A day in the life of a Goose Producer: Stuart John Doughty from Doddington
Continuing our series 'down on the farm', we meet goose producer Stuart Doughty to hear all about his typical working day
Continuing our series ‘down on the farm’, we meet goose producer Stuart Doughty to hear all about his typical working day
What sort of farm is it?The geese side of the enterprise consists of something in excess of five acres and we normally rear about 100 birds specifically for the Christmas market. We also produce top fruit in a small way – mainly apples and cherries – and we grow runner beans, raspberries and other fruit and vegetables to sell in the shop. Our customers like the fact that we can ‘pick and sell’ in a remarkably short time.
Explain about rearing geese We breed Legarths and Pomeranians, both of which are good foragers. Our geese have a natural life and they nest in the orchard. The best incubators are the geese themselves, however we do incubate a small number artificially as well – always using eggs from our own stock.
The goslings grow up roaming freely in the orchard but we move them to different areas so that they always have access to good grass – they are wonderful grazing birds. They also enjoy fruit and, if there aren’t enough apples lying on the ground, they are adept at shaking the branches to produce windfalls!
It is important to us the geese are reared as organically as possible. We feed them corn which we buy in from a local farm and in the colder months they are also fed especially formulated pellets which are made up at a farm in Sussex. Geese are brilliant grazers, they are tidy and do a wonderful paddock-maintenance job!
The downland chalk produces excellent grass and the drainage is very good. Geese are water birds and they prefer to mate in water. We allow our geese to select their own mates and they will often remain as a pair for life. We keep breeding birds for a number of years and we know them very well.
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At what age did you start?
My family has kept geese for over 120 years and I am a fourth generation producer. I cannot recall a day when they weren’t part of my life, but if we are talking about full involvement, I guess I would say about 30 years. What about training? It has been a ‘learning on the job’ process from when I was very young.
Describe a typical working day I check the geese and feed them early in the morning, usually about 7am. The checking goes on all day in the sense that the geese are located very near the shop. As well as being good grazers, they are also excellent guards and give fair warning if there are any intruders or wandering dogs! The geese are moved to fresh pasture whenever the grass has been grazed down.
I usually spend some time in the shop, which we have developed from pure butchery into a farm-type shop. The beef and lamb we sell is produced locally to very high welfare standards, something that is very important to all of us.
An average day may include delivering to restaurants and pubs, spending time in the office, meeting customers. My days are always full! Have you won awards? We are members of Produced in Kent, the promotional organisation which is managed by Hadlow College, and we were very proud to have been a previous winner of one of their Taste
of Kent awards. This year we were awarded the Countryside Alliance national title ‘Best Butchers’, a tremendous honour. Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP and Clarissa Dickson Wright presented the award at a reception held at the House of Lords. Any children to follow you? Amelie is six and Max is four and they are both already really interested and especially love the goslings. I have no doubt the family tradition will be carried on to yet another generation.
Marks out of 10? I love working with the geese, and I love watching their antics and could spend hours doing just that! It’s a 10!