Westermill is a working hill farm of 500 acres (200 hectares) and unique to the UK as we do not border a road. The Edwards family have farmed here at Westermill since 1938 and have been on Exmoor for many generations before.
The farm is split between grass fields and rough grazing ground, with no arable. We have Less Favoured Area Support Status and are in a Ten Year High Level Stewardship Scheme. We normally re-seed about 10-15 acres each year, putting down a cover crop of either turnips, kale or rape, all under sown with a permanent grass pasture lay. The turnips etc are then fed to the weaned lambs or used as winter feed for the cattle and/or sheep.
There are a number of Somerset Wildlife Sites on the farm, so we strive to farm with due care for the environment. It is important to work with the environment to ensure plants and invertebrates are not affected by the works on the farm.
We have around 60 Aberdeen Angus suckler cows on the farm. The herd ranges from cows and calves, to bullocks of about 12 to 30 months, and of course the bulls. A total of around 150-160 cattle. Currently, we put 60 cows and heifers (females that have not had a calf yet) to the 3 bulls. We are a closed herd, which means we breed our own replacement heifers and bulls.
We calve in March/April in the big shed behind the farm house and then turn the cows and calves out to pasture late April. The yearling bullocks (last year's calves) graze out in Exe Cleave (the end of the farm) with the ewe hogs all summer. All the steers (castrated males) are finished here at 29 months and go on contract to Waitrose on their Premium Beef scheme.
We have approximately 400 breeding sheep, mainly South Country Cheviot, which we lamb at Easter. We cross most of these with New Zealand Romney rams. The rest of the flock are crossed with Cheviot rams to breed replacements. Lambing time is a great period on the farm and many families re-visit year on year to help out in the lambing shed.
Most of the lambs go for meat. We also have ewe hogs (female sheep 12-18 months old) kept as replacements and typically have over 1000 sheep on Westermill over the summer.