Sunday, 28 February 2010
This is our sheep field at the moment:
As you can see it is pretty muddy. We have had a very harsh winter and the result of the continual round of snow, thaw, frost, thaw etc is that the ground is really saturated and there is barely any grass in sight. We are looking out hopefully for signs of spring and some new growth, but not much prospect of that just yet.
Fortunately the sheep don't seem to be unduly concerned by the state of the ground. The vet was in this week for their annual health check and they were seen to be in fine form. Having said that, we do have to be very careful about their diet. As they are pregnant, their nutrition is a priority and we are giving them extra rations of hay and concentrates. There would certainly not be enough grass in this mirey field to nourish a flock of pregnant ewes. We now have huge stockpiles of sheep feed and what can't be stored elsewhere has ended up in our kitchen!
The vet will be back next week to show us how to give the sheep their yearly vaccinations so that we'll be able to do them ourselves next time.
Bring on that sunshine...
Sunday, 14 February 2010
We are novices at lambing. Black Welsh Mountain sheep are a hardy breed and one of the reasons we decided on them is that they are said to require very little help at lambing. We have been advised that they are pretty independent when it comes to giving birth.
Having said that, we have never been through lambing before and are only too aware of our lack of experience. So we thought it might be a good idea to go along to a lambing course which was run by our local country veterinary practice. It was held at a farm in the Cambridgeshire Fens and we were delighted to be able to pick the brains of John Maxwell – who has been farming for decades and has been though pretty much everything when it comes to sheep. There were a lot of small holders, a show breeder and even some total newbies like ourselves. Everyone was keen to learn – and to learn from each other.
Mr Maxwell brought us round his farm where he is at the end of lambing with his Charollais ewes. They are a large breed and looked enormous compared to our little Welshies. We got the lowdown on all the care required and interventions that may be needed as well as the tagging procedures and drugs that should be on standby in emergencies. We were also encouraged to get some hands on experience and were pleased to get the chance to do our first bit of tagging and tail docking. We went through how to deal with prolapses, various birthing problems, how to feed lambs colostrum and castration. Our vet also told us to be on the alert for all sorts of illnesses that can be a cause for concern at this time (watery mouth disease, navel ill etc).
We came away from the day feeling much more knowledgeable (if a little nervous...okay then...very nervous!).
Many thanks to the Maxwells for letting us all descend on their farm at such a busy time of year. It was bitterly cold – but our feet thawed out very well in the farm kitchen, helped by some delicious piping hot homemade soup!
Tiny Farmer out
ps. We have only just discovered the comments tag on the blog. To everyone who has posted comments so far, thank you and apologies for not replying to them sooner. Now that we're aware of it we'll respond.
Monday, 8 February 2010
It’s a bad day here. Last night we came back home after dusk and went out to lock up the chickens. Only to find that there were no chickens – just a pile of feathers where the chickens used to be.
When we got the chicks almost exactly a year ago we recall the farmer saying to us "you only have to forget once and the fox will be in there". Well that's exactly what happened last night, we forgot to put on the electric fence and now have to take full responsibility for the demise of the chickens. We're not the only one to have suffered – our neighbours have had theirs taken on two occasions and have told us not to lose heart, but try again in a few months time.
We were slightly concerned about how the children might react at the news that their pets had been eaten. We needn’t have worried too much, our son wanted to exact revenge by shooting the fox next time and our unsentimental daughter commented "well Lester did bite me…can I get a chicken that doesn’t bite next time"
Despite this outward appearance of not being too phased, we are all very sad to have lost our faithful and friendly egg producers.
Henny Penny, Lester, Defender and Sarrie - RIP - you'll be missed by all of us.
Monday, 1 February 2010
On Sunday we all went to have a walk around our new piece of land.
It extends right to the back of the far trees in that picture. So the Tiny Farm is now a whopping 15 acres...still very small I know, but it feels huge to us!
We wanted to have a bit more space as we have 3 Hereford calves and 2 Highland calves arriving in a few months - how exciting. We’d like to breed a few and rear some for beef. The new acreage will also allow us to move the sheep on to better grazing and as an added bonus having sheep and cattle on the same land reduces the amount of worming treatment needed.
Before all that happens we had the exciting task of exploration!
The fields will be lovely in the summer – some beautiful old trees and a lovely little bit of woodland. We spotted a muntjac and a pheasant. The children soon found an exciting stream to try and cross and some fabulous potential dens. I think we could all have some great fun here – and I’m sure the cattle will love it too!
I know it's still the middle of winter and freezing cold, but with the days just getting slightly longer I just can't help but feel that spring will soon be on the way and then we'll be dealing with lambing and getting to know our new cattle - brilliant! But I guess that there's quite a bit of work to do before then.
Tiny Farmer out.