COW CLUB AGM – Saturday 19th November

A write up from Sue Beresford: 

What a great turnout. As people drifted in, cuppas were made and the fire lit as we chatted and got better acquainted. The meeting started proper at 3.30pm, magnificently chaired by Ed. It was a gratifyingly lively meeting with many people contributing their thoughts and ideas. We are particularly grateful to Peter and Lou Searight from The Lynchmere Society for their input and for the many offers to help with club admin.  

Once the meeting came to a close, we tucked into really tasty, build-your-own burgers, beef or mutton (from Hollycombe Home Farm), cooked over the fire.  Delicious!  And, of course, a drink and more chat.  A big thank you to everybody who brought a pud (Beryl’s lemon pud was a delight!) and we hope you will all come again next year.

A special thank you goes out to Ed Jenner for the use of the Rusty Barn at Hollycombe Home Farm (check them out here:  https://www.hollycombehomefarm.com/events) Altogether, a successful afternoon (…and home in time for Strictly ! – if that’s your guilty pleasure)

Meeting minutes can be viewed in our Google Drive folder.

Meeting Minutes

HERD NEWS

An update from Gareth Hopkins

After approximately five months on the commons, the main herd were taken off on Wednesday 7th December. They have done a good job eating gorse, young birch saplings and brambles. 

They are now grazing Roundabouts Field, enjoying some good grass which will be supplemented with some hay as and when required. We took them off the common now to avoid the significant increase in walker numbers over the Christmas holiday period, as this can be stressful for the cows.

In November the vet pregnancy tested the 11 cows, but unfortunately only Dawn – one of our young heifers – is pregnant. She is apparently due to calve in February/March. So if all goes well, we hope to welcome our first calf in over three years. It is unlikely that most of the older cows will get pregnant now, so we will need to consider replacing some of them. Of course the main reason for having the cattle is for conservation and the older cattle are very effective at this.

 In the last news letter we let you know that we have bought some new stock from Wales in early July. Three steers for Cow Club and three for my own herd. They had to be kept in quarantine until early November while they awaited a post movement TB test. The test results were negative so the Cow Club’s three young steers have now joined the bull and heifer at the fields next to the barn. These new cattle have settled in well and have got noticeably bigger in the five months they have been with us. 

Beef

One of our Heifers has had an ongoing health issue (a labial polyp or growth) and also Dave was not entirely happy with her temperament, so we removed her from the common some time ago and she has been keeping the bull company in the fields. The vet was not keen to operate, and because of her temperament we do not want to keep her so we have booked her in to be sent to slaughter in February. We will be taking orders for beef boxes in January. 

MEMBERSHIP

We are trying to better organise membership and subscriptions to reduce the admin workload, thanks to Jeanette who has come forward to help with membership admin, and also to Cherry for taking time to look into tech solutions. Currently Basil who looks after the website is working on a system that will take payments and look after membership data for us. We are aiming to have this system in place in time for everyone to use it in January. Hopefully it will make things a lot easier going forward and really cement our membership as being at the heart of what we do.

At the AGM we discussed the financial situation of the Cow Club, which honestly is not very good. We talked about a couple of options for the future. One option might be to make the Cow Club part of The Lynchmere Society (TLS), which has a bigger budget than us and has always supported us with the majority of our operational budget. Combining with TLS would mean that our running costs were covered by them, and revenue from memberships and beef sales would go to them too. This could be a really good option as we do not graze other land and are really only concerned with Lynchmere Common’s conservation. It’s possible that it would give us less freedom, but this may not be an issue.

Another option would be to ask TLS for a higher grazing fee (the amount they pay us to graze the commons) to cover the costs of what we are doing (they have already increased our fee from £6000 to £7500 per annum). We could also increase membership and/or membership fees and try to sell more beef. The beef sales are not hugely profitable due to the costs involved – they help, but funding the project mainly from beef sales is not really an easy option regardless of how many cows we buy in for beef. These decisions are very much ongoing and it’s an emergent discussion. We will of course consult members before any further action is taken. 

On that note, despite our wish to keep the price per kilo of the beef the same as last year, our brilliant AGM attendees voted for a small increase in line with inflation.

AND FINALLY

A reminder of why we do this, and why it’s important. Apart from making a grand Sunday roast, sumptuous stew or delicious bolognese, our beef is locally grown and full of all the goodness and trace elements you will ever need!

A short video (10min), beautifully shot, from the SDNPA’s Heathlands Reunited project

More detailed info:
Farm Wildlife – Lowland Heath

A map showing local heathlands within the SDNPA if you would like to explore

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!