Chris was asked to write an article for the local parish magazine about what we have been doing on the farm.
Below are the articles for the last few months and we will be adding each months on to this blog so keep an eye out!
Part one - August
This Month on the Farm
Mid summer is always an enjoyable and busy time on the farm. The beef cattle and calves are all out grazing so the focus is turned to making the hay and silage that will be used to feed them through the winter. Finding a long enough dry spell to make hay has not been easy so most of the grass so far has been turned into silage (fermented grass) as it can be made in a shorter weather window. Its stored either in a silage clamp or in polythene wrapped bales. As long as the grass has been kept airtight it is a nutritious feed for the winter months.
The build up to Christmas started here on the 23rd of June, 350 day old turkeys arrived. The poults (the term given to a young turkey) are very demanding for the first few weeks but will be shortly be going outside (weather permitting) and moving to a bigger shed. A hot July makes turkey rearing easier as they need warmth but also good ventilation, a combination that is much harder to achieve with the cool month we have just had.
The sheep are busy eating down the grass in the turkey paddock and have a break from showing until the Berkshire show. Earlier in the year they went to the Bath and west as well as the three counties and returned with a selection of rosettes including breed champion! I just hope they remain the correct side of the electric fence and don’t nibble on the wildflower meadow and cover plants that are intended to keep the turkeys entertained later in the year.
Part two - September
The sheep have left us to go on their summer holiday to Bradford-on-Avon, they will spend a few weeks with our friends rams before hopefully all returning home in lamb. Early reports are that there has been plenty of ‘activity’. This means a week to recover from the turkey work before lambs arrive in the first week of January.
This week the rapidly growing turkeys have been released into the fruit orchard. They have been outside from 3 weeks old in two paddocks full of nettles and undergrowth which they love but now at 8 weeks they can have access to the whole orchard where they can browse on windfall apples and the wild flower strip I have planted for them.
The hot days that we have had this summer have seen good numbers of butterflies around the field edges, the best spot being one of our fields currently in maize which has a margin of long grass purely for wildlife. This grass only gets cut every 3-4 years to prevent scrub growth.
We have 22 species of butterfly on the farm, this is the second year we have been thrilled to see marbled whites, one of the most beautiful butterflies in the county but one that is often missed as it is only on the wing for 4 weeks in mid summer.
Part three - October
The end of the summer is the time to harvest the honey from the bee hives. The bees belong to Sheila (my Mum) and this year all her monitoring and attention has really paid off.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, Mum and Dad did get a couple of chances to practice their swarm collecting skills as twice during the summer the bees all left and were found hanging onto near by trees or fence posts, but it all turned out ok in the end. We knew things were looking good when one of the hives took two people to lift off the super (the top section in which the honey is stored). The frames are then removed, have the wax capping removed and spun in a centrifuge to extract the honey. It’s an incredible amount of work for Mum and the bees but its well worth it. Bees are amazing and the more you learn about them the more they astonish you.
This month has also seen me take part in the last part of a course that I was lucky enough to be selected for. 20 young (I only just qualified!) poultry farmers were selected from across the UK by the NFU to go through various training sessions. During the year and visits to NFU HQ, The Houses of Parliament, DEFRA, the European Parliament, Holland and Aldi HQ. The most resent visit was to see the use of new technologies and innovation in poultry farming in Norfolk. One thing we have learnt from the course is the importance of farmers to engage with the public and show them what we do, so on that note – we are having a turkey open day!
On 5th November we will run 2 short guided tours at 11am and 2.30pm of the turkeys, sheep and cows, followed by a cup of tea. Everyone’s welcome, just please give us a ring or drop us an email so we know numbers.
Part four - November
Autumn is traditionally the time when rams are bought and sold. If ewes go to the ram on November 5th you should have lambs on the 1st April. This year Lindsay had 2 young rams to sell that were born in January 2015, one has gone to a small farm in Purton. The other went to Europe’s biggest ram sale at Builth Wells in wales where 4500 rams are sold in a day. I wasn’t able to go but I did receive a very excited phone call from Lindsay after her Oxford Down ram made a good price, in fact all of the Oxford sold much better than previous years.
The autumn calving group of cows have just finished calving. The last one decided to hang on for a fortnight after all the others had calved before she had hers. The weather has been kind to the cows meaning the group has been outside in the fields eating fresh grass. This is the best situation as the cows on grass means lots of milk for the calves.
The turkeys are also making the most of the fine weather, eating as many wind fall apples as I can throw into their run. The bulk of the turkey work at this time of year is in the office, Lindsay has just finished building the new online shop and since its launch orders have been coming in fast. I have recently done a tour of the turkeys to an agricultural group on a study tour and a talk for a group of NFU turkey farmer in Ludlow. All good practice for the open day! – see last months magazine or get in touch if you’d like to come along.