The Mickle Trafford farmer producing quality Red Poll beef
PUBLISHED: 23:02 19 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:46 20 February 2013
Meet the Mickle Trafford farmer who has reinvented the family's farming business<br/>WORDS BY: EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHS BY: JOHN COCKS
The dairy industry continually faces challenges. Farmers have recently been hit with more bad news: milk prices are once again being cut by industry heavyweights making it harder to compete and survive. But the dwindling number of small-scale dairy farmers may take comfort from Huw Rowlands story.
Since 1947 his grandfather Eric and then his father David, who still works with Huw, farmed the land and reared cattle at The Grange to produce milk. But when quotas were introduced in the eighties David faced a difficult decision.
Huw explained: Wed planned to increase our herd but we couldnt because we were restricted by the new quotas.
It got to the point where my dad had to choose between losing one pence on every litre of milk we produced, go under or find a market niche. I came up with the idea of raising rare breed cattle for meat production. The Red Polls were my idea.
It was quite a change for Huw who had spent ten years running pubs for Greenalls Brewery. He faced a choice between accepting a job in the south working in the rail industry or returning to help his father at The Grange.
He made the right decision. The farm has gone from strength-to-strength and dririnkalthough it is just Huw and David who run everything, they are thriving. Huw chose Red Poll beef cattle because it suited the land at the family farm.
He said: Rather than fighting to get a breed to suit the land I knew it would be better to do it the other way around. The Red Polls are an East Anglian breed, bred for low lying damp conditions and our farm lies in the River Gowy Valley which is an ideal environment.
My father also wanted to carry on milking and the Red Poll is a dual purpose breed. The option was there to keep them for milking or beef. But the amounts of milk we would have had to produce and still be losing a penny a litre, it wasnt something that we could continue with.
Red Poll beef is low in fat, free from artificial additives and is packed with Omega 3. The beef is produced to the highest environmental standards. The cattle are kept in groups of between 20 and 30. They are grass fed, calves are kept with their mothers until they are nine-months old, they are killed only when they are more than three-years-old before being slaughtered in Haslington and hung for more than two weeks to give great marbling and texture.
The meat is sold from the farm gate as well as at numerous farm shops. It is also served up on the menus at The Chester Fields, a restaurant overlooking The Grange.
Huw and David also operate the farm in a way that promotes ethical and environmental stewardship. The land falls under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. Together, they have developed wildlife and sustainable management techniques that promotes habitat restoration on the land. They have planted 20 acres of poplar trees, a woodland, hedgerows have been restored and coppiced willows provide food for the giraffes at Chester Zoo.
They are also working with nearby Trafford Mill to establish a community kitchen garden and work as part of the Gowy Connect landscape management project. Their work has earned several accolades including the North West Future of Farming Award. They also host many visits to the farm from school trips to Womens Institute groups and work closely with BTCV, a volunteering organisation that supports conservation initiatives.
Huw said: Its about working with what we have got. We are very lucky to have a farm like this and we have a huge responsibility to protect the future of the landscape around us. We have created wildlife corridors on our land. Everything from tiny insects to birds are increasing in numbers.
There are otters back in the River Gowy for the first time in living memory.
We rear our cattle to the highest standards but we also want to make sure that we look after the land and protect it for future generations. It is something we are very proud to do.