fen farm dairy
Free ranging cows
For most of the year round, you can find our girls grazing freely on the lush and wildlife rich marshes of Stow Fen, in the beautiful Waveney River Valley. They keep peaceful company with otters, kingfishers, egrets, herons, marsh harriers, water voles and a myriad of other watermeadow creatures.
Due to the good British climate and the wet nature of the marshland around the farm, there are certain months during the winter when it’s not possible for the cows to graze (they’d need boats!). Or sometimes it’s just so cold or dry that the grass doesn’t grow. During those months (Nov-March), the girls are housed in deep open-sided straw barns, with plenty of fresh air, sunlight and back scratchers for a good massage, whenever the need takes them.They enjoy one another’s peaceful company in the straw and actually (contrary to everything we expect from cows) seem to prefer the barn to the pasture. They are secretly massive couch potatoes and whenever we turn them out onto the grass in the spring, they get excited, skip around for half an hour, then stand by the gate, mooing to come back inside.
Once the summer comes along however, they are usually content to graze and relax in the fields. They are creatures of habit though. They enjoy the routine of milking time and will often be found forming an orderly queue for the milking parlour before we arrive!
When the herd is inside for the winter, they eat a diet of home-grown hay, haylage, grass and maize silage. We try to feed them as much of a home-grown diet as possible, but our cow’s health and well-being is our top priority, so if our own forage is not providing everything they need for optimum health, we will sometimes buy in small amounts of other suitable feeds, vitamins and minerals, to top up their diets and keep them glossy and happy.
why montbeliarde cows?
The Montbeliarde is an ancient breed and she is a relaxed type of beast. She originates from the meadows of the Jura region in the French Alps and is happiest when dining on a diet of fresh grass and home grown forage. She won’t give very much milk but the milk she does give is protein rich, flavoursome and perfect for cheesemaking. In fact, some of the best French cheeses are made exclusively from Montbeliarde milk, including Comte, Vacherin Mont D’ Or and Reblochon.
Our herd is a mixed herd with approximately 60/70% Montbeliarde cows (who carry the A2 gene) with a few Holstein Fresians and Brown Swiss. We are continuing to breed A2 bulls to grow our Montbeliarde herd over the next few years and hope to be fully A2 within the next 5 years🐮.
Is your herd fully grassed?
In the months of spring, summer and autumn, we keep the cows out and grazing as much as possible.
We grow our own forage (Grass, maize, fodder beet etc.) and store it as silage or hay for winter feed, in order to ensure that they have as much of a home-grown diet as possible during the winter.
Our aim is to make sure that our girls are as healthy and happy as possible, so we are continually analysing their diet in relation to their body condition, stage of pregnancy/lactation and general wellbeing. We look after every cow as an individual. Sometimes this means that if our home grown forage is not providing 100% of the nutrients that each cow needs, we will buy in some extra ingredients to add to their food. This could be extra vitamins and minerals, or other ingredients that will benefit the health of the cows.