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!

A Family Farm

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Arable news

It is silage time at the Godolphin estate and the boys have been busy. The benefits of having a small, independent team is as soon as the weather is good enough, Mark, Daniel and Sam are back out on the fields again instead of waiting for a large contractor as part of their long list of customers.

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You can see how important the small weather windows are as Sam (above) races against the rain heading his way. It had already covered Tregonning Hill, in the background with a thick covering of fog.
Dan, was back in the yard (as seen below) wrapping the bales in plastic to protect them from the weather and lock in the goodness and stacking them up in the background of this shot.

 

Working with the weather and part of a small productive team means Godolphin Estate can be self-sufficient by growing the feed on the Estate, harvesting it independently and feeding it back to the animals grazing here to supplement them in winter.

Cattle news

In last month’s blog we told you about the 21 animals which reacted to the TB test we had in June. They were removed from the holding under DEFRA regulations and sent to a slaughterhouse. Once there, a post mortem was carried out and revealed that only 2 of the 21 reactors had ‘visual lesions’ created by TB in their system. After several conversations, neither the vets nor DEFRA are sure why an animal would react to the TB test if it did not have TB, but for the 19 animals who were tested positive and proved to be clear it is a premature end to a happy life.  The meat from these animals is put into the food chain.

We also told you about the several calves left in the herd whose mothers had been Tb reactors.  Most are doing well and adapting to their new lives after coming off milk early, or sharing the milk from another mother, but unfortunately one calf deteriorated quickly and later died, and another, nicknamed ‘Jo-Jo’ is still being bucket reared and we will see how it gets on over the next few months.

Here is little Jo-Jo who is being bucket fed milk.

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Sheep news

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We have sorted our ewe lambs born Nov 2015/Jan 2016 and selected the breeding stock we would like to keep. These are all pedigree, organic, Poll Dorset ewe Lambs as pictured above and although numbers are coming down we do still have a small number for sale for anyone interested.

This group headed off to Somerset and had to be loaded by 5am to avoid the summer traffic and the heat of the day.

 

Other news

The hay fields are coming on nicely and should be cut and baled in August. These are species rich and are excellent in supporting the cattle and sheep through the winter by providing a wide range of nutrients. The hay fields have been left to have uninterrupted growth since early spring and this forms an important part of the summer feeding ground for the wildlife too.

Mark’s farm is certainly a family run farm with all members of the family playing an active role at some point in the year. The youngest member of the family, Annie loves the animals and tractors and in this photo accompanied ‘Papa Mark’ with his early morning checks.

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Next month…..

Combining
Cutting and baling hay
More TB testing at Godolphin
The trial batch of September lambers are moved off the holding to lamb

 

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

 

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.

oats

 

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.

hill

 

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.

lamp box

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.

 

Spring is here

Spring is coming very quickly to Godolphin and a very welcome sight it is.

The lambs that were born in November have been grazing the fields at Godolphin and are well grown with a few already to weight.   There was an unfortunate incident for one unlucky lamb on Valentine’s Day when it was savaged by a large dog.   After emergency treatment it did survive, although minus an ear, but it is a stark reminder for dog owners to be responsible and keep their dogs on leads around livestock.

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At the beginning of March we had our regular TB test on our Godolphin cattle and nothing prepared us for the consequences.    Unfortunately 25 of our pedigree Ruby Red cattle tested positive for the disease, including our lovely bull, Darwin and one of our favourite cows, ‘Primrose’.   Most of last year’s calves tested positive and some of the cows that have very young calves on them will be taken leaving us to bucket rear their offspring.   Another 8 of the Hereford cross cattle also tested positive.   We will be compensated, but nowhere near the true worth of the cattle.   It also means our bloodlines have been lost and we will now have to rebuild and restart our breeding programme for this lovely traditional breed of cattle.

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We are now under TB restriction at Godolphin Estate Farm and we will have another test in 60 days and again 60 days after that.

Now some good news – in February, Jessica, who usually helps Mark on the farm, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl ‘Annie Rozelle’, a first granddaughter for Mark and Ruth.   Jessie is looking forward to introducing Annie to Godolphin and all the animals as soon as she can.

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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.