At Willowbrook Farm we have always placed ethics above profit, and the environment above personal gain. We always look to improve our methods and rear our animals more naturally, to enhance the environment and bio-diversity on our farm, and to encourage visitors to see and learn about what we do.
Over the last few months we are proud to have made a number of small changes. We feel these are positive for the welfare of our animals but they will result in a small increase in the prices of some produce.
To balance the diet of our animals, we have started to source locally grown raw ingredients for our animal feed. These include barley, wheat, kibbled peas and other trace elements. Sadly almost all of the feedstuffs available in the UK, including organic, come from around the world with all the environmental costs this includes. Contrary to logic, it is actually cheaper to import feed, as no-one pays the environmental costs! So in addition to the extra work, milling and mixing our feed, we also pay more to source it locally! Doing the right thing is often not the cheaper option.
The other changes we have made recently are to start a breeding programme for our sheep and poultry. Our main flock of Cornish White poultry are already a traditional free range breed and these mature slowly over 12-14 weeks. We have now started a breeding programme for our own original variety, crossing Australorp chickens with Indian Game chickens. These are both very traditional and even slower maturing birds, reaching full size at around 22 weeks! They have their own unique characters, ranging far and wide as nature intended. As a result they also have their own unique flavour, but as you can imagine their longer lives come at a higher rearing cost too.
With our sheep we have recently added a new ram along with three ewes. These are all pure bred Southdowns. This is a traditional breed of sheep, well suited to the Oxfordshire countryside. Over the coming years we will cross the Southdown ram with all of our flock and slowly develop a more sustainable and natural breed which is hardier and better suited to living outdoors. This will however mean they don't reach the larger sizes of the more commercial but less resilient breeds.
We hope that you are as excited about these changes as we are and that you will make plans to come down to the farm to meet our new animals and enjoy our upcoming events and visits!