Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold – A Hotel For Cows
Simon used to live on a pick your own farm and I spent my summer holidays down in Devon with my granddad who had bantams, ducks, chickens and terrapins that lived in a pond in the living room – no word of lie! These formative experiences mean we both love returning to the countryside and getting up close with nature.
Out To Pasture
Back in March, we had an opportunity to do this locally when Andrew and Joanne, owners of Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold, invited me to come for a tour of their farm, forage for wild garlic and hopefully, see their brand new baby calves.
I’d already heard great things about Trenchmore Farm during a tour of Bedlam Brewery last year when the owner Dominic Worall described the farm as “a hotel for cows” and after seeing the couple win ‘Farmers of the Year’ at the Sussex Food & Drink Awards, I was keen to see it for myself.
The tour began with a five-minute drive from their beautiful house, to the first field, where we were introduced to the Wagyu x Sussex Angus cattle that were just heading out to pasture. A group of a dozen or so were in the lush green field, all with visibly silky coats coloured sienna and hickory brown. Initially, they kept their distance but gradually they moved in closer and closer until they were encircling us in a horseshoe and I was close enough to pat them on the head. They were absolutely beautiful and clearly very calm.
A Family Affair
The land we explored had been in Joanne’s family for half a century before the couple themselves became involved in 2010 when they decided to plant an orchard – leading to the production of Silly Moo Cider.
Prior to this, they lived in London with Andrew running a successful business in the city and Joanne working to raise awareness for dementia therapy. Andrew had studied animal agriculture at University and managed a farm briefly for a couple of years before following a different career path and despite lots of changes in farming since then, this proved a useful grounding.
In 2012 they decided to follow their dream further and evolve the business to rear cattle as well, taking over from Joanne’s uncle who had a small herd and recruiting their son Oscar to join the business as farm manager.
With the aim of producing high-welfare, sustainable beef that would be healthier but taste fantastic too, Andrew and Joanne chose to cross breed Akaushi Wagyu bulls with Sussex Angus cows.
The Wagyu Way
And the reason for Wagyu bulls? That’s because Wagyu breeds produce the most succulent beef in the world due to the strong genetic potential to lay down fat within the muscle rather than on the back. This means the intramuscular fat is essentially basting itself, so the meat is butter soft.
As well as breeding on the farm they have also imported embryos, which have resulted in their own wagyu ball and three wagyu calves born from the embryo transfers.
The Good Life
Trenchmore cattle are all grass-fed which makes the beef high in Omega 3 and 6. In winter, they are hay/silage fed, mixed with grains given for free from Bedlam Brewery. Pomace leftover from the pressing of the apples for Silly Moo cider is also fed to the cattle which they go crazy for and is the inspiration behind the name ‘Silly Moo’ cider.
After the cattle are transferred from the farm to the abattoir the beef is then dried and aged for 28-days to allow enzymes naturally present in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, resulting in improved texture and flavour.
Half or a whole animal is then sold to chefs at premium restaurants like Ockenden Manor, South Lodge Hotel, The Crabtree, The Ginger Fox and The Salt Rooms, who’ll use the whole animal for nose-to-tail cooking as well as the neglected cuts like, short-rib which taste beautiful slow-cooked.
A More Modern Approach
After a tour of two pastures, we return to the yard where I get to meet two baby calves that have been born that morning. Incredibly, they are already up and on their feet and wobbling around their pen.
I’m curious to understand what makes Trenchmore a cut above the rest of the other commercial farms, so I ask Andrew why the cows have a better life here. He explains that one of the most stressful experiences of the cattle’s life is during weaning from its mother’s milk. In traditional farming methods, the calf is physically pulled apart from its mother, which is horrendously traumatic for both animals. So much so, Andrew explains “a mummy cow will walk up to 3 miles up and down a fence calling for their calves after being separated.”
Thankfully, Trenchmore takes a softer approach to weaning. Using specially designed adjustable gates that allow a small enough gap for the calves to go through to the opposite side of the enclosure but not their mums. They tempt the teenagers with better feed (silage instead of hay) to encourage them to go through to the other side but they are still able to return to their mothers for milk when it’s available. Very quickly the calves learn that the grub is better on the other side of the enclosure and are happy over there. So when the time comes to separate them, the calves are completely relaxed because they’ve got used to coming through the bars to the other side and happily feed there.
Proof In The Pudding
I thoroughly enjoyed the morning at the farm, seeing how well looked after the cattle are. It’s been encouraging to see that there’s real substance behind why the product is sold at a premium. Unlike so many brands these days, it’s not just an image thing – these cows really do live a better life.
Joanne doesn’t let us leave without a goody bag filled with wild garlic and a beautiful thick, flat cut of Trenchmore beef brisket weighing just over 1kg and with gorgeous marbling. It’s a real treat and we take it over to my mum and dad’s to share over Sunday lunch.
Back home, we season the brisket with English mustard, horseradish, nutmeg, garlic salt and black pepper – rolling and tying the joint to help it keep its shape and lock in the juices. Then we slow-roast at 140? in a casserole dish for 4-5 hours.
The result just doesn’t compare to the beef I usually buy at the supermarket. It’s incredibly tender and the richest flavour beef I’ve cooked. My knife slices through the meat as if it were butter. There’s silence at the dinner table as everyone savours the moment, fully appreciating our treat.
Fancy getting your hands on a cut of Trenchmore Farm Beef? Well, you can now buy it online via The Trenchmore website and 300-330g rib eye steaks are currently selling for £30/kg (£9-10 each). Or, if you prefer to let a chef do all the hard work for you, the following local restaurants and hotels are using Trenchmore beef this week:
- South Lodge Hotel
- Gravetye Manor
- Drakes Hotel in Brighton
- The Wheatsheaf in Albourne
- The Bull at Ditchling
- Amberley Castle
A list of stockists for Silly Moo Cider can also be found here, although the product isn’t available in stores just yet, due to a bottling issue.
What are your thoughts on supermarket beef? Do you buy it? Or are you loyal to a local butcher? Whatever your opinion, leave me a comment below and let me know. And, if you like my post please click the little heart button below too.