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Multiple businesses prove to be winning combination for Wareham family

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.

Farming at Little Tottingworth Farm, in Heathfield, Sussex, Jason and Sarah Wareham and her brother Michael Unsworth White, say the family’s multiple businesses have allowed them to take control of their supply chain and add value to their products.

All of the farm’s livestock is killed through the slaughterhouse, which was started by Mrs Wareham’s family. From a small family unit, it now employs 10 people, killing 160 pigs, 50-head of cattle and 400 sheep per week.

Most of the business comes from private kills and wholesale contracts from local butchers. Keeping the passion for butchery alive is Jason Wareham’s son, George, who is currently undertaking an apprenticeship in the slaughterhouse.


Ferrying some of the livestock into the slaughterhouse is Mr Wareham himself, as part of his haulage business.

Out on the road every day of the week at this time of year hauling cattle, sheep and pigs, Mr Wareham says both enterprises connect very well together.

“The haulage business is growing all the time. It comes in useful for showing – we often take other people’s beasts alongside our own to shows and bring others back from sales,” he says.

Adding value

Adding value

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.


Strong demand for Galloway

Strong demand for Galloway

“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.

New venture

New venture


Despite several diversification enterprises on-farm, the heart of the business is the livestock.

The 100-head suckler herd is commercially run, mainly made up of Limousin and British Blue crosses put to Limousin, Blue and Galloway bulls.

Between 10 and 15 replacement heifers enter the herd per year, most of which are home-bred, with the odd ex-show potential heifer bought-in.
Mr Wareham says: “We have been building up numbers over the last 11 years, going from 30 to 100 suckler cows and followers, alongside a reduction in sheep from 500 to 200.”

Best years

Calving in spring, this year has been one of the best the Warehams have had, with not a single caesarean.

The couple believe this is partly due to keeping the cows in the right body condition and making sure they are not too fat at calving.

Mr Wareham says: “Cows graze as much as possible. Once calved, the cow and calf are turned straight out to grass, weather depending, and are given a small amount of haylage and minerals.
Capitalising on the increasing popularity of the shop’s produce, Mrs Wareham and Mr Unsworth White are in the process of building a brand new farm shop, complete with a cafe.
Due to open in April next year, the shop, also situated on-farm, will be five times the size of the current one, employ seven people and will seat 60 people in the cafe.
The new venture has been carefully thought out by the duo, who believe it will provide an additional opportunity to add value to their home-grown stock. Once up and running the new cafe will take twice as much meat from the slaughterhouse and most importantly will provide a use for lower value fourth-quarter meat, such as mince, in the lasagne and pies.



“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.


Show preparation

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.

Farm facts:

  • 162 hectares (400 acres) owned, made up of 121ha (300 acres) grassland and 28ha (100 acres) woodland
  • 100 suckler cows
  • 200 commercial ewes, mainly Texel cross and few pedigree Charollais and Blue Texel sheep, the latter owned by the Wareham’s nine-year-old son Ali
  • The local Heathfield Show is held on the farm every year and Mrs Wareham is on the organising committee. She runs an education area at the show with different farm animals on display
  • Keep an eye out for the Warehams at the Welsh Winter Fair and Smithfield over the coming month
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