Category Archives: Sheep

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!

 

Saving water in a sizzling summer

Farming always has its ups and downs but this year has been particularly challenging. The winter snows were severe with the Beast from the East which meant a late spring, followed on by the current heatwave which is causing havoc with the harvests.

cows and sheepSunshine and heat is wonderful for our holiday guests staying in our log cabins and glamping pods, but not so great for the farm animals. June 2018 has been the driest on record. I can’t recall when I last saw the farm fields so brown and the grass is so dry it scrunches underneath your feet.

Making hay while the sun shines

hay making We usually make silage for winter forage for the cows and sheep and around 900 small bales of hay.  Hay making was interesting as the cut grass was so light and dry that half of it blew away! Whilst the sizzling sunshine has produced excellent quality hay, the excessive dry weather has meant the quantity is about half the usual yield at just 430 bales.

We are not alone and there will be a shortage of winter feed, compounded by the fact that farmers are having to feed their cattle and sheep now in midsummer as there is so little grass growing. It also means reduced income as the price of lamb has fallen due to an increase in supply as many farmers are having to sell their lambs early due to the lack of feed.

1967 Massey Ferguson 135 tractor
1967 Massey Ferguson 135 tractor

Whilst the scorching heat continues here in the Peak District with temperatures over 30 degrees we carry on farming with animal well fare a top priority.

Mike wrestles with a sheep

The sheep have been shorn and shed their winter woolly jumpers and we are keeping a special eye on the troughs to make sure the cattle have sufficient water to drink.

We also have a new member of the team. This week also saw the arrival of Havenfield Lotus, a new pedigree Hereford bull, who seemed right at home with his new ladies!

Use water wisely

water glas by RawpixelDid you know that only 3% of the world’s water is fresh and less than 1% of this fresh water is available for human use? The rest being frozen or located too deep within the earth for us to reach it.

Our Derbyshire ancestors have always celebrated the importance of fresh water by dressing the village wells and giving thanks.

Saving water is always important, but especially so whilst the sizzling summer continues.

Top ten tips for saving water
  1. When you wash your dishes by hand, remember to turn the tap off in-between rinsing. And don’t rinse dishes before you put them in a dishwasher – that’s what the machine is designed to do – just scrape all the excess food off the dishes and let the machine do the rest.
  2. Stop! Before pulling the plug out the kitchen sink, use the washing up water to rinse out bottles, food cartons and cans before putting them in the recycle bin.
  3. Switch off the tap whilst brushing your teeth – you can waste at least half a pint of water per minute if you leave the tap on!
  4. Keeping a large bottle of tap water in the fridge ensures you can have chilled water all the time. Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste more than 10 litres of water a day.
  5. A shower uses 2/3 the amount of water as a bath – keep it short and turn off the shower head while soaping! Every minute you spend in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water .
  6. Switch to an efficient shower head which will allow you to lather up in less water
  7. Washing a full machine load of clothes uses less water and energy than 2 half-loads
  8. Modern dual-flush systems save huge amounts of water. They use just 6 litres – or 4 with a reduced flush – much less than the 13 litres for each old-style single flush.
  9. Or fit your toilet with a ‘hippo’, a bag (available free from your water company, usually) that could help you save up to 3.5 litres of water per flush.
  10. Drive round in a dirty car – you don’t need to wash it every week! A hose with the tap turned on full can use up to 320 litres of water in half an hour!

We hope you found our top ten water saving tips useful and would love to hear if you have some more ideas to share.

Felicity 

Ashbourne Sheep Fair

Ashbourne Sheep Fair today was a real celebration of all things sheep. There was a great turn out of folk to watch the hand shearing demonstrations, wool yarn spinning and the mock auction, which all gave the public an insight into the history and tradition of sheep farming in the Derbyshire Peak District.

shearing sheep by hand      spinning yarn

It was fabulous to see 17 breeds of sheep on display so that you could get up really close and compare the differences. The length and quality of wool varies tremendously, some sheep produce better meat and watch out as some breeds have the most amazing impressive horns!

whiteface woodland sheep
Whitefaced Woodland Sheep

There were lots of fun family activities from, guess the weight of the sheep, a sheep bran tub with a difference, to live music.

sheep fair crafts The market stalls were packed with #LoveLocal sheep related goodies including, Snelston Tweed fabrics and clothing, the The Woolroom duvets, mattresses and pillows, Drynose Dog Designs with wonderful quirky glass ware and gifts and David’s favourites – chocolate sheep-shaped lollies and cider from Kniveton Cider Company pressed from local apples.

If you had a question there were plenty of expert farmers on hand to explain the different attributes of the various breeds and geographically where they are best suited to graze.

ask a farmer      sheep farmer  It was wonderful to see some more local rare breeds including the Whiteface Woodland and the Derbyshire Gritstone, one of the oldest breeds, which as the name suggests, is native to the North of the Peak District, where it can thrive on the moorlands.

Derbyshire Grtistone sheep
Derbyshire Gritstone Sheep

Valais Blacknose Sheep For wool quality and sheer cute “ahh” factor the Valais Blacknose stole the show with their fluffy curly fleeces. As you can tell by their little bells round their necks they are not native to Derbyshire, but come from Switzerland. This means that they are adapted to hill pastures, and are thus becoming more popular in the UK.

You can find out more about the various sheep breeds on the Ashbourne Sheep Fair website.

The Sheep Fair took place on the main market square where weekly markets have been held since the first charter in 1257! It was a great success and is sure to take place again next year so why not join in the fun?

In the meantime the good news is that the Ashbourne Artisan Market is being launched on 10th September and will take place on the second Sunday of every month. I can’t wait to see what #LoveLocal delights will be on sale!

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