Ben and Emma Graves, Red Tractor beef farmers
Red Tractor beef farmer Ben Graves was just 13 when he went down to the local cattle market to buy his first two cows.
“They were called Molly and Dorris,” he said, “and I paid £840 for one and £910 for the other.
“I used money that I had scrimped and saved from working for my dad on his pig farm, plus any other money I could find.
“I guess it was daunting but I had always wanted to be a farmer.”
Fast forward from those humble beginnings, Ben and his wife Emma now have more than 400 cattle to look after at Barnstones Farm in Northamptonshire.
Their herd is made up of 150 breeding/ suckler cows that are bred to be good mothers and those that produce the best-tasting British beef when it ends up on dinner plates across the country.
“Our cattle are from three main breeds which are called Simmental, Charollais and Aberdeen Angus and the beef we produce ends up as steak, mince, joints and all the other beef products you see with the Red Tractor logo on the packet in the shops,” Ben said.
“We supply shops like Morrisons, Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.”
The farm has been part of the Red Tractor Assurance scheme for more than 15 years, meaning that an independent inspector can arrive with little or no notice to look at things like how the cattle are fed, looked after or treated when they are sick.
It also means that the beef that Ben and Emma produce is fully traceable back to the farm it came from and that it has been born, reared and slaughtered in Britain.
Shoppers can support farmers like Ben and Emma by looking for the Red Tractor logo on food packaging when they go to the supermarket, or asking their butcher if the meat they are buying is Red Tractor assured.
Emma said: “Being Red Tractor assured is a good way for us to ensure that everything we are doing is to a high standard and it’s good to have that seal of approval to know that you’re doing things the way that they should be done.
“It’s a way of showing that you’re a good farmer every day of the week.”
Barnstones Farm factbox:
- Ben and Emma breed from 150 cows but when calves are born in the spring that roughly doubles their herd. They keep all their livestock on-farm until it goes to Red Tractor assured abattoirs and have about 420 animals in total to look after at the moment
- They graze cattle over 350 acres of grassland – about the same size as 700 football pitches
- They have 6 stock bulls – they are all named after who they were bought from… except Gazza… that was the name he came with!
- They like to cross-breed their cattle, creating a mongrel cow who produces beefy calves, and who has enough milk to fill their bellies
- They electronically tag all of their cattle and scan them with a tag-reader to record their weights, where the animal has been, how many calves they have had and whether they have had any animal medicine to treat sickness
- Emma checks on some of the cattle before she goes to work in the morning, and is also in charge of keeping records of how the cattle are performing
- Scheduled ‘date nights’ are often interrupted by Ben having to go to check on the calves