It wouldn’t be spring without lamb and Tesco’s cuts are perfect for any occasion. Here’s what farmer Graham has to say:
"I've lived in Devon all my life and have strong memories of wanting to be a farmer from a very young age. By the time I was 11 years old, I’d saved up enough money to buy my very first lamb. Not coming from a farming family, I persuaded our next door neighbour to let me keep her in his field and it all grew from there.
Growing the flock
In 1987, I met and married my wife, Sarah. There was never any question that the farming life was for us, so we bought a small piece of land in Tiverton. Before long, we’d expanded to have 130 sheep and had become parents to a son, Sam, now 24, and a daughter, Rachel, now 21. Just like their dad, both kids were born with the farming bug and were eager to join the family business. Today, the four of us work side by side, caring for 750 Dorset ewes. The farm’s bigger, too, having spread out across 450 acres to accommodate all the sheep.
The lamb we rear for Tesco is Dorset – it’s a traditional native breed that can lamb at any time of the year. Thanks to its mild southern winters and rolling green hills, Devon is the perfect place for rearing this breed and we have a very content flock.
Our spring lambs are born in December. The ewes are moved into the sheds about seven to ten days before they lamb so that we can keep a close eye on them. Sheep are maternal creatures so we keep them in individual pens to allow them time to bond with their lambs. During this period, we check on them day and night to make sure they’re milking and feeding properly.
Looking after the new lambs is the favourite part of the process for our daughter, Rachel, and she’s always the first to volunteer for the night shift. She likes to joke that it’s because I’m too old to be out past my bedtime, but we all know she wouldn’t have it any other way.
After just 10 days, the ewes and their lambs are ready to be put out in the field. As our sheep are free-grazing, we keep them in groups of about 60 and regularly move them from field to field to ensure they have access to plenty of fresh, good-quality grass. During this early stage of life, the lambs are fed mainly on a diet of their mother’s milk with a small amount of grass. The ewes need a little bit extra when they’re milking, so we supplement their diet with hay and cereals. This is particularly important during the chillier winter months.
A day in the life
Farming isn’t easy but it’s immensely satisfying and I feel really privileged that I get to work outside all day – I can’t imagine doing anything else.
A typical day begins at 6·30am: I have a quick bowl of porridge before setting off to make my daily rounds. We’re on site seven days a week feeding, bedding and lambing. Then it’s back to the farmhouse for something warm and hearty.
Buying British lamb is your guarantee of quality and origin. As a Farm Assured supplier to Tesco, we’re independently inspected to ensure that all our lamb is produced to the highest standards and I’m extremely proud of the great job we do.
We’re also signed up to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which helps to preserve the natural environment. Sam and Rachel are keen members of the Young Farmers’ Club, where they get to socialise with other young members of the farming community and share new ideas and farming techniques.
Roast with the most
As you might expect, we eat a lot of lamb, and the fact that they’re so well cared for makes a huge difference to the flavour. Our spring lamb is naturally sweet, pink and delicate and needs very little doing to it. This Easter, we’ll be having a nice roast leg of lamb, cooked simply with a few herbs and served with roast potatoes and a bit of spring veg. It doesn’t get any better than that."
Watch our short film about Tesco spring lamb
As featured in the Real Food Magazine April/May 2013.