IT isn’t often that you have the opportunity to spot Simmental cattle grazing in the Northumberland countryside, but for Peter Burgess and his family, it is one of the best sights in the world.

The Burgesses, made up of Peter, his partner Sarah and her daughter Rosie moved to High Keenley Fell Farm in Allendale four years ago, after deciding to venture into farm diversification by opening up a bed and breakfast in their country farmhouse, surrounded by panoramic views.

“We wanted to find a new alternative income because, like many beef farmers, we would struggle to make ends meet on livestock alone nowadays, Sarah said.”

“I feel confident that we made the right decision to diversify, because we love what we do, and we haven’t had to give up farming in order to achieve it. The fact that we’re a working farm seems to only add extra charm for our guests. It’s the real rural experience.”

Moving with the family from Northamptonshire to the 164-acre High Keenley farm was 350 Mule ewes, 10 Suffolk rams, 12 chickens and their precious Simmental herd.

“I bought my first Simmental back in 1995,” Peter said. “I’ve always loved them, but I couldn’t afford one until then.

“Aside from their high growth rate, they have a lovely temperament which is really important to us because it makes them enjoyable to care for.

“We have around forty now, but we had to downsize the herd by two thirds before the move because the land isn’t quite as good here. It was the sacrifice we made to run High Keenley Farm Bed and Breakfast.”

It was two of the Burgesses Simmental bulls which caught the judge’s eye at this year’s Northumberland County Show.

Tilbrook Ivanhoe scooped a Reserve Male Champion title and senior bull in the Any Other Continental Breed class, whilst Tillbrook Intrepid came second in the junior class. Ivanhoe has since been sold at Darlington Farmers Auction Mart to M. J. Hutchinson’s beef herd at Wolviston for £2,400.

“For us, taking part in shows is about getting the Tillbrook herd name out, and show the Simmental breed around, especially as they are still quite rare in Northumberland. It makes a good opportunity for us to remind people that we’re here,” Sarah said.

Along with showing his cattle in shows, Peter’s long experience with the Simmental breed has led to plenty of invitations to judge at shows across the country – including the Simmental category at the Great Yorkshire Show, Stirling Bull Sales and English National Simmental Show.

“I really enjoy judging, and I am keen to do more of it in the future if I’m given the opportunity.” said Peter. “Just being invited is a real honour.

“For me, the best thing about judging is the element of surprise, you never know what you are going to see on the day, and some of the animals presented are really impressive.

“Judging a competition is similar to completing a puzzle, you have to weigh every positive and negative of an animal up, but there is no way to avoid personal taste from coming into your decision, therefore not everyone will agree with your choice.”

For both Peter and Sarah, farming runs in the blood, having derived from traditional farming families based in Buckinghamshire.

Now they have passed on their passion for livestock to the next generation, with Sarah’s children Rosie and Alfie looking to follow in their footsteps, although perhaps treading further afield.

“My eldest Alfie has had the opportunity to travel the world through agriculture, working as a professional sheep shearing first in New Zealand and now in Australia. He’s living the dream. I think it shows that by choosing to go into farming, it doesn’t mean you have to work on one farm forever, there is a whole wealth of opportunities within the industry.”

Rosie recently graduated from the Cirencester Royal Agricultural University with a degree in International Equine and Agricultural Business, with the aim to follow in the footsteps of her brother Alfie, and work abroad.

“I love to travel, and I’m quite a horsey person, so if I could combine the two that would be the ideal situation. Having only just returned home, so I haven’t had much time to start putting plans in place, but I’m excited to start.” she said.

“We’ve encouraged her to go out and see the world and gain as much experience as she can out there to help her in the future. Luckily we aren’t ready to retire just yet, so we aren’t making any plans currently for the kids to take over the farm,” Sarah said.

In terms of what she has taken away from her three years in education, Rosie said that her course reflects the shift in the industry from food production to environmental factors.

“We are taught that sustainable farming is the future.” she said. “Every module is centred around around how farmers can merge environmental factors into everyday farming.

“Farmers my age are already having to think about impact we’ll leave for the generation after us, and how we can reduce our carbon footprint for them. If the Government could pull off paying farmers for preserving the environment, that could be really effective.”