Meat company working to create a new herd of rare cattle breed

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Sustainable online meat company Farmison & Co is working with one of its farmers, Stuart Raw, on building a new herd of one of Britain’s rarest cattle – the Gloucester – after saving them from premature slaughter.

Together, they stepped in to buy the animals after Raw heard that the cattle were being sold at an auction mart.

Fearing that no other farmers were willing to take them on, they decided to bring the animals to Wensleydale.

Now the seven cows, some of which are pregnant, and eight calves, are out grazing on land at Wensleydale.

Over time, the plan is to buy a bull and build up the herd of the cattle which is on the red priority list of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).

Ripon-based Farmison & Co specialises in meat from heritage breeds, including Dexter, Galloway, Belted Galloway, Red Poll, Shetland and Sussex, and in May it bought a herd of White Park cattle – the symbol of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

The Gloucester is an ancient breed going back to the 13th century, valued for their beef and milk, used to make single and double Gloucester cheeses, and as draught oxen.

It was the breed that Sir Edward Jenner used in the 18th century for his pioneering work on the development of a smallpox vaccine from the cowpox virus.

The introduction of other breeds and more intensive agriculture, led to a dramatic fall in numbers until there was just one herd left by 1972.

Since then, rare breed enthusiasts have helped numbers recover to about 700 registered breeding cows.

The Gloucesters will be managed by Raw, a long-timer supplier of beef to Farmison & Co from his own herd of Dexters.

He is also custodian of the White Park cattle through an innovative finance scheme with Farmison & Co.

John Pallagi, Farmison & Co founder and CEO, said: “It would have been sad if these extremely rare Gloucesters had ended up going to slaughter.

“They have a special place in the history of this country and now we can play our part in building up their numbers, so they have a role in its future too.

“Our loyal customers appreciate the taste and quality of heritage breed meat and together we can help save breeds that might otherwise disappear from our countryside.”

Raw said: “We saw the opportunity to help save a rare breed and jumped at the chance. Being docile and pleasant creatures, the cattle are a joy to have in this landscape and we look forward to working with the Gloucester Cattle Society to establish the herd and support the wider breed.”

Liz Coates, secretary, Gloucester Cattle Society, said: “Gloucesters are not only a valuable part of this country’s history – having survived and adapted for at least 700 years – they are one of numerous native breeds that hold the key to sustainable, low input meat and milk production for the future.

“The Gloucester Cattle Society is committed to ensuring the breed’s future by supporting its members and educating farmers and the public on the benefits of keeping Gloucesters and eating their produce.”

Founded in 2011, Farmison & Co more than doubled revenue last year to £12.1m and now employs more than 100 people at its base in Ripon, supporting up to 30 farms across Yorkshire and the north of England.