Skip to main content

Rare Breeds

Lincoln Red Cattle

Our original population Lincoln Reds date back hundreds of years. Despite their ancient origins, there are thought to be just several hundred original population Lincoln Reds around the world today.

To help these highly valued cattle recover from the brink of extinction, South Ormsby Estate is using sustainable practices to support the growth of what is now one of the largest herds of original population Lincoln Red cattle in the world.

An ancient breed...

The Lincoln Red is one of the UK’s oldest native beef breeds, thought to have been brought in during the 18th century.

Originally classed as ‘dual-purpose’ (providing both milk and meat), Lincoln Red’s are characterised by their recognisable curly red coat and lack of horns. Often cross-bred for better yield, the Lincoln Red Cattle Society keep a record of all pedigree animals. The Original Population Lincoln Red (cattle whose bloodline are 100% native and without crossbreeding) is classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, with less than 500 remaining today. We are proud that our herd is both pedigree and original population. From a small herd of just 25 cattle at the start of the millennium, our herd now numbers 339. The cattle, which have a subtly different appearance to the more common variants of the breed, leisurely graze the fields of the Estate.

Lincoln Red cattle are a part of our history. They’re beautiful animals with vividly coloured, fluffy coats and people in Lincolnshire are rightly proud of them. When our herd manager, John Crutchley, began caring for the herd in 2000, there was a real worry that they might die out altogether, but with modern, sustainable practices, we’re helping them to make a comeback.

Within a few years, we hope to grow the herd to around 700-750 but only through sustainable and ethical farming techniques which respect the heritage and history of the Estate and its ancient breed of cattle.

Two Lincoln Red Cattle in the Lincolnshire Wolds

Mob grazing

We have implemented a ‘mob grazing’ tactic (also know as regenerative grazing) with our herd this year, a rotational grazing pattern. Our grazing land is divided into one-hectare paddocks, which one of our family groups will graze for three days, before moving on to the next. It’s then six weeks before they return to the first paddock, giving the grass plenty of time to grow again.

Doing this allows the grass to establish better roots and grow taller, faster. If cattle stay in one paddock for an extended period, they will eat the grass shoots before the plant has been able to start photosynthesis and establish its’ roots well. When this happens, the grass will only put out a new shoot so many times before it dies.

However, if the cattle are only in the paddock for a short number of days, the grass then gets a chance to start photosynthesising, establishing its roots and growing deeper into the soil.
This has a huge range of benefits, for our soil and wildlife. With better-established plants, our soil structure is better and less compact (as the roots prevent this), which reduces the risk of flooding. Sugars stored in the roots are transferred to the surrounding soil, feeding microorganisms vital for good soil health.

Soil dwelling animals such as worms and dung beetles get the benefit of the system also – they have more time to process the cattle’s manure and time to increase their numbers. In turn, they aerate the soil, deposit more organic matter, and all that helps to improve the soil’s health.

Lincoln Red Cattle resting at South Ormsby Estate

A dedicated team

Our herd has a dedicated team looking after them.

John Crutchley, our herd manager, has looked after our herd since 2000, helping to grow their numbers from just 25 at the start of the millennium to 339 today. With years of experience and great care for his cattle, John Crutchley has worked to maintain the herd as pedigree and original population, a rare feat.

Our stockman, Adrian Quinton works to care for the cattle day to day, come rain or shine! From checking their numbers and health each day to moving them from pasture to pasture, caring for our Lincoln Red’s is a full-time job that requires great care and dedication. In the spring, he can be found assisting with the births of the calves, while he can be found feeding and mucking them out in the winter and helping maintain their paddocks, boundaries, and crews.

This autumn the team has also welcoming Keira Rhodes as our beef unit apprentice, following her graduation from Riseholme this year. She will learn from John and Adrian about what it takes to manage and care for a herd such as ours, with plenty of hands-on experience in the day to day tasks. It is so important to continue to pass on the invaluable knowledge and experiences involved with farming from generation to generation, and Keira is helping to maintain this vital tradition.

The team that look after the Lincoln Red Cattle

About John Crutchley

 

John Crutchley has been working with cattle since he was a boy, from dairy herds to beef, and has always had a fondness for Lincoln Red Cattle. He has looked after South Ormsby Estate’s herd of Lincoln Red’s since the millennium and has overseen their move onto the estate and their growth since then. He is passionate about raising his cattle to the highest possible standard and loves them for their great temperament and gentle nature.

How did you come to farming? Have you always worked with Cattle?
I was born on my Grandfather’s farm and have been with farming since birth.
Since I began, I have always worked with cattle – both dairy and beef production, as well as with arable producing feed for cattle.

Is there anything that drew you to Lincoln Red Cattle specifically? What are your favourite aspects of the breed?
When I was a boy, I spent a good deal of my childhood on my Grandparent’s farm. All farms had a house cow or two, which were milked by hand – this was my job from the age of seven. Our cows were Lincoln Reds. Lincoln Red cattle are fantastic for their gentle nature, and their ease of handling – while some can be stubborn, it is very rare to find one that has a bad attitude, which makes them very kind cattle.

How have you found raising the herd on South Ormsby Estate? (As the herd was moved to the estate 3 years ago)
Moving the herd from their previous home to South Ormsby Estate came with some difficulties. As we got settled onto the estate, winter housing for the cattle was not initially available, and the herd was moved gradually, as sufficient grazing land became available.

As happens when moving a large herd, there were some health instances – their immune systems were not resistant to any illnesses they could pick up from the new grazing land, but this has now been solved, and their health is in a very good position.

It took 18 months to fully adjust, and now all cattle are grazing on the estate, and new buildings are in place. It is considerably better now – the cattle are very happy now, and comfortable on the estate.

What are your goals with the herd over the coming years? Are there any changes you are hoping to make?
We have quite a few goals for the herd – we will soon be starting a scheme for milking the cows, leaving their calves at foot whilst this is done. They will be milked once a day, and we will be making their milk into cheese, which is sure to be delicious. Once our dairy scheme established, we hope to increase to milking 200 of our cows a day.
Another of our goals is to continue to grow our herd. The herd currently number in the early 400’s, and our goal is to reach 700, with the milk cows included.
I am also excited about transitioning to a regenerative approach to grazing the cattle. Looking at the way we are utilising our grass, and how we can make more of it, which will also allow us to keep the herd out in the pastures for longer.

Do you have any favourite cattle within the herd? What would you say makes Lincoln Red’s an ideal breed?
While I may have a few favourites, I do try not to due to the nature of cattle farming – when you have cattle for 13 years, who have given you good service and are a pleasure to have, it is much better to not have favourites.
Lincoln Red’s are an excellent breed for many reasons- they are a strong foraging animal, which is important above all else. Their general temperament is very good, and both the meat and milk are delicious.

What are your favourite parts of working with the cattle? Are there any events throughout the year that you look forward to where they are concerned?
One of the favourite dates in the calendar is when we come to Pregnancy Diagnose the cattle – when you have a good take and have 96% of those tested successful, it is incredibly encouraging. For several years now we have achieved this, along with a 93% calving rate.
The calving itself is a very special time, a time for new life and expanding the herd, which is fantastic to see.
The real highlight of every year is when the cattle – especially the calves – are turned out from their winter housing onto pasture. For the calves, it is the first time they have experience grass, and they will jump, skip, and play for several hours, which is really something to see.

The Lincoln Red Diary

Our herd of Pedigree Lincoln Red Cattle are the pride of South Ormsby Estate, and this diary is where we will share regular entries about them.

From topics such as how we raise and care for our cattle, to key milestones in the life of the herd, as well as the flora and fauna they coexist with, you’ll find up to date stories here.

To see more, search South Ormsby Estate or Masssingberd-Mundy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Lincoln Red Herd grazing at the Estate
portrait of Lincoln Red Cattle