Dartmoor and Widecombe Herds Review

Southern Breeders’ Group – Summer 2017 Herd Visits

Despite recent unsettled weather the sun shone brightly on about 30 members of the Southern Breeders’ Group who gathered on Dartmoor on Saturday 19th August for the Summer 2017 herd visits.

The day started at the Cator Court home of Charles and Liz Godfrey where members were welcomed to their beautifully secluded high moorland home with tea, coffee and tasty homemade snacks. The group then set off in vehicles to the Godfrey’s nearby holding where they viewed firstly a large group of pedigree breeding cows with calves at foot, followed by other groups of older calves with their dams, and groups of heifers. Several comments were made on the fine condition and standard of the animals which are clearly thriving on their rich Devon pasture. Visitors then moved on to a barn complex to try their luck at a fun competition where groups of four heifers and four young bulls had to be matched to the various herd sire options. Pictures of the different bulls and breeding information were displayed nearby for contestants to consult and compare the stock to.

A superb roast beef and salad lunch followed on the terrace back at Cator Court, capped by some delicious puddings. There was just time to announce the winners of the competition – being Gemma Stoyles and Olivia Stoker (with a little assistance from her father Matt…). Visitors then thanked their hosts and headed back to their vehicles for a 15 minute drive across the moor to Powder Mills…

Now as guests of Clyde Coaker and his family, group members took to four wheel drive vehicles to access the heart of this new intake of land for the Coakers, comprising 700 or so acres of Duchy of Cornwall-owned moorland, primarily used for extended summer grazing. The large group of cattle grazing this high moorland, which rises to 2000 feet above sea level, are both pedigree Belties – black, red and dun, as well as a substantial number of Beltie/South Devon crosses. Clyde explained that these commercial crosses have been a more recent decision to help them make best use of their additional acreage and as the farm also has a herd of pedigree South Devon cattle, it was the natural route to follow. The visit to Powder Mills was made more interesting by the stone ruins of the old gunpowder factory – now derelict but providing a beautiful setting from which the members could view the cattle.

Visitors then visited a group of heifers, again clearly thriving on their lush pasture, before retiring to the home farm at Bittleford where they were greeted by the delightful aroma of Beltie burgers on the barbecue. Guests were treated to yet another wonderful spread of food, provided by four generations of the Coaker family, including some very tasty whisky flavoured trifle!

Great weather, dramatic scenery, hugely impressive cattle and extremely generous hospitality; heartfelt thanks go to both the Godfrey and Coaker families for their hard work and preparation which made the day so enjoyable!

Jeremy Loxton