Category Archives: Lambs

24Hrs in Farming #Farm24

For the last few years herds of dairy farmers, flocks of shepherds and a whole coven of farmers wives have  Twitted, Blogged Inrtagramed and Facebooked about a whole 24 hrs of farming showing what they are all getting up to.

Today 9th August 2018 is this years #Farm24 day. What are we all doing this year?

Well for a start 2018 is turning out to be one of the most challenging years for decades in farmings never ending battle with the weather.  Following the wettest coldest spring in living memory, we jumped straight into the longest hottest dry spell ever. Some say farmers are never happy with the weather and there is a good reason for that. Every sector of agriculture needs different weather to the next,

From snow
From snow

Dairy farmers like a cold crisp winter to help keep animals health in the sheds as warm muggy damp conditions are only good for the spread disease such as pneumonia, but they like it to dry up in spring so the cows can get out to grass as early as possible, then they like a steady supply of rain in small doses with good sunshine to keep the grass growing all year.

Sheep farmers don’t like very cold snowy winters as the sheep live out doors and can get buried in snowdrifts and have difficulty accessing water if the pipes all freeze. Then they want a warm dry spring for lambing and a summer without too much sun and heat, and muggy thundery weather is a real bummer as this brings with it more cases of fly strike which I won’t horrify you with the details but its a very nasty thing to happen to a sheeps bottom!

to heat wave

Arable farmers like good snow in the Alps for their skiing holidays and warm beaches in the early summer for their beach holiday (only joking!!) but they need a wet warm spring to bring the good yields and to help swell the grain they then need a good long dry spell with strong sunshine to ripen the grain and let them harvest it all as dry as possible, moving on quickly to ploughing, re planting just before their next holiday!

The weather has played havoc with feed stocks already. Crop are yielding much lower and livestock are already munching their way through the winter feed as the the grass just stopped growing weeks ago. This has forced many beef and sheep farmers to sell stock early at lighter weights and as so many more are coming to the market prices have slumped so income from stock sales will be hit very hard and could be as much as 30% down.

Many farmers like ourselves have diversified into other activities and some of these demand different weather again. For us in tourism this year has been great as our guests have basked in Mediterranean heat with wall to wall sunshine. But spare us a thought on changeover days, running up and down that hill in 30 + degrees getting ready for the next guests, one constant job is checking the quality of the Ice cream sold in the shop. I need to sample a pot every few hours personally just to be sure!

So why not log on to all your social media today and see first hand what your farmers are upto.

Here are a few bits from us!

David

#Farm24 #Farmstayuk

A lot of time is spent in the office
working very hard!
Unloading lorry loads of straw by hand – better than going to the gym!
Checking on the sheep, who seem to have the right idea
Lovely weather to be a baby calf
The jobs are wide and varied, from PR to cleaning the bogs!

 

Reduce, Reuse and Recharge!!

With the world waging war on plastics since that wonderful David Attenborough programme, it made us think of what else we could do. Although we are really hot on the recycling, we are always looking for ways in which we can do more to help save the environment. Looking at the recycling boxes at the end of each week the main culprit is the mountain of plastic milk containers.

Reducing plastic

Waste plastic milk containers
Waste plastic milk containers

 

We contacted our wonderful suppliers Peak District Dairy and have now arranged to have our milk delivered in old fashioned glass milk bottles, all labeled up nicely to show how local the milk is.

Now we just rinse out and leave them out for collection and re-use. It’s funny how things in life often go full circle and we are going back to the old fashioned doorstep deliveries!

Glass milk bottles
Glass milk bottles

We cannot always send bottles back for re-use, especially beer bottles, so we have to be a little more inventive. We use David’s empties on the farm for feeding the kade lambs! I promise you it is milk in there not beer, (although that could be a whole new lamb market Wagyu lamb?). Lambs are so cute this could be a complete new avenue of sale for Thornbridge brewery?

Beer fed lamb?
Beer fed lamb?
Top 6 tips for cutting down on plastics
  1. Say NO to plastic straws and also swap disposable for reusable – refill water bottles or take a cup with you – did you know less than 0.5% of disposable cups are recycled properly?
  2. Do you really need to buy bottled water? Definitely not while you’re staying on holiday at Hoe Grange as our water comes from our own borehole – it is perfectly pure with natural minerals and nothing added.
  3. Avoid takeaways and cook at home – takeaways have lots of packaging which is often non-recyclable and fresh home cooked meals not only taste delicious but have far less calories! If you fancy going Italian you can hire our pizza oven and create and cook your own pizzas.
  4. Refill bottles – find out where your local stockist is and get your washing up and cleaning product bottles etc refilled, or use online companies like Splosh, who post out refills – you can return the packaging to them for recycling too!
  5. Plastic is used to seal tea bags closed during manufacture – why not go back to good old fashioned loose tea? Your cuppa will taste better and is quick and easy to brew once you get into the habit!
  6. Use our canvas bags for shopping and buy from our fabulous #LoveLocal independent businesses – you’ll find something extra special to take home from our Peak District Environmental Quality Mark members, whilst also supporting the Peak District environment.
Recharge your batteries

Exciting news! As well as reducing waste, we have just had fitted a new high speed car charging point. We can now charge our new plug in hybrid car too, so all those local journeys are made using electric power generated by our very own wind turbine and solar panels.

Car recharging point
Car charging point.

As well as recharging your own batteries with a relaxing holiday at Hoe Grange we’re happy for you to plug in and recharge your car too …..

David

#Farm24 – What’s it all about?

What is #Farm24?

#Farm24 is our chance to showcase 24 hours of farming in the UK, from 5am this morning on August 10 until 5am on August 11 2017. By encouraging farmers to share what they are doing throughout the day with a live feed of pictures, videos, Facebook posts and Tweets the British people will have a greater understanding of how much passion and commitment goes into producing the food they eat.

#Farm24

Pleased to report that #farm24 is now trending on Twitter so hopefully our message is getting across! It gives a rare and honest, ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight of what goes into producing British food and a chance to celebrate the achievements of farmers from all sectors of British agriculture.

From our perspective

#Farm24 offers an opportunity to share our story with the wider public and raise awareness of the care and attention we take to raise our beef cattle and sheep and farm our Peak District landscape sustainably, harnessing the latest technology. We have a policy of #loveLocal and are delighted to share our special place with our holiday guests too.

cow
she must be ready to drop her calf?

Here at Hoe Grange Farm we have been taking part in #Farm24 and recording some of the farming activities David has got up to today; from the early morning cockerel alarm clock, to , checking stock, calving a cow, pasture topping and repairing the many dry stone walls. There is always plenty to do and people often forget that maintaining the landscape is as important as caring for the animals.

Tractor pasture toppingFarming has never been considered an easy option; each day is different and you are at the mercy of the weather, seasons and needs of livestock, and the hours are long. Farming is a way of life which shapes the countryside, sustains rural communities and produces essential food for all.

solar panels and hensAt Hoe Grange we also harness the natural resources around us by using renewable technologies, including solar panels that track the sun, and a wind turbine to generate electricity. Modern farming is a business like any other that has to minimise overheads and reduce costs to remain competitive.

Welcome packWhilst farmer David is busy with the animals, farmer’s wife Felicity takes care of the holiday business, cleaning the log cabins and gorgeous glamping pods, baking biscuits, greeting guests and suggesting fabulous local places to visit, not to forget Tweeting along with the outside world! Hopefully everyone goes home with happy memories and a little wiser about modern farming.

Check us out on Twitter #Farm24 to see what we got up to today!

Felicity

My, how they’ve grown!

Spring has given way to Summer and we thought you might like to see just how much our farm animals have grown in such a short space of time!

Our little Golden Top Bantum dutifully sat on some eggs for 21 days without a break and was rewarded by 3 of the 5 eggs hatchbaby chick hatchinging – one with a little help from David!

Just seconds old with wet feathers – but mother hen soon warms the chick beneath her fluffy feathers and hey presto all three chicks look all cute and fluffy just a day later!

baby chicks

The chicks are now just 6 weeks old and look at the difference in size!

growing chicksThe newborn lambs back in April  looked like their skins where too big for their bodies, but they have certainly filled out!

Lambcollage

The suckler cows have also been nurturing their calves, and now have the attention of Phil the bull so next years calves should be on their way… and so the circle of life continues!

cows and calves

Always something to see down on the farm!

Felicity

Sheep Shearing

In a previous blog we talked about lambing our sheep, now that it’s sizzling hot in the Peak District it’s time for sheep shearing, another major event in the farming calendar.

Shearing is an important part of sheep husbandry and crucial to their welfare. If their woolly fleeces are not removed sheep can overheat, and they can also get infested with maggots which eat away at their flesh – yuk – which is detrimental to their health and most unpleasant all round! You may sometimes see strange straggly looking sheep because if you don’t shave the wool the sheep will naturally rub their hot fleeces off bit by bit.

speedy sheep shearing
Mike wrestles with a sheep

Each adult sheep is shorn once each year (a sheep may be said to have been “shorn” or “sheared”, depending upon dialect). Shearing season runs from the end of May to the middle of July, depending on location of the farm and the local climate. Being roughly 1,000ft above sea level and in the hills we usually shear at the beginning of June.

Sheep shearing is a very quick process. We have contractors who come in to shear the sheep for us as it is a real skill which takes years to perfect. They use speedy electric clippers and have to be extremely careful not to nick the skin with the blades as often the sheep are wriggling about. Although shearing is a quick process per sheep, only taking a couple of minutes, it is also physically demanding and back breaking.

sheep shearing
wool comes of in one big sheet

I think we have the fastest sheep shearer in Derbyshire!!

Whilst they are all rounded up we take the opportunity to do other little jobs with the flock like worming, spraying with fly repellent, renewing the flock mark (ours is orange on the back of the neck) and trimming feet where necessary.

You can hear when we are shearing as we separate the lambs from the ewes to avoid the lambs getting squashed. Once the sheep and lambs are turned back out in the field together there is a lot of very loud baaing as they all try to find each other. Once nude the sheep look very strange! I wonder if the lambs find it difficult to recognise their mothers who look completely different without their woolly jumpers on!

shorn sheep
Bare or should that be BAAAA sheep!

David

 

Lambing Live!!

Lambing time is here again, well it’s nearly over actually, but we’ve been too busy tending to the flock to blog about it. We have a small flock of about 25 ewes to lamb this year which are mainly Texel cross ewes, which produce a good butchers lamb.
There are some 32million sheep that graze the fields in the UK, comprising lambs, their mums – called ewes – and their dads, rams.

inquisitive number 9
inquisitive number 9

Depending on where you live, lambs are born at different times of the year. Traditionally, lambing starts in early spring but some farmers start in December whilst others are as late as April.
The amount of lambs born to one ewe varies. The average is 1.3 lambs per ewe but can be as many as five, although this causes problems as the ewe only has two teats to feed them. In such cases we have to take some of the lambs away to bottle feed them. these are called Cade lambs.
Some ewes deliver their lambs very easily so are happy to give birth alone in the field or in the lambing shed, but others, particularly first-time mothers, require a little extra help so farmers and their shepherds have to be on hand all day and night in case there’s a difficult delivery.

What Ewe looking at?
What Ewe looking at?

Here at Hoe Grange farm it all begins in the Autumn; as the old saying goes “Bonfire night tupping brings April fool lambs” . We put the rams in with our flock on Bonfire night and with our ewes and rams in prime condition it doesn’t take long for nature to run its course!
The weather was not too kind this year so we bought the sheep into a shed for lambing, as if the new born lambs get cold and wet they struggle to get up and feed and can die in those first few crucial hours. Inside the shed they are warm and dry, and it’s easier to check them in the middle of the night. However lambing inside has its disadvantages as the concentration of animals in a small area means more chance of catching bugs for the new-borns before the immune system gets strong enough to fight them off.

Get up lazy bones
Get up lazy bones

When checking the sheep, particularly at night, we always stop and listen before entering the shed as the noises the sheep make when starting to give birth are the best signs of imminent arrival. Once you disturb them, it takes their mind off the job and they go quiet.
Lambing normally goes on for about 6 weeks, although all ours lambed in 3 weeks this year so we were very lucky as getting up 2 times every night for 6 weeks can be exhausting.
Once born they are put into individual pens for 48 hrs to bond, feed and get going. Then they are let into small groups inside for 24 hrs before being turned out into the field if the weather is fine.
The best sight is a group of 20-30 strong healthy lambs all gamboling around the field at top speed in the sunshine. Time then to lean on the wall and wonder at the marvels of nature!

David

On look out duty
On look out duty

10 years and we are going to the dogs!

It doesn’t seem like it, but in a few weeks time it will be 10 years since we welcomed our first ever guests. I can well remember two very nervous hosts showing in our first visitors  Mr and Mrs Clews and their friends Mr and Mrs Fox, who brought 2 horses with them.

A couple of weeks later we welcomed Mr and Mrs Fosby, who was a our first wheelchair using guest. Little did we know how large a part both of these type of guests would play in shaping the business we have today.

We have met some extraordinary people over the past 10 years, many who have become good friends and appear at astonishingly regular intervals. Our most regular guests being Neville, Val, Bob and Thelma who have been nearly 30 times and have another 3 holidays booked for 2016!

lambs cowAnimals have played a huge part in our success. Our dogs, Twix, Crunchie and Fudge get more mentions in the guest book than we do, also the horses, chickens, sheep and even the odd (very odd!) calf “Austin”.

 

 

We have welcomed 100’s of horses over the years, and even a cat or two, but what has impressed us the most are the fantastic assistance dogs we see on a regular basis. These superbly trained dogs make difficult lives that little bit better, and at the same time provide comfort and companionship like no other!

We want to celebrate our 10 years by doing something special, so we have decided to  raise enough money to buy and train a Canine Partners assistance puppy! Our target is £5000 over the next 12 months and we have some exciting plans to make this happen.

I think you may meet this little fella at one of our events
I think you may meet this little fella at one of our events!

When booking online you can choose to donate £5 or more by selecting the drop down menu and there are collecting tins in the cabins for your loose change.

We took part in a photo shoot for a charity calendar in association with Molten Rock the manufacturers of the magnificent  Boma 7 off-road wheelchair with 1/12th of the proceeds going to our fund. Order your copy here!

In February we are holding a charity cinema evening showing my favorite film “Hot  fuzz” where guests will dress appropriately and join in with the film, we will of course be selling Cornettos that night!

On Friday 11th March we have an open day from 11am to 3pm to celebrate Disabled Access Day – come and join us for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

On Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April we have invited owners of Boma 7’s from across the country to get together for a fun off-road challenge across our farm fields, followed by an afternoon coutnryside walk/Boma trek.

On Friday May 6th our neighbour, super star Vicki Lambert, has kindly agreed to sing for her supper as Dusty Springfield – she has an amazing voice and I guarantee she will make it a fun evening and get you all dancing and singing along.

For the more active in July we will be hosting a cream tea walk for the Erewash Ramblers and there will be a reindeer walk nearer Christmas. Who knows what else we will get up to?

We would love for you all to be involved with as many of the activities as possible and help us to achieve our target, and help change someone’s life. Maybe you would benefit from an assistance dog? Find out what a Canine Partners assistance dog could do for you and how to apply.

We will be keeping you up to date with our progress here on the blog and on our Facebook page – watch this space!

David

Canine Partners

#Farm24

On the 20th August 2015 hundreds of British farmers recorded their day with video and photographs to help the general public understand how wide and varied the work of a British farmer is.

What were we up to at Hoe Grange that day?

Take a look at our #farm24 and see!


Checking all are present and correct……


and all are with their mummies….


even if their mummies are not really their mummies.


Time then for a little tractor work, mowing off the overgrown grass so fresh grass can grow in its place.

Keep calm and canter onNot forgetting to look after our guests as well, pointing out the best rides.

See the nationwide effort of our dedicated farmers recorded for #farm24 through The Farmers Guardian. Alternatively, find out more about our very own Peak District farm here.

David

“Shear” delight

It’s sizzling hot here in the Derbyshire Peak District, but our flock of sheep are cool and content as they have been sheared – or you could also say shorn, but not Shaun as in Shaun the Sheep of cartoon fame!

Sheep shearing at Hoe Grange It only takes a few minutes to sheer each sheep

Not only does shearing keep the sheep cool during the hot summer months, but it prevents disease and fly strike where the maggots eat into the flesh of the animal, which as you can imagine is pretty horrible.

Anyone can attempt to shear a sheep, but not everyone can do a good job. Shearing is a specialized skill – speed is of the essence, so the sheep are not stressed or on their backs for too long, but skill is required to remove the fleece in one piece, without nicking or cutting the animals.

wool sack
the fleeces are tightly packed
in large sacks for transportation

The whole fleece is then carefully rolled and tied by its own wool before being placed in a large sack for transportation. Wool is a modified form of hair that grows with a natural waviness or crimp, which is characteristic of the breed of sheep. Fleeces of British sheep can be classified into three main types: carpet wools, down wools and long wools, each with differing end uses.

Wool is an extremely versatile product, is wear resistant, provides good insulative properties as well as being able to absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. Despite these qualities and the fact that it is completely natural, wool has been widely displaced by the use of cheaper synthetic fibres.

Sheep shearing and wool production has been an important part of the UK’s sheep industry over the last six thousand years. The earliest sheep had pigmented coats and naturally moulted allowing farmers to collect the fallen wool, but over time breeds developed with improved wool characteristics, which meant that they had to be sheared.

Interestingly by the Middle Ages wool had become the UK’s most important output, being exported throughout Europe creating great wealth – sad to say this is no longer the case and often the price paid for the fleece does not cover the actual cost of shearing.

It would be fantastic if all new buildings used natural sheep wool for insulation instead of man made products. We used sheep wool insulation in our log cabins and they are wonderfully cosy even in the coldest of winters!

Later, as exports of wool declined, production was used domestically in the fast growing cloth industries where technological advance fueled the industrial revolution and the move away from agriculture to an urban, industrial society. Derbyshire which is attributed to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution played a key role – you can find out more by visiting Sir Richard Arkwright’s Mills, just down the road at Cromford, now a World Heritage Site.

For ease of handling the sheep are separated from the lambs for shearing so once they are all shorn and let back out into the field the noise is deafening as the ewes and lambs try to find each other again!

Another milestone in the farming year satisfactorily completed.

Felicity

sheep herding
The sheep and lambs get back together in the field

Baa.. It's me, don't you recognize your own mum?
Baa.. It’s me, don’t you recognize your own mum?

Tissington Well Dressings 2014

It’s amazing how quickly the seasons change and another year flies by, but the ancient tradition of well dressing is ever constant. The Peak District hosts many well dressings, but Tissington village produces some of the most spectacular, with a total of 6 wells.

Tissington Well Dressings
Hall Well commemorating the First World War

It is unclear as to the exact origin of well dressings – some believe they were originally pagan celebrations, others consider they only go back as far as the Black Death in the 1348. Many communities were devastated by the dreadful plague, but Tissington was spared and locals believed their escape was due to the purity of the water. Did thanksgiving begin then or perhaps later in 1615 when the country experienced a severe drought? At this time Tissington continued to have a supply of water from its five wells and a thanksgiving service was held.

What is clear is that the tradition of well dressing is an ancient art going back hundreds of years and is still going strong today. The themes are often biblical, but this year several commemorate the First World War.

The Lion and The Lamb - look carefully the lion even has whiskers!
The Lion and The Lamb – look carefully the lion even has whiskers!

Each well is decorated with a surrounding picture made from a board covered with a clay/salt mix. The boards are first soaked in the village pond after which they are plastered and then the picture is traced onto them.

Cones and coffee beans are used as outlines and the filling in of the picture is done with brightly coloured flower petals, twigs, wool and stones. This is done during the previous three days to Ascension Day.

It’s not just a thanksgiving but a marvellous way of bringing the whole village community together as everyone contributes in some way to this annual event, digging clay, picking flowers, decorating the boards or erecting the dressings at the wells throughout the village.

The celebrations start on Ascension Day (celebrated on the 40th day of Easter which is always a Thursday) with a procession blessing each well and a Church service at St.Mary`s. The Well Dressings are displayed for a week and they are definitely not to be missed.

It’s interesting to see the slide show of behind the scenes and how the wells are created and dressed.

Felicity

Hand's Well at Tissington Village 2014
Hand’s Well – a biblical theme of The Lion and The Lamb

Tissington Well dressings 2014
6th well introduced in 1982 decorated by local children

Town Well at Tissington well dressings
Town Well with a stunning black and white theme

Tissington Well Dressings - Yew Tree Well
Yew Tree Well celebrating the community

Coffin Well at Tissington
Coffin Well commemorating World War 1

the art of well dressing
Dove of peace in a hydrangea sky