John Savery farms across the southern slopes of Dartmoor at Zeal farm. Here he grazes native breed cattle and sheep through a rugged landscape of wood pasture, flower rich meadows and high moorland. His livestock grow slowly alongside a world of wildlife that has disappeared from most of the country – from the cuckoos that sing along the valleys to the barn owls, sparrow hawks and merlins that hunt across the rough grassland for prey. Where the land lies rough and wet, snipe breed among the tussocky grasses and skylarks sing their never ending song. In winter hen harriers and hundreds of golden plover arrive at Zeal farm.
The cattle get fat through the summer months on a 100% pasture diet, balancing their nutritional requirements from a diverse range of grasses, legumes and herbs that grow in the old permanent pasture fields on the farm’s lower ground. This takes longer than more conventional farms, and relies on the right breeds – John keeps Aberdeen Angus and Blue Grey, both bred centuries ago to thrive on the rougher pastures of Scotland and Northern England. The result is beautifully marbled beef that carries a deep and rich flavour.