Among the oldest of native British cattle breeds, with herds
dating back to the early 1700’s, Hereford cattle hold a historic prestige
within UK agricultural history. Instantly recognisable due to their thick conformation,
red coats and white faces, the breed has proved immensely popular amongst
farmers – with over 5 million pedigree animals in over 50 countries - due to
their relaxed temperament, natural calving and excellent forage conversion.
Their natural intramuscular marbling, fortified by centuries of careful
breeding has proved the Hereford an ideal breed for beef production.
Dovecote Park launched our Hereford scheme across Waitrose
stores in 1998, making them the first retailer to offer Hereford product on the
supermarket shelf. The success of our dry aged Hereford range - which was
launched in September 2014 and received a Product Innovation award from
Waitrose – is testament to the ongoing and ever-changing success of the scheme.
Richard, who - alongside
his father Peter, wife Jo and their two sons Thomas and Peter - farms predominantly Hereford
cattle (as well as Angus, some crosses and a flock of sheep) in Leamington Spa,
Warwickshire, is one of our longest serving producers on the scheme. He began his a supply relationship with us in
1998 via our long term partnership with Meadow
Quality, a nationwide, multi-species livestock marketing group.
‘They were promoting Hereford
cattle – being a lifelong supporter of Herefords and on the council, I thought
it would be a brilliant opportunity,’ Richard says of his initial decision
to begin a supply relationship with Dovecote,
‘ They were offering a premium for it, and they paid a premium straight away.’
‘Dovecote are very
fair to deal with – I’ve never had any complaints.
It’s a brilliant team - I’ve known Kate (Sutton, Cattle
Procurement Manager) for a long while, we have a lot of good communication
with Rob (Windridge - Fields Person for
the South West), I’ve gotten to know the lairage staff at Skellingthorpe and
get on well with them. I enjoy the open days
and field days with Dovecote, I’ve been to quite a few now, and you get to know
people through it – the Hereford producers and also the Angus, the British –
they’re always very good days.’
Although his family have always farmed Herefords on their
holding, Richards practice initially focused more on the dairy side, ‘We’ve always had Herefords since the 70’s, and in 2006 we packed up the dairy,’ he
explains, ‘Prices were down, and I’d had
enough of it – although If I’d have been 20 years younger, we might have changed
to a different dairy breed.’
‘It’s their docility’
he says of the appeal of the Hereford breed, ‘they’re a quiet, forgiving breed – very patient and I appreciate that
more and more as I’ve gotten older.
ability as well – they are far easier to finish,’ states Thomas, ‘Sometimes too easy to finish – if you aren’t careful you can push them
too hard, and they gain too quickly! But if you do it properly on a steady
ration, we’re finishing them at 21 months.’
Richard’s passion for the Hereford breed has seen him play a
key role in the Hereford Cattle Society, which was founded under the patronage
of Queen Victoria in 1878, and with whom Dovecote Park maintain a close relationship.
‘It’s about integrity
of the breed,’ Richard says of the role of the society, ‘Keeping it pure, keeping it right so that
you know and the public know that a Hereford is what it is. Also, the promotion
of the Hereford brand, the white face brand. I’ve been on the council a long
time, and that’s what we’ve always tried to do, and what we’re still trying to
‘I feel more positive about the future because we’re linked to Dovecote
Park and to Waitrose. It gives you a pride in the product. I think it’s a good
partnership – they look after us and we do by the same by them.’