King’s Newton which had only had it’s official opening the week before for coffee and a butchery demonstration which proved a real hit.
From there we moved on to Park Farm to see the breeding cattle and the finishing cattle. We were then treated to an amazing Longhorn lunch, with Longhorn cooked ‘from nose to tail’ by 2014 BBC Masterchef Winner Sven Britt-Hansen and his team. We had dishes of Longhorn neck, Longhorn brisket, Longhorn sirloin, Longhorn forerib, Longhorn rump and Longhorn oxtail. This was all washed down with two beers that had been brewed specially for the occasion – Melbourne Park and Herbertsherd.