An ancient breed, numerous in the Severn Vale as early as the 13th Century. Valued for their milk (producing Double Gloucester Cheese), their beef, and for producing strong draught oxen.
In 1796 a Gloucester cow named Blossom played an important role in the creation of the Smallpox vaccination.
During the 20th Century, numbers seriously declined, owing to the commercialisation of more popular breeds. By 1972, there was only 68 head of cattle left in existence. It was at the dispersal sale of Wick Court, one of largest herds left, that a group of enthusiasts gathered to save every breeding female. Clifford’s father Eric Freeman was part of this group. Following on from this, a new society of breeders was formed and numbers started to increase.
Gloucesters are a stunning animal. They are medium in size, with a broad forehead, long cheeks and roman nose. Their body colour is a rich deep mahogany with their legs and head being black. They have a long white stripe along their back (known as finch back), down the hind quarters and tail and along the belly. They have medium length upswept horns with black tips.
The cows are docile and amenable and respond well to individual care. They take well to hand milking and make ideal house cows. They have a flat lactation curve giving an even production for up to 300 days. This is kind to their udders and helps the longevity for which they are renowned, often breeding for 12 – 15 years.
Gloucester’s are now regarded as dual-purpose animals but have also been used as draught animals in the past. Yields of milk are not high by modern standards, but what is produced is ideal for cheese making, notably Single and Double Gloucester cheese. Indeed, the former can now only be made on farms in Gloucestershire which have a pedigree herd of Gloucester cows. ‘Gloucester Beef’ is of high quality, fine grained and well marbled – benefitting from the animals long maturing period.
Originally established by Clifford’s father Eric Freeman in 1971 with the purchase of two cows from Tetbury market, over the last fifty years it has been one of the leading and influential herds within the breed, with most modern Gloucester’s having Noent in their pedigree.
In the beginning Eric was continually active in preserving the breed, now Clifford is very keen on improving the breed from within, so with the latest DNA profiling techniques, is hoping to make the breed a sustainable option for small units.
The Noent herd has been very successful in the show ring, standing top of the line on many occasions.
The herd currently has over 160 females and 100 males producing meat for local butchers, restaurants, and for Clifford’s two restaurants The Hall and The Beach situated on the Isles of Scilly.