Great Avercombe Farm - Farm Visit and Assurance

Matthew Cooke found us by a chance visit while buying from our range of Ice-cream at the physical shop in Horner. His extreme enthusiasm for his farming and cows meant Gabriel and Matt quickly got talking with Matt explaining about his cattle and the way he farms. So we were invited for a tour down at his farm which was a perfect time to see if he was right for us.



His invitation to his farm is an act that fills us with confidence suggesting he is more than happy to be transparent and share the work which he believes in. When we arrive for the tour, Matt arrives on a gator, introducing Ruby, a typically over exuberant spaniel. We set off for a look around the fields and the cows.

He farms Stabilisers, a cross breed of four cows to produce something that has great benefits to the farmer such as easy calving, good temperament, and high performance on a grass based system with the end result creating beef with exceptional marbling of fat throughout.

Every time he looks at his Stabiliser cattle it is with a passion for what he is doing.

“Nature is my hobby really, so I just combined it with my work” he explained while viewing over the herds, I judge him to be 100% committed to his animals of which he seemed observant over the health of the individuals and the general herd.

He describes how he sat upon his bull confirming his beliefs of their good temperament. He refrains from trying so while we are there out of fears of it not going so well a second time! However he squats down next to the bull and gives him a good rub and a stroke, proving their calm attribute.

I deduced this relaxed nature in the Stabilisers could positively affect the flavour of the beef, stressed and aggressive animals, particularly in the short-term before slaughter can affect meat quality negatively due to chemical processes in the muscle. The easy nature of the Stabiliser not only makes them easy to work with, but will possibly allow the end product to reach its full potential, something that I don't think should be overlooked.

I can see the cows are very relaxed and see their great condition with glowing coats and healthy appearance. The cattle surround us, their curiosity at our appearance, watching and observing, clearly used to close human contact and show no fear of Matt.

He leads us on and shows us some of the fields of cover crops, a field of sugar beet, Matt describes how he modified his disc drill to massively reduce the turned soil area of the field for planting fodder beet, meaning less turned soil and therefore reduced loss of carbon from the soil from erosion and water run off. Matt uses this beet from the pasture to help his cows over the winter.

Matt shows us some of the Herbal leys and the pastures upon which the cows spend their time, and demonstrate the moving of the cows, they are visibly excited to move over into the areas of the tall stalky grass and gambol forwards ripping up large tufts of the fresh grass.

His knowledge on the genetics of cattle is well researched, something important with the Stabiliser, leaving me slightly out of my depth, however I don’t need to ask anymore questions as I can see their welfare and Matts skill and knowledge anyway.

After a cup of tea, we take some of the steaks to try for quality, through Matthews own friendliness and love of farming, by seeing his personal character, is a good judgement of how he treats his animals at Great Avercombe combined with a great skill and knowledge on the farm.

Matthew uses a variety of farming methods to make a sustainable system that works well with nature, yet can efficiently produce great beef.

His combination of methods is almost like the very Stabiliser cows themselves, a hybrid of the best factors of many farming methods, but used on one farm.