More and more evidence is showing the negative financial and environmental impact that results from intensive farming of non-native breeds. Our mission is to produce meat in such a way that we increase biodiversity on the farm at the same time as improving our financial stability.
Along with a small but growing group of other farmers, we are looking back not forward to find ways to achieve these goals, and have bought a small herd of Highland cross “white bred short horns” to add to Carbeth’s family of native breed cows.
When industrialisation began to dominate farming practices, native breeds fell out of favour as they are characteristically smaller and slower growing animals, making for a more challenging business plan for large enterprises. Native breeds have other characteristics however, that make them better suited to our challenging climate, and allow them to make a positive, rather than a negative contribution to the ecosystems they have evolved to thrive in.
Their smaller feet and stature put less pressure on the wet ground, while a hardier and thicker double coat allow them to live outdoors all winter. This removes the need for straw bedding, manufactured forage and housing. Reducing the requirements for manufactured forage results in a much lower energy and carbon input for a slower growing, better quality meat.
Native cows live longer and naturally calve easier due to the smaller calf and less intensive farming practices. Dung from the cows is spread naturally and with natural vegetation being more varied and “rougher” the cows can be kept on areas that would not be productive in any other way. Highlands will graze heather and bracken, helping to naturally clear and control the spread of these species, while crating new habitat for wild flowers and grasses.
Sheep and cows both require chemical assistance to control worm and parasite burdens. Again, looking back at traditional practises, this was overcome by allowing species to graze as a mixed group of animals. This promoted the resistant abilities of each animal to benefit the other, reducing the amount of anthelmintic usage in the animal and the soil.