At Jacobs Ladder Farm Michael and Jayne raise, butcher and sell organic, grass-fed beef and lamb from a beautiful family farm in East Sussex.
Their farming practices seek to respect the ancient Forest environment in which the farm finds itself. The Sussex cattle and Romney sheep are raised traditionally on the permanent pastures within the Ashdown Forest. These breeds have been part of the fauna here for many hundreds of years and their hardy nature and non-intensive rearing make them ideally suited to slow maturity.
The farm is situated in the heart of the beautiful countryside between the High Weald and the Sussex Downs. The land is permanent pasture which means it has never been ploughed and is made up primarily of Wealden clay.
The land is best suited to livestock production as such they raise native Sussex beef and Romney sheep. These hardy, local breeds require minimal intervention and are perfectly suited to the environment and organic approach. There are even records of them being farmed in this area since 1066.
The herd consists of twelve cows, one bull and all their offspring. Calves reach full maturation, and they remain in the herd for up to three years. The animals are out to pasture for nearly all the year and come into the barns during the winter to ensure the land isn’t damaged for the next season.
The cattle feed on grass when they are outside, and during the winter months they live off hay that the farm have produced on the farm.
Michael and Jaynes flock of 60 Romney ewes are a resilient bunch who tend to only give birth to one lamb a year. This allows Michael and Jayne to lamb at Easter time (as is tradition!) and also means they can lamb outdoors when the weather is usually kind.
One of the biggest challenges of farming with organic principles is not using wormers. Maximising the space for the sheep to roam and constantly giving them access to fresh pasture gives them exposure to a larger variety of microbes than is conventional, and Michael and Jayne have found this greatly contributes to the building of natural immunity.
The sheep feed and live on the farm’s pasture all year round and are given hay only during the worst of the winter weather conditions.
Michael and Jayne manage their pasture carefully to ensure that there are a rich variety of grasses, using only the animals’ manure to promote its growth. They also carefully rotate the sheep and cattle across the farm to maximise the quality and quantity of grass.