Langtoft Dexter herd both hardy and tasty

The Collinge family  from Langtoft  left to right, Elizabeth 12, Mum Caroline, Victoria 9, Emily 7 Dad Richard and Lucinda 13.
The Collinge family from Langtoft left to right, Elizabeth 12, Mum Caroline, Victoria 9, Emily 7 Dad Richard and Lucinda 13.

Langtoft isn’t known for too much in the greater scheme of things. It has a pleasant bowling green in its centre and a church with a 13th century tower and that’s about it as far as the amenities go.

The Collinge family of Richard, Caroline and their four daughters make up over one per cent per cent of the population of 492, but their Dexter herd could bring greater awareness of the village in the future.

The Collinges have a small acreage just off the Kilham Road, up the hill from the bowls club. Richard tells of how their York Wold herd came about, having clearly learned the art of promoting the credentials of a breed that originates from across the Irish Sea.

“We came here in 1997 and initially had Caroline and her sister’s horses here, then the little people (the girls) came along and we moved from horses to ponies. We found that the ponies weren’t good at eating the grass and with our little tractor mower continually breaking down we decided to get some cows to eat what the ponies couldn’t.

“We chose Dexters because we’d heard of their reputation and because they are small, making them more easily manageable for Caroline and less intimidating for the girls.

“They are quite hardy and will live outside. The beef we get from them is outstanding although we’re finding we don’t get much chance to taste it now, as it gets sold as soon as we have any ready.

“You definitely notice the difference between a Dexter steak and something from a supermarket that has been stuck in a shed and stuffed with barley. Ours live on grass and haylage and grow more slowly than continentals, but taste far better for being grass fed.”

Richard and Caroline’s Dexters were originally taken on as grazers but they soon became far more than that.

“Our first three cows came from Mill Farm in Catwick in 2008, two were in-calf and one had a calf at foot. Once we’d had the calves off them I wanted to get the cows back in-calf and borrowed a Dexter bull for a couple of months from Derek Bedford in Hutton-le-Hole.

“We’ve continued with a couple of his bulls since then and we currently have four breeding cows and 13 head of cattle that includes three calves this year, three from last year and three from the previous two years ago as we kill out at around 30-36 months.

“The beef is sold locally to family and friends and aside from the first beast, which was an Aberdeen Angus X, everything else is pure pedigree Dexter beef.

“We’re members of the Dexter Cattle Society and if we could get more acreage we would definitely increase the herd further. The beef really sells itself and we have a waiting list for when our next beef boxes will be available.”

Richard is a civil engineer dealing with flood defences, roads, bridges and pipelines and is presently at a chemical works on Teesside. He grew up in Luddenden near Halifax where his parents had goats, pigs and hens.

“I kept a few goats when I was in my teens and with Caroline knowing about horses and ponies we already understood a bit about keeping livestock. We’ve also had over 40 pigs but we only have two at the moment.

“We started off with Berkshires and then moved on to Tamworth and Saddleback X but we’ve found that Dexter beef sells far easier than the pork so we’d rather concentrate our efforts on that.”

The size of the cattle has worked out as they hoped.

“Our girls are happy enough jumping in and out with them whereas a shed full of larger cattle would I’m sure have proved a bit too daunting since I’m not here all the time.”

Caroline was born in Driffield and competed in show jumping, cross country and team chasing. She now works in a microbiology lab in Kelleythorpe for Northern Hygiene as well as tending the herd, her brood and their ponies but she’s not complaining and is looking forward to the times when they might take the best of their York Wold herd to some of the local agricultural shows.

“I was with the Middleton East Pony Club and competed at Driffield, Malton and Ryedale shows,” Caroline says.

“The girls are with the White Rose Riding Club.

“Showing our Dexters is definitely something we would quite like to do but we’re on with the ponies at the moment and with only one trailer that makes things a little difficult to do both.”

Livestock farming is clearly in the blood and enthuses both Richard and Caroline, who tells of her own family farming heritage.

“My grandfather, David Midgley, worked for Mr Chester at Huggate Wold Farm for nearly 40 years.

“Mr Chester obviously thought a lot of him because he had a bronze statue made of him by way of respect that stands in the farmyard today.”