Posted: 05 May, 2019
When you are using Trenchmore Farm beef, you stick their name on the menu too, usually before everything else. And that’s not just me. Its every chef in Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and London with or without a Michelin Star. (I don’t have one by the way, sad face.) If that isn’t proof of something special I don’t know what is. I mean they’re a bloody adjective!
With this fame comes a horde of requests from chefs to come visit the farm and owner, founder, man with the plan Andrew Knowles knows how important it is to be able to actively sell his product direct to chefs and establish good personal relationships. This is exactly why we use them for our beefy specials.
So after a cheeky search on social media to see who else had visited the farm I realised I was quite late to the game and Andrews swift efficiency via email confirmed it as he had a complete itinerary ready. HOWEVER. I ain’t no tourist. My passion for food extends into the agricultural world and having grown up in a heavily agricultural part of the world spending my time off school spinning hay, mucking out stables, rugby tackling sheep and spreading fertiliser I didn’t just want to see the magazine cover version of the farm. SO I replied to Andrew with such and volunteered myself (and unknow to him, David Charbit, my photographer buddy) to a day of manual labour, on one of the hottest days of the year!
These grains are a biproduct of the brewing industry known as “wet brewers grains” and are fantastic for beef cattle. This is because they are low in dry matter content and have a high content of “total digestible nutrient” due to the digestibility of available fibre. This high concentration of fibre is present because the starches and sugars have been removed during fermentation (to make beer) leaving behind all the structural cell wall carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent supplement to forage based diets for beef cattle (of which Tenchmore cows have) as there can be a lack of starch and readily fermentable fibre in pure forage alone. Being a ruminant, the more they can ferment and digest without having to chew it all back up again is a massive benefit to them and the farmer as they can convert these carbohydrates and other goodies into protein more easily. In short, a better total energy conversion into protein and in this hot, long, dry summer it’s essential. So get boozing people!
Depending on the season the herd are also fed herbal ley silage (basicallygrass sauerkraut), linseed cake as a biproduct from the oil business, straw from their heritage wheat production which aids ruminant function and course apple pomace in autumn when Trenchmore are harvesting for their superb cider, Silly Moo.
Andrew and I load the smaller containers into the back of the Kubota (a bitching little rugged terrain vehicle) and tear David away from his beloved jet-wash to go and meet the girls! On route we get a chance to ask Andrew about why he chose farming and what the future may hold for young farmers.
David and I arrive in the morning to meet Andrew and his son, Oscar. The setting is beautiful. The narrow snaking lane leading to the farm and family home are shaded by woodland providing some relief from the already blistering sun. Rolling golden and green patchwork fields with generous perimeters of deciduous oat, ash and hazel surround us with the heady buzz of insects and pollen in the static air. Approaching the main farm operation HQ we are met by a large flying saucer like agricultural structure, housing some of the beasts we have come to see. Around the concrete perimeter are composting bays, hay and silage storage, the farm office and their cider barn (don’t know if that’s what its really called but you get the picture.
We greet Andrew and Oscar with a preloaded, firm famers handshake (later on I discovered Oscar had a busted thumb which I still need to apologise for, I really went for it… sorry mate).
Niceties over, boots on and straight to work! I skipped to it like a prancing Royal cavalry pony on the Queens birthday. Never have I been so excited to clean out a trailer splattered with blood and shit in thirty degrees heat in all my life. (Oscar and Andrew had heard one of the cows in distress late the night before to find it had prolapsed, meaning a full-on procedure at the drop of a hat. Just one of the requirements that goes with the nature of the job. Their decisiveness means the poor girl is now good and well.)
David honourably takes on the jet-wash while I deposit some old muddy straw and hay around the trailer to absorb as much of the overflow as possible before it runs into a drain. There isn’t anything wrong with a bit of blood or cow shit persay but Andrew is all too aware that there is a drought on and rivers are barely flowing so the least they need are any extra contaminants.
With my clean up efforts complete I leave David with his favourite new toy (no sign of a camera yet…) and am moved onto shovelling spent split malt grains from the local brewery from large one ton containers into smaller ones ready to move out to the pastures to supplement the cows diet.
One of the main obstacles (there are many which) for young farmers is entry into the industry. There is certainly no shortage of farms for sale, the old generation of farmers that started out half a century ago want to retire and seldom these days do younger family generations want to take them on. However, the cost of the land and infrastructure required to start a farming business in incredibly high and until recently it was a business that survived due to inheritance and children taking on the family business. With farming being a lifetime’s work, the old timers had been able to acquire the equipment, land and infrastructure necessary over time and they themselves would have inherited much of that already. (You still see eighty-year-old David Brown tractors in full use on modern farms today!)
Back to the real stuff. We reach the stunning pastures where the cows are waiting with keen anticipation for their fermented feast. We lug the containers of brewers grains into feeding troths along with hay for the rest of the herd and they girls start thumping over like a pack of burly rugby forwards attacking a ruck. The bigger and older cows bully their way to the front of the queue. The younger and weaker ones are outcast to the edges to wait their turn or sneak around the edges to get a piece of the action.
Now for some more biology… In a separate paddock there are three cows with three calves.
The three cows are Sussex x Angus. Sussex are a great breed on their own. The phrase goes Andrew tells me, “Sussex will get fat on thin air”! What he means of course is their energy to fat conversion is super-efficient which is good but means you must keep an eye how fat they are getting. The angus are famously good at creating nutrient dense protein. So, if you cross them you will inherit traits of both. However, the little sprogs behind them are all Red Wagyu that were in fact artificially inseminated into the three cows to provide the breeding stock to cross the Red wagyu with other Sussex x Angus.
Through this lengthy process, Andrew is seeking to create a true Sussex Wagyu beef which will marble beautifully and efficiently in our native pastures due to the inherited traits of all three breeds of beef. The end goal of having a single Sussex Wagyu origin also requires having a greater number of breeding cows and bulls to produce the pure Sussex Wagyu as naturally you can’t be breeding interrelations.
They are such stunning beasts. Looking upon their teak coloured bodies, surrounded by oak, ash and hazel bordered pastures in the sunshine grazing upon wild forage and health promoting biproducts of the food and drink industry one come to realise why they taste so darn good. They are super happy, uber healthy cows!
I whole heartedly believe if you are going to eat meat you should have at least a basic knowledge of where it comes from and the processes involved. If you knew how factory farming worked to produce low quality, high volume meat you would really think twice about picking up the plastic packaged stuff that’s so readily available in your local convenience store.
When you cook with beef as special as Trenchmore whether at work or in your home, you know you have paid a high but fair price for some truly exceptional beef. In turn this means you are likely to cook it with more care and eat meat less often (if you buy the good stuff consistently). This also makes you a better cook as you will have to be more imaginative the other six days of the week cooking perhaps some less expensive, vegetable orientated dishes. But what’s not to love about that? You teach yourself better cooking, eat healthier and AND responsibly.
To get your hands on some Trenchmore beef you can keep up to date on their website and sign up to one of their “Butchers bags”.