TB trouble on the farm

Arable News

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Daniel began combining the peas this month. We had to wait until the weather was hot enough to burn on any excess moisture from the crop as moisture will encourage the crop to break down during storage. The peas were sown with oats so that when the pea plant naturally falls to the floor the oats will elevate it allowing it to be combined more easily. This should boost the protein levels in our winter feed.

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Cattle News

We are currently registered as having a TB infected herd and as such on 60 days testing frequency. August saw another TB test in which a further 25 reactors tested positive during the test and have been isolated ready to be removed.

In the last two years this brings the total cattle removed from the holding as 104. These numbers cannot be sustained and the future for the cattle at Godolphin is looking bleak.

The debate over what is causing the TB to spread to the cattle has been running for several years and seemingly no closer to finding a resolution. At ground level the financial and emotional pain of loading up seemingly healthy animals to be taken to the abattoir is horrendous. We have no idea what the next TB test results will be but we do know that with only 68 animals left on the holding we cannot sustain this for much longer.

 

Sheep News

The pregnant ewes have been transported to the home farm and are preparing to lamb. Lambing season is very labour intensive and Sam, who is in charge of the September lambers will be up all hours of the day and night.

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The ewes are due any time from 25th September 2016, exactly 147 days since the rams went in. They are given special attention during this last month as any stress to the animal could be maximised whilst heavily pregnant and could result in a dead ewe and lamb. These situations can develop very quickly so the ewes are monitored regularly.

These ewes haven’t been scanned so we have no idea whether they are carrying singles, twins, triplets or completely baron. We would hope that all the first timers would have a single lamb and all the experienced ewes would have twins with no baron ewes nor triplets resulting in a target lambing rate of 1.38%. Overall when our September lambers finish we should have 29 healthy mothers and 40 healthy lambs. In theory at least!

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Ruby Reds are back on Godolphin Hill

Arable news

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We have also started growing a mix of peas and beans at Godolphin. This should allow us to produce a protein mix ideally suited to feeding the organic livestock. Daniel has already been busy weeding the crop and we hope to harvest at the end of the summer.

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The hay meadows are bouncing into life with the wild flowers and bumble bees. This is an important habitat for the nesting birds. The hay cannot be cut until mid-July to allow the young time to leave their nesting place. This is part of our Higher Level Stewardship Agreement with Natural England.

 

Cattle news

The calving season continues and here is one of Mark’s favourite cows ‘Miss Marple’ with her new calf. She is a shorthorn Hereford cross and is extremely friendly. She, like most of the herd calve outside and will rear her calf with very little interference for the rest of the year.

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The ruby reds are now back up on the Godolphin hill preforming their duties management grazing. There are both cows and calves in this herd and they are well used to the public however we would ask that you keep your dogs on a lead when approaching the herd so as not to cause the animals undue stress.

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As part of the management grazing we have been looking at ways in which to encourage the Ruby Reds to graze the far side of the hill. It appears that they are reluctant to spend too much time there as there is not a water course nearby.

There are plans to sink a bore hole on the far side of the hill and a friend of ours, also an organic farmer, accompanied Mark to the site at Godolphin to see if there was any evidence of water underground which could be utilised to satisfy the cattle water needs.

Chris is pictured with a dowser, a hand held, V shaped branch which should naturally gravitate towards underground water.  He is very confident that there is plenty of water at this site.

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Sheep news

Our ram Uggster is in the lower paddocks with a small group of 28 ewes.

Currently we are experimenting with a new breeding timetable. This is a benefit of the Dorset sheep breed as they come into season throughout the year as opposed to some other breeds of sheep. However, the ewe will only become fertile when she is ready and this can be affected by everything from her condition score to the weather during tupping. The success of this experiment will depend on how many of the 28 ewes are successfully in lamb.

The ewes and ram have been selected specifically for this breeding experiment using a mix of older, more experienced ewes which have successfully bred before and younger, novice mothers which can have special attention in their first breeding season.

Uggster’s chest is marked with a red raddle paint which will then rub off on the ewes during mating. The colour is changed periodically so Mark can see how active Uggster has been and to check all the ewes have been mated with.

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This should result in a late September lambing season. The lambs can grow on slowly through the winter and be ready for market in early spring. Hopefully, it will also put less burden on the lambing shed during November and January and still be viable to produce prime lamb at this time of year.

 

Lamb boxes

Lamb boxes are still available.

The lamb is organically reared at the Godolphin Estate and is both Red Tractor and Soil Association approved. The lamb comes from our closed flock of Pedigree, Poll Dorsets which graze the land at Godolphin Estate.

The feedback from this year’s lamb boxes has been really great and there is still time if you would like to try a lamb box for yourselves. Please telephone Ruth on 01326 573248 for prices, cuts and availability.

Photo 1 : The contents of a half lamb box.

 

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Other news

The dung spreader has been out of action as Daniel found a small bird family making a home amongst the machine workings. He has been keeping an eye on them and this week the chicks have fledged the nest. It has suited them this year but next year they may want to find a more secure location than the back end of the dungspreader!

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April on the farm

 

TB Testing

April, saw yet another TB test. Currently, the Estate is on 60 days testing until they can provide two consecutive clear tests. I am sure that the cows are more than fed up of these injections as they have been tested every 60 days since February 2015. The injections are given and then the animals skin reaction is measured after three days. As you can appreciate this takes time to organise as well as man power and stress to the animals.

One animal had a positive reaction to the test in the month. This means the TB restriction continues, the cow had to be isolated and destroyed.

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Arable news

The oats that were sown last month are beginning to germinate in the nice weather and Mark is here taking a ground sample to see how well the germination is progressing. These should grow on through the spring and be ready to harvest in the autumn.

He will need to identify any problems quickly as in an organic system he cannot use sprays and pesticides to rectify any issues. This will not only be his feed for his cattle and sheep next winter but the straw, a bi-product, will also be used as their bedding.

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Cattle news

The Ruby Reds Cattle are soon to head back up on to the hill at Godolphin after spending the winter months grazing the lower fields in the Estate that are more protected from the winds and rain.

They are specifically required to graze the hill as they are hardy enough to break through areas of bracken and gorse, reclaiming areas which naturally evolve over time creating a more diverse habitat for the wildlife. They are most suited to this environment and managed the landscape much better than humans can mechanically. However, this is a long term process and this herd have been doing this job since 2005.

The hill is enjoyed by hundreds of people finding their way through the maze of paths created by the cattle to get to the top of the hill.

If you see the cattle on the hill please take a moment to appreciate the good work they do.

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Sheep News

Sheep weighing continues. In this photo Sam brings the ewes and lambs down a race so the lambs can be weighed to check their progress. This also gives Mark and Ruth a chance to monitor the health of the ewes closely looking for any that may be struggling to cope with the growing lambs feeding requirements.

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Once the lambs have reached 44kg in weight and have the correct confirmation, i.e. body shape they are marked and separated from their mothers as her job is now done. The lambs are then sorted to see which are suitable to be sold at the local livestock market at Truro, which will go straight to the abattoir for Dales the local butcher in Helston and which of the females will make good replacement stock for next year.

Unfortunately, going to market has no guarantees on price and as we have found out the prices animals receive can be volatile depending on the buyers there on the day. It is also dependent on the global supply and demand for lamb. The lambing supply is staggered in the UK with more lambs hitting the market up through the country as spring progresses, the British supply still has to compete with the New Zealand imports though driving the price per head down further.

 

Lamb boxes

Lamb boxes are available from now until June, these are the lambs that graze the fields at the Godolphin Estate and on organic pastures.  We keep Poll Dorsets sheep as they have a wonderful flavour and produce lean and tender meat.

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Anyone interested in purchasing a half or whole lamb boxed can register their interest by telephoning 01326 573248 and we can let you know when the next lamb boxes will be available. The wait in usually only a couple of weeks.

Spring time on the farm

At last Spring is officially upon us for 2016 and here at the Godolphin Estate, after a long winter in the sheds, most of the cattle have been put out to grass.   It’s lovely to see them as they kick up their heels and immediately start munching as they enter the fields.   The calves stick close to their mothers and can finally have some sun on their backs.

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This last winter has been one of the wettest we have ever experienced and it has been particularly frustrating for us continually trying to keep all the cattle bedded up in such damp conditions.   Some cattle had to remain in the fields, but have come through fairly well and must be thankful winter is behind them.

Unfortunately we are still under TB restriction and not able to sell our cattle unless at a TB restricted market at a reduced sale price. We cannot afford to let our cattle be sold at a loss so all hopes are pinned on becoming TB free very soon. Our next TB test will be in April, but we have to have a negative result on two consecutive 60 day tests to gain a TB free status.

Lambing went well and the ewes were taken to our home farm to lamb so they can be checked every couple of hours and are now all back in the fields at Godolphin.   Although our sheep are all the same breed and look the same, the lambs immediately recognise their own mothers call and they soon pair themselves up after being transported down from the home farm.

Signs are placed on the gates of their fields so please be considerate and put your dogs on leads as we have already have a number of dog attacks this year, the most recent one, just yesterday in which the previously healthy lamb had been so badly damaged it had to be destroyed.

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We have already sheared around the back end of the ewes to deter flies, a process known as dagging before they are completely sheared in May. Mark and Ruth are dagging in the left of this picture. You can also see Sam, back from 3 years on Canada, to the right, checking the ewes teeth, udders and feet before weighing them.

The ewes and lambs then need to be walked back out to the field. They are walked in and out from the shed for a variety of reasons and so it is quite likely that if you are a regular walker at Godolphin you will see us at some point over the next few months.

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This years spring lambs are growing well and some have already been marketed after reaching their optimum weight.   Lamb boxes are available from now until June, these are the lambs that graze the fields at the Godolphin Estate and on organic pastures. We keep Poll Dorsets sheep as they have a wonderful flavour and produce lean and tender meat.

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Anyone interested in purchasing a half or whole lamb boxed can register their interest by telephoning 01326 573248 and we can let you know when the next lamb boxes will be available. The wait in usually only a couple of weeks.

Other news on the Estate, some large trees fell with the high winds and we were lucky the sheep decided to stay at the top of the field on this occasion.

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The boys are busy and now with spring here, you will see the tractors and implements heading around the Estate getting the ground ready for another busy year.

Daniel has been spreading the farmyard dung from the sheds which will provide essential goodness to promote the natural growth of the grasslands over time. This is extremely important in an organic system as we cannot artificially boost the nutrients quickly with chemical based manures like a non-organic system.

Sam has been rotivating the headlands whilst Mark has been ploughing.

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Next month on the farm …… Tb testing, drilling the spring corn and weighing lambs.

 

June and July on the farm

It’s been pretty busy on the farm. The sheep all came in to be sheared which I’m sure they were very thankful for! Adam & Vivian Care sheared this year, bringing their pens and equipment with them.

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It is quite a skillful job to shear a sheep that won’t stay still and very hot work, nevertheless, they were sheared pretty quickly. The fleece that is taken off the sheep is laid out and then has to be rolled and put into a large bag provided by the Wool Marketing Board. The bags have to be packed evenly and are then stitched up and taken to Liskeard for processing.

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We have also introduced two new pedigree Poll Dorset rams to the girls – Unanimous and Uggster. They set to work straight away and hopefully we will see their lambs born in November.

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Our young ewe lambs that were taken off their mothers in April will either be sold on or grown on and used as replacements for our flock. We operate a ‘closed’ flock, apart from the rams which are brought in.

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We sold 40 of our young November lambs to another organic farmer from Gloucestershire for breeding and he travelled down to collect them from Godolphin.

The flies at this time of the year are very irritating for both cattle and sheep and the young stock were moved to fields higher up where the flies aren’t so prevalent.

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The winter wheat is really looking good and will be cut around the middle of August, weather permitting.

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Occasionally, when the Ruby Reds are conservation grazing the hill at Godolphin, we have to walk the hill to locate them. We often sit on top of the hill just admiring the stunning view for 360 degrees. If you haven’t had a chance to get to the top this year you should really make the effort, it is well worth it and you won’t be disappointed.

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On the very last day of June, our ‘white’ heifer gave birth to a healthy bull calf which was a nice surprise as we have been waiting a while for this one!

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Unfortunately, we have again gone down with TB at Godolphin losing another 2 cows, both pedigree Ruby Reds, which is a very disappointing result and means the Ruby Reds, that have grazed the hill at Godolphin so well, are severely depleted.   Both these cows had young calves on them, but have managed to fend for themselves and are coping well.

The first of the silage at Godolphin has been cut.   It is cut with a large mower and then left to wilt in the field for apx. 24 hours.  It was a good crop, boosted by a nice amount of clover.   The headlands were left untouched for the wildlife.    Ideally you don’t want any rain at this stage.

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The silage is drammed up which means it is gathered into wide rows before it enters the baler.

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The bales are about half a ton in weight and, although they look like they could be fun to climb on, are really quite dangerous and can roll very easily.

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The bales are then brought into the yard and placed on a machine that wraps 4-5 layers of plastic tightly around them to preserve them for winter feed.    They are then stacked tidily away using the ‘soft hands’ to ensure they don’t get punctured.

The fields are then left for the grass to grow again for about 10 weeks when a second cut is made and the process is repeated.

Next time ….. hay season and combining .

Mark’s May

Early in the month we had our second TB test after being hit particularly hard earlier in the year losing 32 of our cattle to the disease. Unfortunately, we are still seeing the disease, but lost just 4 of the cattle this time.

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Advice sought, after such a severe outbreak, leads to perhaps a dead infected badger on the hill which the cattle came into contact with. We are, therefore, still under restriction, and, hopefully on our next test we will go clear which, after yet another clear test, we can look forward to being able to market our cattle once again.

All of the cattle are out and loving the freedom of being in the fields after a long winter in the sheds.

They continue to calve outside, we are waiting for the arrival of the ‘white’ heifers calf due very shortly.

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This month, after getting water from the natural spring on Godolphin Hill to Calves Meadow, we were able to put 30 young heifers in this field for the first time since we have been on the Estate.

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The ruby reds, although depleted, are back on the hill and gaining the condition that they lost through being out all winter.   These cattle are a traditionally quiet breed and can be outwintered, which makes them perfect for grazing the hills at Godolphin.

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Daniel has been top dressing the winter wheat in the Hill Fields and this crop is showing good signs of a bumper harvest.

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We have been marketing our organic lambs this month and weigh them every two weeks to ensure they are at the optimum weight. The females are taken off their mothers to break them and allow them to now feed off the grass of Godolphin. Sheep will do anything if food is involved and can be moved fairly easily from field to field.   We continue to monitor the ewes for mastitis and creep feed the lambs.

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As the weather warms up we have to keep a sharp look for signs of flystrike. This is when the bluebottle lays eggs in the warm moist wool of the ewe and within days maggots will be hatching out and feeding off the flesh of the ewe. The ewes have all been dagged and the ewe lambs that have been taken off their mothers. We have had a couple of cases of flystrike which have been dealt with. At the end of the month the main flock will be sheared and the bluebottle will have nowhere to lay their eggs.

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Silage has begun on the home farm, but because Godolphin is in higher level stewardship, silage cannot be cut until June. This does, however, enable nesting birds to hatch in peace!   It is very noticeable the amount of swallows in particular skimming the hay fields and a lovely sight. The hay fields are cut in July after, hopefully, a long dry spell.

Next month, alongside silage and the last of the calving for the year, we should see the introduction of our two new rams to our Poll Dorset sheep.

Spring Pastures

This month on the farm at Godolphin is always a happy time when, weather permitting, the cattle are led up to spring pastures after a long winter in the shed.   We all love to watch them as they kick up their heels and start munching on the fresh grass.   Calves continue to be born, but outside now where they are soon up on their feet and suckling their mothers.

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There are a lot less of the Ruby Red cattle because of the severe loss of so many to TB in February.   We are fast approaching another TB test and, fingers crossed, hope to be free of TB so that we can start to re-stock.   If the test is proved to be positive again, we will have to wait another 60 days for yet another test.

Mark has been busy planting spring wheat and spring oats.   A good crop will mean an abundance of straw to be used as bedding for the cattle during the winter months in the sheds.  Mark has also been top dressing the winter wheat with fertiliser to enable a better crop.

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The stewardship headlands are now well grown with grass which is allowing the small animals and birds to nest without disturbance and provide plenty of cover.  Birds can be heard singing all over the Estate.

The lambs that were born in the November/December months are well grown and some have already been marketed.   We had another unfortunate incident when a fully grown ewe was killed by dogs in March, but hopefully, people will take notice of the signs on certain gateways to be responsible and keep their dogs on leads around livestock.

The ewes that have had their lambs removed have to be watched closely for mastitis and this can be deadly if not spotted and attended to.   The lambs are creep fed with an organic pellet to help put weight on them in order they can be marketed at the right time, but mostly they rely on their mothers to provide milk until they can nibble on the grass themselves.

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We market some of our spring lambs as lamb boxes.   They are sold in half or whole lamb boxes at a cost of £75 per half lamb and £140 per whole lamb.   Anyone interested in a lamb box can contact us on 01326 573248, subject to availability.

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We have also been ‘dagging’ the ewes which means shearing them around the tail area as the spring grass sometimes becomes too rich for them and they need to be kept clean in order that they do not attract flies as the weather becomes warmer.    We now have a sheep dagging platform which enables Mark to work behind the sheep more easily and keeps them relatively still, also preventing a lot of pressure on his back.

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The month ahead will continue to be busy with sheds being cleaned out and preparation for the most busy time in the farm calendar ‘silage season’!