This film follows our decision to produce and sell our own meat.
It explores the importance of local, small-scale farming for the animals' welfare and the difficulty faced by farmers of caring for livestock raised for meat.
Our aim is to blend modern knowledge with sustainable farming methods using local breeds that are suited to the area.
'Red Ruby' Devon cattle and Exmoor Horn sheep have been bred here in an unbroken line for well over a century, so we are keen to conserve this living link with the past and hand it on to future generations.
The welfare of our animals and conservation of our beautiful farm are very important to us. The farmhouse is supplied with electricity from a wind turbine and is heated by a biomass boiler that burns wood from our hedges and trees. The farm is under a Higher Level Stewardship agreement, which helps us to conserve a variety of wildlife and historical features.
With the exception of rams and bulls (which have to be bought from elsewhere to prevent in-breeding) all the sheep and cattle on the farm are born and raised on West Ilkerton Farm. The animals are kept in stable social groups, and have minimal stress throughout their lives.
Our livestock eat grass in the summer and home-grown hay and haylage (dry silage) in the winter. Occasionally some animals (for example the ewes before lambing) are fed carefully selected cereal-based feed when grass alone can't supply the energy they need to stay healthy.
Please contact us if you are interested in buying breeding stock.
We keep a herd of pedigree Devon 'Red Ruby' suckler cows. The cows calve from December until May, and calves stay with their mothers until they are about nine months old, when they are weaned and kept in social groups with others of a similar age.
Three or four heifers join our breeding herd each year and the rest are sold - usually to other farms for breeding.
Our steers (castrated males) are kept until around 26-months old and then we take them to the abattoir in Combe Martin. The beef is dry-aged in a cold store, cut and packaged by a master butcher, then sold in our meat boxes.
For more information about Devon cattle please see www.redrubydevon.co.uk
Our foundation flock consists of around 120 Exmoor horn and Exmoor halfbred ewes (Exmoor horn x Border Leicester).
Lambing takes place during the last week of March and first half of April. The ewes are housed in the sheds for lambing. When the lambs are about four days old, and if they are strong enough, they are taken out to sheltered meadows with their mothers.
The sheep are kept for wool and meat. The lambs are grass-fed on the wildflower-rich traditional pastures of West Ilkerton. We like to think our animals appreciate the wonderful and varied views from their fields!
Exmoor horns are famed for the quality of their wool, which is robust and hard-wearing, but unfortunately the value of wool nowadays barely covers the cost of shearing the sheep. However, with other farmers on Exmoor, we are involved with the Exmoor Horn Wool project (exmoorhornwool.co.uk).
The best ewe lambs are kept to join the flock or sold to other farmers for breeding.
The other lambs are destined for the table. We sell some as boxed meat in the autumn (as boxed half lambs) and the rest go to market. Our long-term plan is to sell most of our lamb directly to customers ourselves.
Please see www.exmoorhornbreeders.co.uk for more information about Exmoor horn sheep and www.borderleicesters.co.uk for the Border Leicester breed.