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 .

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Mark’s May

Early in the month we had our second TB test after being hit particularly hard earlier in the year losing 32 of our cattle to the disease. Unfortunately, we are still seeing the disease, but lost just 4 of the cattle this time.

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Advice sought, after such a severe outbreak, leads to perhaps a dead infected badger on the hill which the cattle came into contact with. We are, therefore, still under restriction, and, hopefully on our next test we will go clear which, after yet another clear test, we can look forward to being able to market our cattle once again.

All of the cattle are out and loving the freedom of being in the fields after a long winter in the sheds.

They continue to calve outside, we are waiting for the arrival of the ‘white’ heifers calf due very shortly.

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This month, after getting water from the natural spring on Godolphin Hill to Calves Meadow, we were able to put 30 young heifers in this field for the first time since we have been on the Estate.

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The ruby reds, although depleted, are back on the hill and gaining the condition that they lost through being out all winter.   These cattle are a traditionally quiet breed and can be outwintered, which makes them perfect for grazing the hills at Godolphin.

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Daniel has been top dressing the winter wheat in the Hill Fields and this crop is showing good signs of a bumper harvest.

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We have been marketing our organic lambs this month and weigh them every two weeks to ensure they are at the optimum weight. The females are taken off their mothers to break them and allow them to now feed off the grass of Godolphin. Sheep will do anything if food is involved and can be moved fairly easily from field to field.   We continue to monitor the ewes for mastitis and creep feed the lambs.

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As the weather warms up we have to keep a sharp look for signs of flystrike. This is when the bluebottle lays eggs in the warm moist wool of the ewe and within days maggots will be hatching out and feeding off the flesh of the ewe. The ewes have all been dagged and the ewe lambs that have been taken off their mothers. We have had a couple of cases of flystrike which have been dealt with. At the end of the month the main flock will be sheared and the bluebottle will have nowhere to lay their eggs.

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Silage has begun on the home farm, but because Godolphin is in higher level stewardship, silage cannot be cut until June. This does, however, enable nesting birds to hatch in peace!   It is very noticeable the amount of swallows in particular skimming the hay fields and a lovely sight. The hay fields are cut in July after, hopefully, a long dry spell.

Next month, alongside silage and the last of the calving for the year, we should see the introduction of our two new rams to our Poll Dorset sheep.

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’!