Welcome to our occasional newsletter – Spring 2019

The animals are all out!! J It’s lovely to have empty sheds and the grass began growing just at the right time, as due to the hot and dry summer of 2018, our hay supply is now depleted. Having the animals outside, means checking them at least once a day, making sure they have water and that they all look well. It is much easier to catch an animal you are concerned about in a shed than it is in a wide-open field! Some of the things we must look out for when checking the animals during this time of year, is any new arrivals, a healthy udder, healthy offspring, mastitis and as the weather gets warmer fly strike (maggots). As well as checking the animal, it is important that fencing is secure and this year we are using electric fence to divide our fields up, so we can rotate the animals frequently on to fresh grass.

The cows and calves are out in Park, a field central to the farm, which has a steep bank where the cows love to soak up the sun. There are a few of the cows still to calve. The latest edition to the herd was a Longhorn calf born on 6st May. Within a couple of hours of being born the calves are up on their feet and able to trot along side their mother. We must catch them before they can run faster and are more agile than us (within the first 36 hours). We drive up with the trailer, which creates a barrier between the mother and us where we then ear tag, de-horn (if needed) and generally check the calf over to make sure all is well. Although the Longhorn is a placid breed, they are very protective mothers and defensive of their calves. We de-horn the calves to prevent the horns from growing, as although they look beautiful, it is much safer to handle a cow without horns and makes it easier in the winter for the cows to put their head through the feeding barriers.

Likewise, the lambs are enjoying the spring and are growing well. This year we have split the flock in two. Most of the sheep with a single lamb are in Paradise, the field behind the village school and the others, mostly with twins, have luscious new seeded grass alongside Ashby Road.  On May Bank Holiday weekend, we finally finished lambing, when the last three ewes (female sheep) gave birth out in the field. Here at the farm we Signet record all our Lleyn sheep. This means at the end of the year we receive data about our flock, which not only compares our sheep against each other but also with other farmers that take part. This allows us to make an informed decision when breeding, keeping lambs and indicates the best mothers and fathers. Being part of this means we must weigh the lambs, when they are born, roughly 10 weeks later and also when they are weaned. During this year’s lambing our lambs ranged between 1.7kg and 7kg. We will soon be recording their 10-week weights, and from this will select the ones to take to shows this summer.

In the Farm Shop, James and the team continue to work hard to provide the best of all things organic. We believe that organic food if better for nature and better for you. Much of our heating and electricity comes from renewable sources, including solar panels and bio-mass heating. All our lamb and beef is from the farm. This means that it is born and raised here – therefore producing 100% traceable and low mileage meat. As well as making our own recipe sausages and burgers, our butchers also make a ‘salt-only’ bacon. This means a bacon that is free from nitrates and sugars but still tastes delicious!

You may notice when you visit the farm there are often many children around the farmyard. This time of year is very popular for school visits. We have a range of ages that visit the farm, and it is always fascinating to hear the questions asked. Some children come from inner cities or towns and have very little experience of the countryside, let alone visiting a working farm. As part of Little Farmers, Amy hosts the visits and usually takes them on a farm walk, they enjoy a picnic lunch and the afternoon typically involves getting hands-on with the animals and exploring the farmyard. Recently, whilst pond dipping Little Farmers have found an abundance of wildlife, including a newt.

Sadly, we have recently suffered a number of rural crimes committed throughout the farm. It is very disheartening as well as time consuming and costly. We have therefore had to step up our security both on the farmyard and around the farm fields. We ask everyone that uses the farm, please to do so with respect. This includes co-operating with signage, sticking to public footpaths and remembering that our farmyard is open to farm shop customers only.

Our lambing days this year were a huge success and we hope that everyone that visited enjoyed themselves. Our next open day will be Open Farm Sunday on 9th June. This year, we plan to have shearing of our entire sheep flock, guided farm walks, farm machinery on display and various demonstrations plus a delicious organic BBQ.