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Meet the York­shire­man who lives and breathes cows

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - News -

One York­shire­man’s love of cat­tle

ROBERT PHILLIP has lived on Green Farm in North York­shire since he was six months old, and be­gan help­ing his fa­ther with the milking as soon as he could walk. His fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were farm­ers, and he says he never con­sid­ered any al­ter­na­tive ca­reers. ‘I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in do­ing any­thing but milking cows.’

By 2002, Phillip and his wife Wendy had a herd of 130 Hol­steins and Jer­seys, which they would milk three times a day with the help of a fel­low farmer. But that year Phillip bought Wendy two High­land cows as a birth­day present and, fed up with the pun­ish­ing milking sched­ule, de­cided to switch from a milk farm to pro­duc­ing beef.

The cou­ple sold their milking herd and now have more than 100 breed­ing cows, which are spread across roughly 1,000 acres of farm­land in the York­shire Dales. ‘It is a beau­ti­ful part of the world,’ says Phillip. ‘On a sunny evening the smell and the views are fan­tas­tic. Even when the weather is hor­ren­dous it has its own beauty.’

To main­tain the cows, he makes sure they are eat­ing enough roughage (mainly grass, but dur­ing the win­ter silage and bar­ley), mon­i­tors their weight and health, and checks them reg­u­larly dur­ing calv­ing.

Af­ter they have been slaugh­tered, the beef is hung on meat hooks for two weeks in a hu­mid but cold room (where the tem­per­a­ture is kept be­tween 1C and 3C), be­fore be­ing taken to a lo­cal butcher to hang for an­other week, a process known as dry-age­ing. ‘It has to be hung prop­erly to get that flavour,’ ex­plains Phillip. ‘High­land beef is very well mar­bled. It tastes won­der­ful when slow-roasted for a long time.’

Fi­nally, the meat is cut into steaks and roast­ing joints. As well as hav­ing their own farm shop and sup­ply­ing a lo­cal pub-restau­rant, the cou­ple pro­vide Waitrose & Part­ners with around a quar­ter of the High­land beef it sells dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son. Oc­to­ber is the farm’s busiest month, as they be­gin pre­par­ing for the hec­tic Christ­mas pe­riod.

When he’s not tend­ing to his fold, Phillip trav­els around the north of Eng­land, buy­ing and sell­ing an­i­mals, rent­ing out bulls and at­tend­ing cat­tle shows. He shows his own cat­tle in up to 10 a year and has re­cently been in­vited to judge, too. ‘My proud­est mo­ment was be­ing asked to judge the High­lands at the big­gest show in Scot­land. It was a great honour,’ he says. ‘I thought, “If they’ve asked me to judge, then I must not be too bad.”

‘It’s very dif­fer­ent to what we did be­fore,’ he adds. ‘But it’s far more fun.’ hel­li­field­high­land­;­ter­tain­ing

Robert and Wendy Phillip and some of their 100-strong fold of High­land cat­tle. In­ter­view by So­phie Fos­ter. Pho­to­graphs by Thomas Duffield

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