…and a few Longhorns!
The Midland Longhorn Breeders’ Group visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for their summer visit.
Longhorn cattle have been at Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield in Derbyshire for many years. Hardwick Park Farm, although in the ownership of the National Trust is now tenanted; part of the tenancy agreement requires a nucleus herd of pure Longhorn cattle
to be kept alongside any other enterprises the tenant chooses. The current tenants Will Botham and his partner Karen have embraced this clause and run a very efficient farm on commercial lines. The farm is just over 600 acres of mainly parkland grazing with a round 30 acres of arable grown for own use.
The National Trust favours low input grassland under Stewardship Agreements. This provides extensive grazing for the suckler herd and a flock of 300 breeding ewes. The suckler herd consists of a mix of pure Longhorn cows running alongside crossbred cows with Longhorn and Stabilisers featuring in the current breeding policy. Although new to the Longhorn breed Will and Karen have sufficient faith in the Longhorns to include them in their cross-breeding, with their current stock bull, of Riverlands breeding, working well.
The herd is performance recorded, with anything not hitting target being culled. We saw some good working cows with tremendous calves at foot, all spring born in a very tight calving pattern. It was interesting to see how the Longhorns were crossing onto Angus, Limousin and latterly Stabilisers, showing how adaptable the Longhorn breed has become, as originally Longhorns had been kept to look attractive grazing around the Hall, but are now fitting into a very commercially run farm. Stock not required for breeding are fattened on the farm and sold to the local wholesaler who sells to a network of pubs, restaurants and shops in the area.
Having walked through the parkland looking at the cattle we had worked up an appetite for lunch at the Hardwick Inn adjacent to the park, with an invitation to look around the Hall and gardens in the afternoon.
Hardwick Hall was once part of the Cavendish family’s extensive estates until it had to be forfeited to pay death duties and eventually came into the hands of the National Trust. The Hall houses one the finest collections of tapestries in this country and was built for the infamous Bess of Hardwick. Due to the extensive windows which feature throughout, it is often known as ‘Hardwick Hall more glass than wall’. The visit to the Hall and gardens concluded a very pleasant day with a good mix of cattle and culture and we thank Will and Karen for their welcome.