June on the farm and TB results

Arable news

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The peas are growing well. They are already up to head height and flowering which is creating the perfect habitat for bees and butterflies. You can hear the field buzzing with life. We hope to harvest at the end of the summer.

Cattle news

We had another routine Tb test in June. At our last test, 60 days ago, we had one cow identified as a reactor to the Defra administered test. This animal was removed and slaughtered in line with Defra regulations.

This month the same test on the same animals revealed 21 reactors to the test. This is devastating to our herd and the animals were isolated ready for collection by the abattoir. Amongst these reactors was Mark’s favourite cow ‘Snowdrop’, Jess’s favourite ‘Granny Panda’, the last remaining bull ‘Wizard’ and a range of cows and young stock, the youngest animal being just 4 months old.  This photo was taken whilst waiting for collection.

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We are devastated by this latest test and have seriously got to think about the future of the animals held at this holding.   We are left with 6 calves without their mother which have to be bucket fed which is going to prove difficult as they are a couple of months old now and quite big, so fingers crossed, they will take to being bucket fed and adjust to life without their mums.

                  

Sheep news

Its shearing time at Godolphin and all the ewes were brought in to remove their winter fleeces. Matthew and Adam Care brought their equipment to the farm and began shearing the flock with Irik and the Pascoes rolling the fleeces and keeping the sheep moving through the pens and race.

Shearing helps keep them cool in the summer months as well as deterring ‘fly strike’ which involves flies laying eggs in the fleece which then hatch into maggots and begin eating away at the ewes skin. Mark and Sam are constantly observing the ewes to see if any are scratching or rubbing which maybe an indication of what is going on under the fleece. It is as horrible as it sounds and without their fleeces the ewes are a lot less prone to fly strike.

The rams, Walter and Unanimous are in Ferney Park, a field under the Godolphin hill with the main flock. They have their chests painted with a harmless raddle which allows Mark to identify which of the ewes are coming into season and how well Walter and Unanimous are performing. The raddle colour will change through the tupping season and in this photo the rams were marking with a red raddle.

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Lamb boxes

The last of the 2016 lamb boxes will be heading out soon so get in touch quick if you want to make the last order!

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.

Photo 2: Close up of chump steaks and cutlets

Photo 3: Close up of a shoulder joint

Photo 4: Close up of a leg joint

Other news

Daniel, Sam and Mark prepare the carpark for the Godolphin Fete. Mark has made silage from the grass grown here which will be used to feed to cows this winter.

Mark will be making silage and hay all over the farm in the next few months so keep an eye out for the tractors and machinery. Silage requires good, dry weather for at least three days allowing the fields to be mown, kicked out daily to dry out the grass, ranked up on the final day to allow the baler to neatly roll the grass into a bale and finish it with a net skin, wrapped in plastic to keep in the goodness and stacked in the yard ready for winter. That is a lot of work!

It’s a busy time of year on the farm and the silage making team is made up of Mark, Daniel and Sam and they will work in and around each other to get the silage finished alongside their daily jobs on the farm. Usually, Daniel will mow, Sam kick out, Daniel rank up, Mark bale, Sam move bales into the yard and Daniel wraps and stacks! They put in some long days but by having a small internal team as opposed to a contractor they can work at a slower pace, choosing select fields and working around the ever changing weather!

These photos are of the first and final steps in the process. By the end of the summer the yard should be busting full of these bales!

 

Next month…..

Results of the Tb post mortim of the reactors

Hay making

 

Harvest Time

The hot summer has allowed the corn on Mark’s Farm to ripen ready for harvest. The moisture content is critical, as the stored corn will generate heat if it’s too moist and be useless as a winter feed. Also, any grain sold will suffer severe deductions as the buyers have to dry the corn artificially.

Mark and Daniel have regularly been in the fields testing the corn with the traditional ‘bite test’, and then, if they believe it is ripe enough, using a moisture meter to calculate the exact percentage of moisture in the grain. This may seem technical, but any small percentage change is critical when storing.

The straw is baled and will be brought in and stored for winter bedding.

BalingBalesMark’s entries for Stithians Show were picked out the week before the show date. The sheep were halter broken over several days and the washed with the help of Zak, a hose pipe and some fairy liquid. Katherine and Jess took six sheep, all bred by Ruth and Mark, in seven classes and came out with two 5ths, three 4ths, and two 2nds. This was a respectable haul and the judge commented on how the breeding was improving with each successive year.

Stithians show

Brook, Mark’s grandson was introduced to his first sheep class, the ‘Young Handlers’ which is specifically for 10-15 year olds. Brook, although three years underage, was so keen that they were willing to let him compete.

The Young Handlers competition differs from the other classes as it is the handler that is judged, not the sheep. Brook was quizzed on the breed, his sheep and asked to perform some tasks to illustrate how he can control the animal.

A busy time on the farm meant that Brook was left to his own devices. He was given one of this year’s lambs, which had had very little human contact over the past 5 months and told he needed to be ready for the show the following week. Brook named the lamb Harvey and began attempting to halter train the animal. On the first few days Harvey clearly had the better of Brook, but by the end of the week Harvey would be led on a lead, stand to be handled by a judge and was beautifully clean ready for his first show.

Brook also had to do his homework on the Poll Dorset breed and on Harvey in particular, but at last he was ready. In a class of six Brook and Harvey were awarded the first prize. This was a great surprise as he had stiff competition from older handlers, but the judge was impressed with the answers and the way he handled Harvey, even when Harvey had other ideas! Brook now has his sights set on next year’s show and is hoping to join Jess and Katherine in the open adult classes.Along with the hot weather came the risk of fly strike. The flies will land in the sheep and lay their eggs deep in the fleece. The maggots will hatch and begin eating the flesh of the animal. A nice first meal for the maggots but not at all nice for the sheep. As the summer began, Ruth and Jess dagged the sheep around their back ends to avoid any faeces attracting the flies in. Once the heat really picked up the professional shearers were brought in to shear the sheep completely making it less attractive for the flies to lay their eggs.

Vivian and Adam Care were much faster than Ruth and Jess making a difficult job look easy. The fleeces were rolled and placed in a large bags ready to be delivered to the British Wool Marketing Board in Liskeard.

The grass has been cut for silage and is busily growing again to make a second crop before the end of the year. Some farmers will get a third cut from their fields but in an organic system Mark cannot artificially accelerate grass growth, so in most cases two cuts will be it at Godolphin. Sunshine at silage time means the grass can dry out over several days after being cut, before Dan then rakes the spread grass into ‘drams’, a neat column of grass which makes it easier for Mark to bale.

The bales are wrapped and stacked ready for winter. Once second cut silage has also been done a nutrient test will reveal the quality of the silage and compare it to previous years, to give Mark and Daniel an idea of the supplementary feed requirements of the cattle. Poor quality silage could result in costly winter buying in feed to make up the balanced diet the animals need.

The rams, after being separated from the girls since last autumn have been reunited with the ewes ready for another breeding season. The rams were given groups of ewes which best suited their characteristics and boosted the confirmation of their off spring. It was a job worthy of the x factor judges deciding which ewes should go with which rams but finally Ruth had four bunches; the first, whose off spring she will choose her replacements from, with a further three bunches having their ewe lambs sold as breeding ewes and ram lambs sold as fat lambs.

The rams have already been in with the first and second groups, and removed again after two cycles. This should mean that the lambs will arrive from the start of November to mid December, referred to as ‘the November lambers’. The rams are currently in with bunches three and four and after a break for Christmas, the second set of lambs should arrive between the New Year and mid February referred to as ‘the January lambers’.

RamsMark and Ruth have bought two new rams for the occasion, Scorpion, a well-bred ram at his peak, and Titan, a younger ram experiencing his first year with the ewes. Ruth is also planning to pregnancy scan the ewes this year to determine how many lambs to expect. This will enable her to then feed the expectant mothers accordingly. The November lambers are due to be scanned soon.

 

Cattle at Christmas

The cows are now settled in the shed and have their feeding and bedding down regime mastered. Their whole lives are fairly routine at this time of year, so to spice things up Mark and his family arranged for them to have pedicures.

The cows’ feet will grow in the same way that ours do, if you don’t keep them trimmed their toe nails can get a little out of hand. Some farmers believe that feeding the cattle a high protein diet can make this worse. Others feel that being unable to stand on a hard surface like concrete can contribute or that foot growth is due to the actual breeding of the animal. Sometimes it can be a combination of all three. 

What ever the cause of the growth, the cows need to have their feet trimmed to ensure they remain in good physical condition. Having them housed during the winter provides an ideal opportunity for this to happen. In previous years Daniel has trimmed their feet using a specialised cattle crush and equipment to hold the cow in place, with its foot elevated whilst he trims each foot by hand. This year, however, the family have decided to work with a relatively new design in the way foot trimming is done. They asked James from C.H.D Foot Care, to come down to the estate and do some foot trimming.

 The process works like this:

Each cow walks down the race and into this crush, much like it does with any other crush.

The cow is then secured into the crush and gently hoisted off its feet. It is quite unusual to see but the cows seem to take it all in their stride.

The crush is lifted and turned leaving the cow resting on its side. Each of the four feet are strapped so that both James and the cow cannot get hurt. The cows seemed very calm throughout this whole process and even the livelier members of the herd lay back to enjoy the pedicure.

James can examine each foot quickly and safely, trimming away any excess without the fear of a kick in the face. The cow is not at all stressed and the process is pain-free.

On a routine trimming, the whole process may take a matter of minutes from the cow walking into the crush to it walking out again. This makes the job much more efficient and is great if you choose to do a large number of animals. It works well on an individual basis too as an older cow ‘Vic’ found out.

Vic

Vic had recently developed a limp caused by a stone getting stuck in the sole of her foot, becoming infected. Mark and Jess asked James to put her in the crush so they could get a closer look. James dealt with the problem area, bandaged her foot and glued a wooden block to the good side of her foot allowing the wound to be elevated off the ground, giving it time to heal. Vic walked out of the crush with her new high heels and was immediately moving better. The wooden block will wear down over time and eventually fall off.

The new calving season has begun, and with ear tags and castration bands at the ready, the first calves have arrived. Here are just a few of the calves that arrived this month…

Mark and his family have to be extremely careful with the new-born calves, and ensure that the environment they are born into is as clean and germ free as possible. Contamination and infections are all too easily spread in such a confined area.

The Ruby Red cattle remain outside during the winter. Their hardy breed allows them to withstand weather conditions that the Herefords and crosses would struggle with. Their calving has also begun and the young calves are running around and looking healthy. This is slightly problematic when it comes to giving them an ear tag and recording their gender so they can be registered. The calves are fast and energetic and in an open space Mark and Daniel have to come up with new ways of persuading them to have their vital statistics taken.

Earlier in the year, the summer calvers were featured on the blog. The Miss Marples have always been good mothers, and the growth of their calves illustrates this. Take a look at this photo from a couple of days ago, you can see the difference a couple of months makes!

There are lots of things to look forward to in January:

  • More calves
  • The first of the lambs are born from the Godolphin sheep
  • The new tractor arrives

Although everyone is celebrating the festive season, work does not stop for Christmas on the farm. The animals are looked after each and every day including Christmas Day, but Mark makes sure they get an extra big portion of silage to celebrate.

Mark and Jess on Christmas Day 2012

Mark and Jess on Christmas Day 2012

Everyone at Mark’s Farm would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas, and a big thank you for taking an interest in the farming we do here on the Godolphin estate. See you in the New Year!

Baling and nutrient analysis

This month saw the last of the farm’s silage for 2013. The grass is at its best in the spring and early summer, and although it regrows each time it’s cut, it always has a little less quality and volume than the previous crop.

Mark in the field with Belle

Mark in the field with Belle

Once the decision comes to cut, Mark has to play a gambling game with the weather. He needs to give the grass a chance to dry whilst its laid out on the floor, but still give himself enough time to get the grass kicked out, baled, wrapped and stacked before any rainfall which could potentially ruin the crop.

Mark kicks out the grass to help any damp grass at the bottom of the pile dry in the sun.

Mark kicks out the grass to help any damp grass at the bottom of the pile dry in the sun.

Daniel then rakes the grass into larger ranks ready for Mark to bale the silage.

Daniel then rakes the grass into larger ranks ready for Mark to bale.

The bales are spread out across the fields and it’s Jess’s job to bring them in to Daniel who wraps and stacks them.

Jess moves the bales with the tractor.

Jess moves the bales with the tractor.

The whole family works together when they’re on silage, as each process leads into the next. It makes the tea break even more rewarding!

A well earned tea break.

A well-earned tea break.

The straw bales need to be protected so they stay dry and make good, clean bedding during the winter. The straw bales will shed any water which hits the bale on its edge, however, by stacking the bales one on top of another and laying sheeting over the top, Mark is able to stop water from penetrating the core of the bale. 

The bales are stacked and protected with sheeting.

The bales are stacked and protected with sheeting.

 Last year the sheet was caught in the high winds and blew away from the bales, but hopefully this year the sheet will be stopped from breaking free, by weighing it down with more bales.

Now the silage has been completed, Mark can have it analysed to examine its nutrient content. The first cut silage is usually the richest and the third the poorest grade. This is then also affected by the type of land, exposure to the elements and even the time of day it was baled.

Mark takes samples from the bales.

Mark takes samples from the bales.

 This nutrient analysis allows Mark to feed the right feed to the right cattle at the right time. For example, the Ruby Red cows will benefit from a lower grade silage than some of the Hereford crosses such as the Miss Marples, and this is also affected by the type of winter we have. If Mark makes a mistake, it may mean that the cows and sheep lose condition or become excessively fat. Ideally, each feed should be used as efficiently as possible by the spring. During November Mark will be concentrating on the start of calving, and getting the cattle housed for winter. He will also be selecting two breeding ewes to attend the local Helston Fatstock Show; follow next month’s blog to see how they get on.

Silage

This month the sunshine has worked wonders with the grass, making it a big enough crop to cut again for silage. The grass is mown, kicked out and dried in the sun before being baled, wrapped in plastic and stacked to create silage for winter. The grass is a haven for wildlife and the short stubble after cutting is great for birds and insects. The nutrients and goodness of the summer grass is locked inside the bale and fed to the cows when they are housed during the winter. This will be Mark’s second cut.

The silage bales alll wrapped and stacked ready to feed.

The silage bales all wrapped and stacked ready to feed.

You will see the large stacks of black and green bales in the yard and surrounding area. It is important that the grass is dry when cut and baled so that it keeps its goodness and doesn’t break down before winter. Other farmers have struggled this year as the poor spring weather meant grass growth was slow, and to keep their herds going they had to graze grass fields which would have been used to make silage for the winter months. The large acreage at the Godolphin Estate along with careful management, has meant that Mark was able to keep the herd grazing without effecting the silage production.

You may have also seen the combine harvester around the farm. Mark began combining over at the Blowing house fields. Access wasn’t easy with overhanging branches making the lane difficult to negotiate! Daniel can be seen in the photo below driving the combine. The combine processes the crop in the field by splitting the corn from the straw. The straw is then baled and used for bedding during the winter months and the corn grain collected and used for feed or sold.

The combine.

The combine at work.

Combining the field.

Combining the field.

The corn being taking away to be stored.

The corn being taking away to be stored.

Mark has had a quiet time this month with calving, with only two new additions to the herd.

The newborn's suckling.

The newborn calves suckling.

Each calf is given an ear tag to hep identify them, and they are recorded with the British Cattle Movement Service. This will then give them a ‘passport’. This is a legal requirement for all cattle and was designed to increase traceability.

Hide and seek with the calf...

Hide and seek…

The mothers will often hide their calves in the bracken, keeping them safe from predators whilst they eat. This can make them tricky to locate!

In the farming calendar, events will often change depending on the weather and market fluctuations. However, next month Mark will be looking to complete the following jobs.

  • More births within the Hereford herd
  • Cutting spring barley
  • A third cut of silage in some fields depending on growth this month
  • Splitting off the older calves which no longer need their mothers into an independent herd
  • Researching into breeders of Pedigree Ruby Reds with the view of purchasing a new bull for next years breeding.

However life on the farm is far from predictable!