Ruby’s here to stay

This month has been tense at Mark’s Farm, after another TB test. The vet checked each of the cattle individually and announced there were no reactions to their initial injections and it was another ‘clear test’. This means Mark’s farm is officially ‘TB free’ for another year, and it will now be possible to sell cattle at a good price, although the beef price has dropped in the UK following the horse meat scandal. 

TB Testing

Mark had hoped that the price would increase as consumers put pressure on the supermarkets to supply genuine British beef. It would appear that the supermarkets have already found another way to supply beef without paying fair prices to the British farmer. Farmers Weekly magazine reads “In March, there was a 22% increase in total UK imports for the month – the bulk of which are from Ireland”. This is another blow for the British beef farmer.

Ruby’s here to stay! All the puppies are now happy in their new homes. One of puppies had to stay a little longer as her new owner, due to unforeseen circumstances, couldn’t commit to a puppy at this moment in time. This was great news as Ruth has said she can stay long-term and called her Ruby. Ruby begins her puppy training on Thursday and Mark and his family hope to see her out and about on the estate with Belle soon.

Jess with Ruby

The oats and spring barley seeded in April have shot up and are growing nicely. We hope more corn will shoot to thicken the crop. Mark needs to keep an eye on its progress as this feed and bedding will be vital for the cattle in the winter.

One of the older cows, Vic, had developed a lump in her eye which began weeping. The vet came to look at her and diagnosed it as cancer. This was upsetting to hear especially as she was heavily pregnant and may have to have been put down. Mark and the vet discussed the operation needed to remove the tumour and decided to go ahead. Within no time she was back out in the field again and a few days later had her healthy newborn calf.

Vic's eye

Vic and her calf

The Ruby Reds are back up on the hill doing what they do best, eating, eating, sunbathing, and eating. The Ruby Reds are particularly good at reclaiming areas of bracken and gorse and reinstating it as grassland, naturally through grazing. This is really important to the eco system and takes many years to achieve. Hopefully, whilst using the hill, you can see the benefits of where the Ruby Reds have been grazing and the difference they are making.

The Ruby Reds on Godolphin Hill

What a beautiful sight!

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Off to market

On the first Thursday of month, Kivells auctioneers hold an organic market at Hallworthy. The young stock Mark had separated in the winter have recently become large enough to be sold at market. They were sold as store cattle, this means they will be ‘stored’ by the next farmer and fattened so that they can eventually be sold on again as finished beef to the butcher/supermarket. Selling the animals as store cattle removes the costly feed bill, and also the risk involved with the strict carcass grading linked to a pay scale.

 It’s an early job loading livestock, as they need to be at the market in time to be unloaded and studied by potential buyers. 

 

Mark at the market

Mark at the market

The livestock are kept in holding pens at the back of the market, and when ready they are run down a race and into the ring. In the ring an auctioneer will explain a little about the animals age, breed, temperament etc and the bidding will begin.

 

 It’s Mark’s chance to show the cattle off at their best by walking them around the ring, and he was pleased with the top price the males got. However the trade for the females was not as good, and this could be for a number of reasons. The weather is the most likely cause, with buyers cherry picking the best animals and limiting their purchases whilst the future grass supply is still uncertain.

The improved weather has meant the cattle and sheep can now head out into the fields. They are pleased to be out roaming around in the fresh air and eating the new grass.

The cattle enjoy being back outdoors

The cattle enjoy being back outdoors

Currently there are three different batches of cows, the Ruby Reds, the Herefords and the remainder of last years calves fattening up for market, and these are spread out across the estate.

The sheep are split into two batches as well, depending on which lambing group they belong to. The animals being out on the land cuts the work load down dramatically and allows Mark and Daniel to get on with other important jobs like drilling corn.

As soon as the sunshine comes out, thoughts turn to drilling corn. It is this crop which will be harvested in the autumn and in winter months used as feed and bedding for the livestock. In the mean time there is a lot of work to be done to get the ground ready.

The first step is to plough the ground by turning the soil over, this encourages the grass to breakdown and put its goodness back into the soil. The soil is also tested and analysed to see if its needs a top up of any of the vital nutrients such as nitrates, potash and phosphate. All the dung spreading Daniel has been doing will help naturally restore the balance of the ground. Mark then rotivates the ground breaking down any larger clumps of soil before drilling the corn straight into the ground.

 Large field margins are left to comply with the stewardship scheme, which allows a corridor around the fields for the birds, small mammals, butterflies and insects to exist with modern-day farming.

 

The puppies are now five weeks old and all nine are thriving. Each have developed their own character and are already part of the family. Belle has done really well to rear all the little ones and even coped through a bout of mastitis.

It is hard to believe, but the puppies will be ready for sale in three weeks and Belle will be back to her old duties. Mark and Ruth have decided not to keep any from this litter as they already have three dogs. They hope Belle will have puppies again in a few years and would like to keep one of those.

Mark and Ruth have specified that each of the dogs should go to working homes, so they can get plenty of exercise and training. Hopefully some of the puppies will stay in the area and Belle can keep track of how her little ones are getting on.

Next month, look out for…

  • TB testing of cattle
  • Sheep health checks
  • Fat lambs are sent for slaughter
  • More working ground for spring oats