The pedigree Sussex cattle roaming the farm today are excellent forage converters, producing the highest quality mature beef. The Sussex is one of our oldest native breeds and descends directly from the red cattle that once inhabited the forests of the Weald during the Norman conquest. Calm and docile by nature, they are easier to handle than some of the continental breeds, making them a joy to work with.
Our native pedigree Sussex herd flourish on their healthy, natural grass-based diet. The cows graze our diverse herbal leys while shading and picking at the farm’s hedgerows and trees for up to eight months of the year. During winter, they are housed in our spacious barns and fed a varying diet of meadow hay and clover silage.
The new calves arrive in the spring, coinciding with the longer days and turn in the weather. The Sussex, known for their ease of calving and good mothering ability, produce strong and healthy calves. Once around two weeks old, calves and cows are turned out in the spring to graze our multi-species swards with their peers for the summer months.
Paley Farm supports a flock of 800 ewes, grazing our fields all year round, they are well suited to our farm in the South East of England. The core breed are Romneys: a native Kent breed from Romney Marsh. The ewes are maternal and milk well through the summer months to produce healthy, well grown lambs. Their ease of lambing means that we lamb outdoors in mid-April, enabling our ewes to find shelter under our hedgerows to lamb.
Alongside our Romneys, we support a small pedigree flock of Dorset Down sheep who are fantastic at grazing the rougher areas of the farm. Developed in the 1800s by crossing Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire ewes with Southdown rams, this breed is classified as rare today. Their docile nature and greedy characters make them easy to handle, while they milk well and produce strong, healthy lambs.
The sheep at Paley Farm graze varying types of grasses and herbs. Romneys are fantastic forage convertors, turning a wide variety of plants into highly nutritious and tasty meat. We manage our grassland by rotationally grazing fields using electric fencing. Subdividing fields like this ensures that each group has fresh grass every two to three days. This practice also improves our soil’s fertility, helping us to grow more grass. When grazing, we work on the principle ‘Graze a third, tread in a third and leave a third.’ Treading in the grass also helps build the soil’s humus (organic matter).
In late pregnancy, the multiple-bearing ewes graze our home-grown brassicas: turnips and forage rape. These are high in protein and sugars, which are needed to meet the higher nutritional demand of the growing lambs. All the sheep on the farm lamb outdoors in their natural environment, enabling them to behave naturally with minimal assistance, meaning there is less chance of disease affecting the new lambs.
We keep our ewes in two family groups which we predominantly put to performance-recorded New Zealand Romney rams to breed replacements; otherwise; a Hampshire or Suffolk ram is used to produce our meat lambs. Improving the quality and traits of the flock is a continuous process and the most important job for any shepherd. Paley lambs are carefully monitored, with only the best female replacements run on to enter the flocks.
We believe that traditional, free-range ways of farming are paramount to the health and wellbeing of our pigs. Our rare-breed Saddleback and Tamworths root and wallow in their communal paddocks, growing slowly at their own pace; spacious, dry portable arks, lined with straw bedding, keep them safe from the elements. Our pigs are bred to the highest welfare standards with plenty of space to explore, be sociable and wallow in the mud on sunny days, as nature intended.
Our pigs prepare the ground for the next crop by ploughing and fertilising as they go, thereby minimising the use of machinery and non-organic fertilisers. The slower growing nature of their breeds, plus the healthy outdoor life, means it may take a little longer to produce, but the results are worth it, and our customers agree.