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!

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

 

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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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 .

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’!

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.

 

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!