Last week we had a trip out to Barrking Hill Farm and it certainly brought back fond memories of visits to my grandfather's farm when I was a little girl. We met Terri on the driveway where we were surrounded by many of dogs – some boarders, some rescue and some owned by the Barr's. It was quickly evident that Terri was an enormous pet lover and her style of training and boarding animals is deeply respectful of their breed and temperament.
We put on our rubber boots and proceeded to the barnyard. Getting close to the herd is not allowed on most farms anymore as disease control is a major concern. But here, we encountered Highland cattle – an older, original breed that evolved from the west coast of Scotland where cattle endure cold rough temperatures. They can take up to -40 degrees. This breed has two coats of hair so they can look quite shaggy as the outer layer is 13" long. I loved their faces which were shaggy looking too.
These animals are quite docile and very good mothers – working like buffalo to circle and protect the young if threatened. Many share "nanny duty."
The herd at at the Barr's is a registered pure-bred highland. Canada has some of the most pure genetics of Highland cattle as there is no cross-breeding here. The Barr's animals are mostly grass-fed (sometimes need oats if winter is long and harsh and to add a little marbling to the meat). They don't get vacines or hormones and take antibotics only for injuries. They have no back fat and their meat is considered lean under the Heart & Stroke guidelines.
The Barr's herd is approximately 50 strong including a bull, thirteen cows, six new calves and many heifers which will be breeded at 2 years.
The meat is marketed direct from the farms, beef heads with the full rack of horns are used for decorative purposes and the horn, which are hard like fingernails are carved out for decorative pieces too. The hair can be brushed out then spun into yarn, but they are typically not sheared for hair collection although they are often sheared for auction as consumers demand a more tidy appearance.
It's very difficult to expand the farm as each animal requires 1 acre of land plus 1 acre of hay. They often have a waiting list for meat, selling direct to the consumer.
Few restaurants use this organic meat as chef request the popular cuts and organic is more expensive – requiring chefs to augments prices to a rate the consumer won't pay.
We left the barnyard to visit the barn where we found Tamworth Pigs – and one momma who was protecting a litter of one-day-old piglets. These too, are an older breed of pig, with quite red course hair often used for paint-brush bristles. These pigs do quite well on the pasture, but last year's pigs damaged the pasture quite badly by rooting and digging; and with the late spring it had not recovered enough for the pigs to go out yet.
Terri and Bob raise their pigs in a 'loose house" method, meaning no crates. These are sometimes called "bacon pigs" as they have a longer body that produces 6-10 lbs more bacon than a typical pig. Their snouts are much longer too.
A pig is pregnant 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. They are breeded twice per year bearing 2-10 piglets. They are sent to market at 6-8 months.
It's important that the pigs are groomed to be people friendly. Terri told us that a community groups from London comes and stays in the pens with the pigs to work with them. She wants the pigs to enjoy their lives on the farm so they are not stressed.
This farm was given to two brothers from England in 1959. The story goes they were charged with being drunk and disorderly, so were sentenced to jail time in England or a trip to Canada where they received 600 acres. The Barr's purchased the farm in 2004 with a plan to become completely self-sufficient, including off-the-grid within the next few short years. They also board and train dogs, breed gerrman shepherds, raise rabbits and chickens too.
Their hope is that consumers are aware of the choices they have for purchasing foods to assist them in making informed decisions for health and lifestyle. And they hope that consumer support their local farmers. Visit their website or call for more information or to order healthy lean meats raised by Bob & Terri Barr.
Bob & Terri Barr
70209 Evergreen Line, RR 3
Phone: 519-229-6220 Cell: 519-878-2836