Ash Farm Venison
Hello! We are Adam, Ali and Eden Russell. We run Ash Farm Venison, raising and selling our beautiful venison meat just outside Stourpaine, to the public. Adam begun farming at Ash Farm Dorset when he took over from his father in 1982. He quickly turned the farm organic and shortly after started to raise red deer for their venison.
The hinds give birth each spring about May out in large paddocks, we don’t take part in this, our herd live very naturally in family groups. The grass in our paddocks is left long allowing the mothers to look after their young, hiding them in the tussocks of long grass. Once the babies are born they live at their mothers heel taking her milk for three months, and after that they congregate in creches and run together in the herd grazing and mixing.
In the autumn we divide the herd into about 3 small groups in separate fields. Each group has a lead stag, some young stags and lots of Hinds (ladies) ready for the rut. October is a very noisy time on the farm! the Stags roar like lions! and fight to be the boss, rattling their antlers together in mock battles…..they also take their passion out on the fencing which can be quite frustrating as we rush around mending fence posts! When our big stags have shown that they are boss, they mate with all the hinds in their group. We hope to have 60 babies born per year.
Each stag grows a full set of antlers each year. The antler is not horn or bone or nail or tooth, it is made from keratin but it is its own unique material. In the wild a good red stag, called a royal, will grow 12 points a year, our main stags will have 32! This is entirely due to the breeding, the abundance of beautiful herb pasture and good winter haylage, meaning they are never without all the nutrients they require.
We love our farm, we treasure each and every acre of organic trees, herbs and grass. Over our time as custodians we have planted thousands of trees and kilometres of hedges! Living in Dorset amongst the abundant wildlife and raising these magnificent animals is what keeps us farming. Life as a farmer is hard, the weather always seems to be against you, the hours are long and in winter the days so short, but we three work as a family. Adam is definitely the boss of the deer, Ali and Siobhan run the shop and our glamping park, while daughter Eden drives the tractor and runs her own saddlery business as well as 5 horses (don’t tell Adam he said we could only have two!)
The animals we take for meat have been born on the farm, they have lived in family groups for 18 months. Our animals are never tame, they are wild creatures and whilst they can be approached, the stags are flighty and dangerous and farming venison is a skilled and specialist job.
Our venison meat is quite different from most wild shot venison. The strong gamey taste often associated with wild venison, especially if it has been hung for a long period of time, is not found in farmed red deer. The meat is taken only from animals in their prime and the meat has a sweet and gentle flavour. It is high in protein, low in fat, high in omega 3 and 6, has less cholesterol than chicken, and importantly is free from steroids and antibiotics.