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.
Mark’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.
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’.
Mark 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.