Jack Forster - 17 March 2012
There has been lots going on in the last 6 months, culminating in me moving back to the farm with my fiancé Danni a couple of weeks ago. As I have retired fully from professional rugby with my neck injury it made sense to move back to the farm, rather than have the 30 minute commute from Manchester to St. Helens everyday. We have basically divided the house into two to share with my gran! It is working out really well, and I can get a lot more done.
The changes have meant that I can finally start to do some of the things I have been desperate to do for the last 12-18 months. For the last 8 or 10 years we haven’t lambed or calved at all because the butchery takes up so much time. We used to lamb about 300 sheep and calve about 70 cows, but with the decrease in stock prices and the time involved it made sense to just buy in stock to fatten. The tides have changed though, and with the prices of stock thriving at the moment, and also because I am back at home to provide an extra pair of hands, we have decided to tentatively get back into breeding.
As a child I always had a fascination with bulls. I remember my dad used to sit me on their backs when I was about 4 or 5, which was a good idea until one walked off and under a low door, promptly knocking me off! So once we decided we were going to start a suckler herd again I couldn’t wait to start searching for a good bull. I have always had a fondness for Red Ruby Devons, and in 2010 we had 3 or 4 in a bunch that we bought from Exmoor, and when they came through the butchery we really noticed something special about their taste. We have generally used Aberdeen Angus cattle, but I really fancied starting a pedigree herd of the Ruby Reds, so started searching. We ended up with a lovely young bull called Monty and 4 bonny heifers from Ledbury, and I am pleased to say that they are all in-calf and due in July (hopefully just after my honeymoon!) We are also going to run the bull with some of the young Angus heifer that we have coming through next year, which should make a nice cross.
The next step was naturally to look for some breeding sheep. Not that my mum was too impressed, having flash backs to sleepless nights and disheveled, shivering lambs wrapped in towels in the bottom oven of the AGA. I convinced her that I would do all the work and that I would only get a few just to see how we get on. We ended up with 20 odd shearlings from one of our farming friends from Cheshire, Martin Steer, and added 10 of our own shearlings that were being kept for Mutton. My dad also managed to find the biggest, ugliest Charolais tup that he could from one of his mates in Cumbria.
I will try and blog again in April once we started lambing and keep you updated. I just hope we aren’t affected by the Schmallenberg virus.
Jack is a recently retired professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, and now plays an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College.