Rare breed Diemen's Ridge English Longhorn
English Longhorn cattle are a rare breed, literally.
There aren't many in the UK and the only commercial herd in Australia is the Diemen's Ridge English Longhorns, pasture-raised at Dalness, a picturesque 3,600 hectare mixed farm at Evansdale, just out of Launceston in Tasmania that's undergoing a regenerative transformation. But when Simone Lourey and Will Randall bought Dalness in 2015 it was in very poor condition and choked with gorse.
Determined to restore sustainable productivity and ecosystem health and influenced by the deep traditions around food and place that they observed in other cultures, Simone and Will set about developing a long term, holistic plan designed to create resilience and vitality at every level and leave the landscape in better shape for future generations. They bring their passion, strategic knowledge and skills to the business while the day-to-day operations are managed by a small team of local experts who work closely together while each running different aspects of the farm - rare breed cattle, super fine wool and lamb, wine grapes and carbon credits.
The regeneration project is cracking ahead with great results already evident in improved soil quality, extensive revegetation and excellent animal growth rates and conditions.
I can testify to this because last month I spent a fascinating day touring the farm with these legends who are smart, funny and very knowledgeable.
Diemen's Ridge English Longhorns
With their powerful, stocky bodies, shaggy brindle coats and spectacular horns, Diemen's Ridge English Longhorns come across as regal and not a little intimidating, but it turns out they're the most placid cattle anyone's ever handled.
Apparently they're so laid back that they sometimes get into a sort of bovine sloth mode and just come to mysterious halt in the middle of things, making regular tasks such as moving herds to fresh paddocks extremely trying for the frustrated farm managers who sometimes have no option but to go off and do something else for a while.
When not in this state, however, the managers tell us they're not just beautiful but also a joy to handle - placid, curious and the cows are great mothers.
The core of the Diemen's Ridge English Longhorn herd were originally imported from the UK to South Australia in 2013 after Heston Blumenthal made English Longhorns famous by dubbing it the best beef in Europe.
“The Longhorn has it all for me – marvellous moisture and juiciness, alongside a firm but giving texture.” Heston Blumenthal, Chef.
After this pronouncement, things went a bit bonkers for the English Longhorn, which was a good thing given that they were so rare they were in danger of disappearing altogether.
Unsurprisingly, South Australian conditions didn't suit these lovely, hairy, slow growing beasts which have been bred over centuries to thrive in England's green and pleasant (and wet and chilly) land. So they were very pleased when Will and Simone turned up in 2018 and moved them to Dalness in Tasmania which turns out to be perfect for growing rare breed English Longhorn cattle.
Dalness have secured exclusive arrangements with three key UK studs which, through the Dalness breeding programme (Willock Park Stud), allows the herd to expand and ensures that the commercial Diemen's Ridge English Longhorns remain both viable and vigorous. Willock Park Stud produce the highest quality, pure breed cattle that comply with global standards and Dalness' genetic data collection system is world class.