With 100-head suckler herd, 200 commercial ewes, a slaughterhouse, farm shop and haulage business, there is never a dull moment for Jason and Sarah Wareham. Louise Hartley reports.
Keen to add value to the beef and lamb reared and butchered on-farm, Mrs Wareham decided to open the farm shop in 2010, stocking home-reared meat, local vegetables, milk and cheese.
Employing one full-time and one part-time member of staff, Tottingworth Farm Shop takes one side of beef, two to three lambs and a couple of pigs per week from the slaughterhouse.
Business has built steadily and offerings have increased to a wide range of local chutneys, preserves and homemade pies.
Mrs Wareham says: “About 200 people per week come through the shop’s doors. Some customers visit once per day or week, while others travel up to an hour and stock up every month.
“Our reputation for quality meat is strong, and I think breeding, rearing and butchering our own meat on-farm makes a big difference. Our customers know the animals have been well looked after and it could not get more local.”
It is the Galloway meat in particular which flies off the farm shop’s shelves, says Mrs Wareham.
“Meat from our Galloway cross cattle sells extremely well, with customers raving over its eating quality.”
To take advantage of consumer demand, the couple has recently invested in a small herd of Belted Galloway cows, bought at Carlisle market.
Calving in spring, this year has been one of the best the Warehams have had, with not a single caesarean.
“We do not want plain or fat cows, but strive for healthy, fit ones and so avoid feeding concentrates where we can.”
Calves spend the summer out at grass with their mothers and are weaned in January, about eight weeks before calving, and creep-fed thereafter. The couple aim to get calves to their finishing weight as soon as possible. Steers are killed at 18-19 months, killing-out at 360kg.
Careful consideration is paid to rearing and finishing youngstock to ensure it is suitable for the farm shop, says Mrs Wareham.
“Ideally we do not want any animals heavier than 180kg per side. Calves spend a summer out suckling, a summer on creep and then are finished,” she adds.
“We keep steers inside during the summer to limit their size and allow them to flesh out. Thick and stocky beats with sides no larger then 180kg are best for us.”
Recently attending Agri-Expo, where they secured first in the native calf class with Double 0 Seven (which belongs to their son Ali) and also second, fourth and fifth rosettes, the Warehams are keen on showing cattle at major shows across the UK.
Usually showing a team of about five cattle, they concentrate on the major shows in the country, believing it is only when you pitch yourself against the best you get a good understanding of the quality of your own stock.
Mr Wareham says: “Winning at local shows does not necessarily mean you have fantastic stock in the grand scheme of things.
“If you are in the top three or four at big national shows you are doing very well. We are not in the easiest of areas to get anywhere, but do not mind travelling to the good shows.”
Other successes this year include reserve commercial champion with the January 2014-born heifer Munchkin at the Royal Welsh and Royal Norfolk shows and champion commercial at Cornwall, Heathfield, and Edenbridge shows.
Out of a Limousin cross Blue cow and by a Limousin cross Blue bull, it was bred by John Robertson and bought from Dougie McBeath and Sarah-Jane Jessop at Smithfield for £5,050.
Show cattle are fed on a specialist ration, wet mash and hay and straw.
“We aim for a carcase with good cover and not too fat, with a good loin and top. It is also important to have a well-trained animal,” says Mr Wareham.
The duo do all the show preparation themselves, with Mrs Wareham clipping the animals and Mr Wareham washing and leading them in the showring.
Always on the look-out for something special to show, show animals are either selected from their own fields or occasionally bought-in if something catches Mr Wareham’s eye in the market.
“If we do buy something in, it is usually between six and 12 months old and we would spend the most money on heifers.”
Mr Wareham also has a wealth of judging experience under his belt and believes stepping into the centre of the showring helps with his own team selection.
He says: “I really enjoy judging – it is the only time I am in control and have to be listened to.
“As a judge I will always put up the kind of animals we would like to be showing ourselves.”
In 2013 Mr Wareham judged heifers at the Welsh Winter Fair and calves at Beef Expo in 2011.
This year he took to the ring to command the commercial cattle at the Great Yorkshire, Frome and Royal Berkshire shows. He also Judged the any other breed classes at the South of England Show.