John Meadley, chairman of the board of PFLA directors, recently had to be in Leeds and so decided to make a circuitous route back to Gloucestershire through Malhamdale in the Yorkshire Dales to visit Neil Heseltine, our most northerly member.
Neil and Leigh farm the all-pasture, aptly named, Hill Top Farm at an altitude of around 300-600 metres. Based on a 300-acre farm that has been in the family for over 100 years, Neil has more land of his own plus rented land (including 100 acres from the National Trust) to bring it up to 1,100 acres. Formerly entirely managed with sheep, Neil was enticed into cattle in 2003 through Natural England’s Limestone Country Project. He started with 19 Belted Galloway heifers and a bull and now has a herd of 80 animals, including 20 breeding cattle and followers selling off up to 10 mature beasts each year at around 36 months and at 280-290 kg deadweight. Some of these go to the local supermarket (Booths) through a scheme organised by the National Trust. The land also carries around 400 ewes (mainly Swales x Blue face Leicester) plus 20 pure Blue face pedigrees.
They spent some time looking at the films on Pasture Promise TV and also at the websites of other PFLA members. When John asked how they had come to join the PFLA it was Leigh who explained: Unlike Neil, who is a country-born, Seale Hayne graduate, Leigh is a Geordie from urban Newcastle upon Tyne and she explained that she had picked up about the PFLA on Twitter!
Being a bit of dinosaur with social media myself, Leigh gave me a five-minute education in the subject and I determined that the PFLA should make full use of this opportunity - and hopefully Leigh will help us to do that said John.
Leigh is a vegetarian and passionate about animal welfare. She and Neil found that the general ethos of the PFLA seemed to represent the way they farmed their cattle, animal welfare and sustainable farming being an intrinsic part of it, and this led them to become a member of our organisation.
Neil is now in the process of exploring how to become an approved supplier and we look forward to seeing Belted Galloway PASTORAL beef in a local butcher’s shop. Perhaps Hill Top Farm will become the focal point of a PFLA regional group in Yorkshire!
The one concern that Neil raised was about seasonality of supply and that it is one of the issues that we need to address. One possible option is for farmers in his position to sell store animals to other PFLA members where the growing season might be longer.
We hope that we can find time for more of such visits and write-ups so that we can learn more about the activities, interests and needs of our members.