Pasture for Life – Case Study – Caley Walton Partners, Berwickshire

Chris and Denise Walton with their son Angus and retired business partner Amanda Caley, run a successful and award-winning fresh, air-dried and cured meats business from Peelham Farm, in the rolling Berwickshire countryside.

All but 5% of the meat is bred and reared on the farm, to organic standards, and the beef and lamb is 100% grass-fed and accredited Pasture for Life.

An on-farm butchery was set up in 2008, as out-sourcing was proving expensive and inconsistent. It is now manned by a team of three experienced craft butchers and a trainee charcutier.

In 2002, the Walton’s started on-farm air drying and curing, and now produce a range of exquisite charcuterie including; chorizo, pancetta, Droewors – beef salami stick with coriander, air dried prosciutto ham from the farm’s free range pigs and lamb and cumin seed salami.

“We always wanted to farm,” says Chris. “Denise has a background in landscape ecology and I have one in agricultural economics. We always wanted to have livestock and wanted to farm without reliance on subsidies. This led to us first to finding customers to sell our products to.”

The Waltons attend 12 farmers markets a month, including ones in Edinburgh Glasgow and Kelso, where they enjoy being close to, and getting feedback from consumers. They also sell online at peelham.co.uk. They currently sell 95,000kg of fresh produce a year in total. They also sell to prestigious outlets such as the Hemsley and Hemsley café at Selfridges, specialist store Planet Organic and food box distributor Abel and Cole.

“The people coming to the farmers’ markets like to hear our stories,” says Denise. “They are confident that what they are buying is good and that it ticks all the boxes on welfare, health and the environment. Organic and Pasture for Life is the gold standard and that’s what they like.

“There is no doubt that this is a challenging market and we are seeing a split in the age groups who buy,” adds Denise. “We now have more retired people and more youngsters, who want to eat healthily while looking after the planet. We are confident that sales – both face-to-face and online, are going to go up.”

On the farm

That is good news for Angus, Chris and Denise’ son who has returned from a decade of travelling in Russia and New Zealand, to take up managing the farm. He became a business partner on Christmas Eve 2016, and his wife Helen is also in the business, managing the fresh meat and charcuterie sales.

At the moment there are 650 Lleyn breeding ewes, 65 Aberdeen Angus cross Luing or Simmental suckler cows, and 15 breeding sows, which are all managed organically across 277 hectares of good grass growing country.

The soil is sandy loam and relatively free draining, but rain and muddy conditions means all stock is wintered indoors and fed silage. The ewes and cows all calve from 15 March. The cows come in in mid November, when last spring’s calves are weaned off them. They all stay inside until the end of April. Angus aims to keep them out longer in future with more planned management of the grazing.

The lambs are marketed from the last week of June and ‘sold’ to the on-farm butchery for a flat rate fee throughout the year. Surplus lambs are sold on the open market.

The weaned calves are drawn from 14 months of age at 560kg in their second summer at grass, with the later finishers fattened indoors on high quality silage.

Angus is keen to make the most of the grassland and is currently fencing large fields into more manageable-sized paddocks – having completed 27,000 metres this year.

 “There is a lot still to do to create the type of low-cost grassland unit I have in mind,” says Angus.

“All the farm needs liming, we are putting in tracks from the farthest fields back to the buildings, and have erected an animal and man-friendly handling system. We have sold all but the essential machinery and reduced the labour force.

“The future requires forward thinking farmers to pave the way and become more efficient. By doing so we can keep on producing the highest quality, organic and grass-fed beef and lamb to meet the ever-increasing demand of our customers.”

The Peelham Farm Meat Manifesto

Our meat is good, clean and fair:

  • It is good because our free-range farming (grass-reared cattle and sheep, free-range pigs), allows our animals to follow their natural foraging and grazing characteristics
  • It is clean because it is an extensive grass-based system which has both landscape and biodiversity benefits and a light carbon-foot print
  • It is fair because it is slow and our young livestock are growing and maturing naturally as part of a naturally grass-grazing and foraging herd

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