One year on … Learning to lamb!

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Grazing the farm differently to its past history as a Deer Farm has helped different plants to grow… Some wanted, others not so much! All however are leading to a lustrous rich looking farm and providing more interesting homes for nature! I can’t wait to have our lambs bouncing around.

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I love walking around the farm and seeing it change. Hard works pays off.

In six weeks time we are due to start lambing here. As I was heavily pregnant last year I kept my distance but this year with far more ewes I will be out giving Luke a hand. With no experience at all I have ALOT to learn. This evening the ‘lessons’ commenced. Our neighbour farmer with a lovely flock of Poll Dorsets, has kindly agreed to teach me as he is lambing now…. Perfect timing.

Not sure if you have ever tried being taught anything by your spouse, but from stories I heard it’s not fun! I am therefore not getting Luke to teach me as our marriage just isn’t that strong ūüėČ !

Friday night I arrived ready to learn, three pairs of socks, two tops, a rugby shirt, a hoody & my coat I wasn’t risking getting cold. Nervous about what I was about to do, Barry wasted no time in getting me stuck in! I’d been there 5 minutes and a ewe was ‘presenting’ …that is a foot of the lamb was showing. Barry got her on to the floor and then told me what to do. So in went my hand, I found the other foot and gripped between my fingers I gently but firmly pulled.

Lambing is not glamorous so if you are squeamish I advise you to stop reading! Once both feet were out the head was following nicely, I was told to run my finger around just to ease the muscle a bit and allow the head to come out. Out came the lamb wonderfully, i held the umbilical cord and made sure it didn’t tear too close to the lambs navel. That was probably the messiest bit, goo & blood! I had to clear any of the bag off its face to be sure it could breath and then move it up to the head of the ewe to lick clean! Et Voila my first lamb!!

Ah so easy ūüėČ

I was lucky this evening, all the ewes I assisted had the lambs presenting fairly well. Just as well as if I had experienced a load of difficult births I would probably be totally put off! Just one was not a good experience, the lamb was never going to survive as it was born with a whole in its abdomen and it’s guts were out, also had badly deformed legs. Sad but this lamb had to be euthanised and we had to get another lamb for the ewe to adopt.

More on this soon…

Oh Philip….,

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As the royal family are in the news so much with this Prince Andrew scandal, I thought I might update you on our ‘prince’ Philip! You may remember my blog about Philip (19th October 2014) our lovely tame dark brahma cockerel.

Well I thought I better update you on his progress and how he has made himself at home. Our lovely tame cockerel is now not so lovely and most definitely not so tame, Despite our continued efforts to keep him friendly we have failed!

He was not fully grown when he came to us and is now standing tall as ‘Top Rooster’ on Knight farm, but he seems to think he is our boss too. Almost as tall as our 2 year old, Solomon can no longer go in with the chickens as Philip goes on attack.

We have tried feeding him from our hands and regular handling but I think Philip is a law unto himself!

Such a shame but little amusing too!

Still very fine to admire from afar!

Elton & john, our Lemon Sabblepoot bantam cockerels, are still ‘sitting pretty’. No longer roaming the farm but in our 1/2 acre chicken enclosure with all the others; They are a source of amusement too as the feathers on the feet make them walk funny!!!

Lambing Season 2015 – the start

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January 2015 and time to prepare for our Lambing season.

The ewes are due to lamb at the early March, so today we had the scanner here to help identify the number of lambs we might expect. Having been pregnant last year with Rex, I was unable to get involved in any way. This year, however, I have made up for it and with the grandparents looking after our boys I was outside helping!

A total novice, everything ‘hands on’ in farming has been¬†new to me this past year; So any one with more experience than I please understand I am likely to make mistakes… Luke (husband) that includes you!!!

The PD scanner arrived today at 8:50am, Luke had brought the sheep in from the field and everything was set up ready to go. I was armed and ready¬†with marker spray, red & blue, we then decided a blue dot near the head would mean in lamb with¬†a single and a blue dot near the bottom would mean in lamb with Triplets. The red marker was to mark any ewes we found not to be in lamb.¬†We didn’t mark any with¬†doubles (twins) as generally you get more doubles and there is no point marking more than you need to after all spray costs money.

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Simon the scanner informed me of some farmers¬†he had worked with¬†that half way through forgot which mark meant what so¬†I was trying to be careful. No point in paying for our ewes to be scanned if I get the marks wrong! I don’t think I would have lived¬†it down either.¬† In total we scanned 140 ewes, shearlings & older; A shearling is a ewe that is over a year old. We have not put our ewe lambs to the ram this year previously we have found they are more difficult to lamb. ¬†Some say ewe lambs can go to the ram if they are over a certain weight, 40kg I think, but we chose not to.

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30 ewes scanned, Luke had gone to get something leaving me to move the ewes up¬†and concentrate on spraying dots…. not feeling too positive as lots of singles which is not what a farmer wants. Once all the ewes were through our percentage was much better, 175%, for those who don’t know what that means it is simply for every ewe we will get a return of 1.75 lambs. Over the next few years with careful breeding we would aim to increase the percentage to nearer the 200% mark!¬†That is assuming all survive birth, but that I will keep you informed in another blog come march.

Now time for a cup of tea!

Tea is a staple part of Farming life and¬†“put the¬†kettle on Dar’ ” is a common phrase here at Knight Farm. We were given some tea¬†made by¬†The Cornish Tea Company as¬†a ‘stocking filler type gift, and we are now transformed in our taste for tea!! Highly recommended if you are Tea drinkers…..

New Year, New Year

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Happy new year everyone !

The miserable weather outside seemed like a great time to finish the update for the blog and make a few jars of chutney …

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As with many mums I have become a master of multi tasking .. So 2:45am Has become a familiar and equally productive time for me. If I am not researching sheep husbandry, land management or messing around on Facebook then I am looking at ideas for new fun projects. This time I thought I would start writing a new year update for the blog whilst I sat in the nursery feeding my cuddle bundle of joy Rex! Night feeds are reducing but my sleep deprivation does not seem to be so I need anything possible to keep me awake to complete the feed before I return to my cosy warm bed. I am now glad I did not publish it at that time, who knows what gobble de gook I was writing, this has been edited greatly!

2014 was been a whirlwind of a year for us, the farm has bloomed! Care farming has been developed loads, the caravan arrived in May providing a fab recreational area for all our lads, our fruit garden was planted; not to mention the many kilometres of fencing now in place allowing better management of the land. Doing carefarming at knight farm is such a wonderful thing allowing so many to benefits from the wonderful lifestyle the countryside can give.
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Puppy power

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Been a little distracted from our blog recently… Apologies but here is an update on the fun at Knight Farm!

Tar barrel gave birth to nine beautiful puppies in October. Her first puppy was delivered at 16:20 and last at 22:30. Well done her !

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These lovely black bundles have been a wonderful distraction on the farm. Huge time wasters! We have three dogs and six bitches. I have been smitten with them …

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Growing up fast they are now almost ready to go to their new homes. Only two left to find homes for, lots of interest which is good as we want to find the best homes we can. We are very pleased one will be staying with us. Solomon is pleased as he loves going for walks with the dogs.

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We now have to get cracking with other farm jobs we were distracted away from!

King of the roost

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We have a new King of the roost.

This is ‘Philip’ a very fine Dark Brahma cockerel! Not yet fully grown.

He has come to live with us, kindly donated buy a lovely lady who recently had to give up her tenanted small holding due to its sale.

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He towers over our hens and reminded us of ‘Iron Man’ as he came out of the hen house this morning pushing all the ladies out of his way. I’ll take another photo later!

As he is lovely and tame he will be great for our ‘care farmers’ to interact with. The disabilities some of our clients have mean sensory aspects of our farm really stimulate them and they love coming as a result.

We try to create lots of interesting things here as a care farm…..

Pond management

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We have approximately a 1/4acre pond here at Knight Farm and as far as we can tell nothing has been done with it for many years.

Another big project for us and our care farming service users. Our aim is to nurture our environment and help life and nature to thive. The pond is a fantastic area for sensory stimulation as there is so much to see. We have some beautiful butterflies, dragon flies, Canada geese, wild ducks, a heron and so much more all using the pond.

Mich Kennaway of Escot, in Talaton about 20 miles away, owns an aquatic centre. I knew the Kennaways well when I was a young girl and used to work at Escot waitressing. Remembering The expertise Mich had I called asking for advice. Apparently a pond this size should ideally be netted every 3-4 years. And mich was happy to come over and help us.

Today some long over due pond maintenance began. We netted the pond and have thinned out a number of fish leaving the rest to thrive. They must have spawned in the spring as there were hundreds of tiny ones. We even caught an eel. After having a good look we sorted through the fish and I made sure we returned the beautiful coloured/ patterned ones, and the eel amongst others! Mark, one of our care farmers really enjoyed assisting with this task. He held the net and worked closely with Luke at the pond side. It is so great to be able to offer individuals with special needs the chance to experience things like this!

Hopefully now we.can section off areas around the pond to create some reed beds and encourage more plants and wildlife. Watch this space.

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Busy babies at knight farm

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We have had a busy few weeks with new arrivals at knight farm.. Two feet & four feet variety …

Meet our lemon Sablepoot bantam cockerels…..

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Here are our lovely Gloucester old spot x saddleback piglets, who arrived today! We now need to think of appropriate names!

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Just waiting for our Labrador Tar Barrel to have her puppies…. So excited I’m counting the days now, we will be preparing the kennel for whelping this week. Sadly Tar will miss out on shooting season this year as she will be busy being a mummy. There’s nothing she loves more than working with Luke to bring back the birds so we will get her out again next year.

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Tupping season

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Tup [tuhp]
Noun chiefly British, a male sheep; ram

Here we are in October again … This year has flown… and it is tupping time here on Knight farm!! The markets have been buzzing with sheep sales and it seems prices on breeding stock are up from last year! Good for those selling… Not so good for us buying ūüôā

We now have not only our two texel rams, Titan & Target. The two appear to have become best friends over the past year and are all but inseparable.

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Here is one of them… What a tank!!!

We now also have our two Lleyn Rams, new to us this year. Unfortunately I haven’t get photos of these two yet as I haven’t trekked up the fields but will soon. They are called Howard & Caesar.

Both sets ready for what is known as Tupping. So for those unaware of what tupping is, in simple terms sheep sex!!

We are putting the rams in with our ewes later this year. In an effort to increase our lambing percentage, they say as the nights draw longer ewes apparently tend to conceive greater number of lambs. Worth a try as if this is the case we can hope for more doubles & triples. With this it would help to increase the size of our flock.

I feel very excited as I really loved all the lambs around this spring and this coming spring I will be able to help out and be far more involved.

The rams have been in with the ewes approximately 2 weeks now and they seem to have covered nearly all of them. If they have been successful it could make for a very busy few weeks at the start of march.

I was unable to help with lambing in February as I was pregnant with our youngest son Rex. But this coming lamb season I will be learning to be hands on. Not sure if I’ll like it but I’m sure it will be rewarding and if nothing more it means if ever Luke is not around I know what to do.

Learning curve

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Question is have we bitten off more than we can chew? Or is it just a learning curve all new livestock farmers have to navigate.

Recently we have had slow growth rates and a couple of random deaths in our later batch of lambs. The sudden deaths have puzzled us, so much so my ‘inspector clueso’ hat had to come out. The unknown has always intrigued me, I still like to learn.

I was recommended a book by a lovely lady ‘Freddie’, we met when purchasing more sheep. She said it was the best book she has ever purchased and as I had been impressed by her knowledge so far I made the purchase; The veterinary guide for sheep farmers! It is huge and has some graphic pictures but it does seem to be comprehensive!

Using my new sheep bible along with the technology of Google I came to the opinion our lambs could have a selenium deficiency. It is either than or worms!? Poor muscle gain, apparent lameness, sudden deaths, along with a few other symptoms that fit the bill. However I am new to farming and far from a veterinarian so I can only guess and then suggest Luke (hubby) does the appropriate tests. Luke knows far more than I do so on occasion has worked out the diagnosis long before I get there and generally has done an autopsy to confirm his suspicions.

Still new to the world of farming, especially sheep farming Luke and I seem find ourselves in the situation of the blind leading the blind. Thank fully we have made some fantastic contacts and people are so generous with their help and advise.

A number of farming friends have shown us the way in many aspects from forage & soil testing, fecal testing to autopsys.

We have now almost completed our first year on the the Fursdon estate, what will our second year bring?

Just the spectacular view from the house makes it all so worthwhile! ūüôā

I don ‘t think I learned so much in my 3 years of university!!

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