Currently, Overtown supports a flock of 350 breeding ewes, mostly Scotch half-bred crossed with Lleyn and Texel and put in lamb to a Blue Faced Leicester ram to produce flock replacements, but there are also some more unusual breeds such as the local Cotswold, Herdwicks from the Lake District and Badger-Face Welsh Mountain sheep.
We lamb in early April to mid May to take advantage of the longer days and (not always!) better weather to give the lambs the best possible start in life and, within two days of birth, the lambs and their mothers will be back out in the fields.
Above: A Lleyn cross Scotch half bred ewe and her newborn twins.
Below right: Some of our three quarter Hereford cattle.
In 2003, we started a 70-cow suckler herd, mainly consisting of Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cross heifers who were put in-calf to our pedigree Hereford bull Gregory and our South Deveon bull A.J.
In 2009 we replaced Greg with Oskar the Aberdeen Angus followed by Digby the Bazardais (a breed form the Pyrenees in France) and in 2013 we bought Jaguar, a pedigree Hereford from the well-known Bromham herd in Wiltshire.
We chose these breeds because they are native to Britain and so more suited to our climate, and because they are also slower to
mature.This makes them ideal for extensive and organic systems where animals are grown slowly on a grass-based diet, to reach maturity in their own time without being fed large amounts of cereal-based foods.This ultimately leads to a better flavour and high quality meat.
We also have a very small number of pure bred Hereford cows and produce small quantities of Pure Hereford beef each year.The herd calves in two main groups, early March and late August, with a few stragglers in early/mid winter.
Overtown grows around 60 acres of organic cereals; mostly Wheat, Barley, Triticale (wheat/rye hybrid) and Oats for feeding to our cattle and sheep and to provide straw for their winter bedding and the surplus grain is sold. We also have large areas of permanent pasture, which supports not only our livestock, but a rich and diverse list of wild plants, mammals, invertebrates, and even the odd reptile. We make hay and silage from this in summer to feed to the animals in winter and we believe the species rich grass contributes to the flavour and quality of our meat, which is often commented on by our customers.
Legumes are an important part of an organic system. This includes plants such as red and white clover, Lucerne (Alfalfa) and Sanfoin as well as peas, beans and vetches. They have small nodules on their roots that are able to take nitrogen and "fix" it into the soil. Nitrogen is one of the elements that is vital for plant growth and is one of the main ingredients in chemical fertilizer. By growing legumes mixed in with the grass, we can raise the fertility of the soil for free and when the field is ploughed up for a cereal crop, the nitrogen is released slowly as the clover roots rot down and feed the crop. Legumes are also a good source of protein and so they are an excellent feed for livestock.
We often grow a grass, clover and Lucerne mixture in a field by the farm yard where there is a public right of way and many people have commented on not only how pretty it looks, but how many bees it attracts and how wonderful it smells!
To find out more about the work we do to protect and enhance the diversity and rich natural flora and fauna of our farm, please click on the
Caring for our environment
Organic Oats, Triticale and purple-flowered Vetch for livestock feed.
The Organic system
We started our conversion to Organic farming in 1999, achieving full organic status in 2001. The whole farm, and all its enterprises are managed to Soil Association Organic standards and our aim is to increase the fertility of the soil and reduce pests and diseases by natural methods such as grazing, crop rotations, choice of crop and encouraging a natural balance of predator and prey, rather than by reliance
on chemical fertilizer and sprays. All the manure produced by the animals while they are housed for the winter months is composted and then returned onto the land to keep the cycle of fertility going.
Overtown Farm has been in various Agri-Environmental Schemes for over a decade and was one of the first farms in the country to enter the Countryside Stewardship scheme. In 2014 we entered a 10 year Higher Level Stewardship Scheme which involved planting nectar and seed rich mixtures for birds and invertebrates, feeding special farmland bird seed mixtures between December and April and putting more land back into permanent grassland. The jewel in the crown is two 40 foot by 1/4 mile wild flower grassland strips that are due to be planted alongside the lane to the farm and the drive that runs through the centre of the farm and will be a riot of colour every summer and a source of food and shelter for birds, butterflies, bees, hares and other creatures for the duration of the 10 year scheme. This is a big commitment but one that is already showing huge benefits in terms of the number of bird species we see on the farm every day.
The land is in the heart of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and borders the National Nature Reserve at Cranham Common and several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
There is a network of public footpaths and bridleways across it for the public to enjoy. We have also created further permitted paths and bridleways which the public may use to enhance their access to the surrounding countryside. You are very welcome to walk the clearly waymarked routes on the farm but please keep to the paths and also note that it is not possible to permit access to some areas of the farm for safety, environmental and management reasons. As many of our fields inter-connect, there are a lot of gates on some sections. If we have livestock grazing on a large area we will often tie the gates open so the animals can wander from field-to-field but otherwise, please shut them behind you and make sure they are securely latched.
Our sheep have been the victims of dog attacks in the very recent past, the last incident in January 2015 and this is sadly increasing.Dogs must be kept on a short lead on all areas of the farm as livestock are likely to be in every field you cross. (Extending leads give a false sense of security and we have had lambs attacked when they have popped up from behind a gateway and a dog on an extending lead has had time to grab it before the owner can get the dog under control). This applies regardless of whether you are walking, cycling or riding your horse and we would politely ask that you do not bring your dog if you are not able to comply with this request.
We run regular farm events and courses, including the national event "Open Farm Sunday" each June in conjunction with the Cranham School fayre and we also have a farm newsletter.
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The view from Overtown