Sunday, 17 July 2011

More hay and rain!

Since the last post Dad and I have been very busy boys! We cut 35ac of grass on Monday looking at a good five days of sunny dry weather.

When I got to the field with Josh there was a bit of Ragwort pulling to do, to say the least! This yellow peril is a noxious weed that causes liver damage when eaten, it is un-palatable when the cattle are grazing but when dried in hay becomes palatable. As we don't chop the bales the cattle can pick it out of the hay when a plant sneaks through but this is best to be avoided!

Four hours of pulling later I made a start with the mowing and then followed in the next day with the tedder and threw it out. All seemed good and then the weather shifted, instead of the lovely sunny days we had chilly overcast grey days and no dry what so ever. On Thursday we decided to row the grass up to allow the ground to dry in between the gongs. To row up I have used my 6m lotus combi which leaves two 3m gongs on the field. This is a quick way of rowing the field up but it leaves alot of rows still on the field. Dad has borrowed a second hand rake from BW Mack, a side discharge 3m one.

This means that if I row up with the Lotus and he follows with his side discharge we have a gong every 9m making for drier ground, and with the sunshine on Friday we went for it!

With a gong every 9m instead of 3m I only had to drive up the field in my baler 33% fewer times saving fuel and time. So Dad in front with his rake and me behind we made ourselves 60 round bales of hay in a few hours and it was a good job done as we've had a good inch of rain since!! I forgot my camera so got my little sister to take some for a different perspective, see more of her work here

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Hay we go again!

The hay cutting season has begun at Church Farm. To get the ball rolling we started with some lighter crops around the farm yard and although they yielded less than usual it was a good opportunity to get the kit up and running before the main crop.

With the dry spring we had this year it appears that the hay crop this year is going to coincide with the cereal harvest, usally i get the hay done before, so work load is going to be near maximum. To try and spread the workload Dad has been out with his John Deere 3720 punching above his weight. Much to my surprise he has managed to work the tedder, windrower combination on the field, although i have to take it there for him! 

The  hay was made and baled into small round bales for the horsey market. Once made again Dad was off to round them up.

Mum, Jacob and I were out for a walk on the farm and thought we would greet Dad on the field as he got back. Only a year old and Jake already gets excited when he sees a tractor, even more so when he sees Grandad!

It looks like we are going to have a busy summer!

Friday, 17 June 2011

By eck were in Farmers Weekly!

Hello if you've found us from Farmers weekly, your very welcome!!

I was performing my usual scan of FW after work (i do read it cover to cover on my throne) when i came across a list of blogs including little old us!!

What was a real treat was to get a mention for my photography. Now time for a bit of honesty, I do take the odd photo and with the invention of digital cameras (being able to take thousands)the odd one is bound to be good. However there are two members of my family who are SUPER talented with a camera, the first is my little sister Tori who shows her pics on her blog.

The next is Dad. He has spent many hours around the farm and other areas of Norfolk taking pictures of wildlife in its natural environment. He is truely a master and I find nothing more exciting than going trough his pics after he has been out and about.

This is the picture that started it all, after months of trying he got the picture of the barn owl that he was pleased with, it really was months and a lot of nearlys!!

This is dads favourite,  a really tricky shot to get, focusing the camera in with a Shell Duck coming into to land.

And this is my favourite, just the fact that its a Yellow wagtail that i have never seen before but the fact that it is flying over rape in flower, love it!

I think you'll agree that there pretty special and with a bit of luck he will be out with his camera again soon.

Summer apprentice!

Its a bit like living back in my family home at the moment, Norfolk Farmer's new summer apprentice just happens to be my baby brother. He turns up at 8 every morning to a cup of coffee waiting for him (he is a 21 year old student so does often turn up looking a bit blurry eyed and tired) and comes in for lunch and after work, am seeing a lot of him, which is lovely actually!

Anyway Norfolk Farmer has taken him on to help with fencing around the farm and other day to day jobs that need doing. He has only been here for about a week and half and been learning fast, including driving a tractor:

Farmerwill now! This is Josh on Norfolkfarmers Dads tractor, A John Deere 3720 with a 1.2m flail mower on the back. Dad has taken a fair bit of ribbing for his taste in small tractors from the family but it is truely a very useful bit of kit. Its got a hydrostatic gearbox which makes it extreamly easy to drive, basicley a forward pedal and a backwards pedal! Josh got on particulary well with this tractor as, in his own words, "its just like a lawn mower!".

The meat boxes are selling and there are some happy customers already. Get in touch if you want to try some meat from truly happy cows!!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Launching Church Farm Meat Boxes ...

This is the logo for our new venture, we are now selling our own meat, beef boxes are available now and lamb boxes soon!!!

I will let the text from our leaflet do the talking:

Church Farm is a small family run business just outside Kings Lynn, rearing Red Poll cattle and Wiltshire Horn sheep. A large portion of the farm has been reverted to it its natural state of wetlands and wild flower meadows to encourage the flora and fauna of Norfolk.
Both the Red Poll herd and Wiltshire Horn flock are native breeds which makes them perfectly suited to grazing the 600 acres of extensive meadows. The animals enjoy and outdoors, free-range lifestyle, with all lambing and calving taking place outside in the fields come rain or shine.

At Church Farm we rear the animals as naturally as possible, while using modern farming methods to ensure that all our stock are healthy and happy. We allow the cattle to grow at their own pace without using any concentrates or growth hormones. They are free to eat extensively on our meadows which provide the cattle with a number of natural herbs to ensure a distinctive and delicious flavour. In addition to the meats wonderful colour and flavour it is also high in omega 3 and other beneficial fatty acids. The Wiltshire Horns produce a darker fleshed lamb that is lean, tender and beautifully delicious!

Beef Boxes

Taster Box 4-6kg @ £11.00 per kilo

Standard Box 9-12kg @ £10.50 per kilo

Large Box 18 -22kg @ £9.95 per kilo

All boxes will contain a mixture of vacuum packed steaks, quick and slow roasting joints and mince.

Lamb Boxes

Quarter Lamb 4-6kg @ £8.00 per kilo

Half Lamb 9-12kg @ £7.75 per kilo

Whole Lamb 18-23kg @ £7.25 per kilo

All boxes contain a selection of vacuum packed roasting jointing, chops and mince.
Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding any of the above boxes we are happy to cater for any individual needs.

Payment can be taken for most cards, or cold hard cash on collection!

Please call to place an order:
07938 568099

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sheep shearing and catch up!

So all the family has been returned and life has returned to something like normality. We had a cracking bank holiday with Jacobs first birthday party with 50 guests and there kids. The idea was to enjoy the garden, spread out and enjoy the dry weather, if anything was going to make it rain it would have been that! At long last the heavens opened and we had approximately 15ml of rain, the first measurable fall since February and has reduced my panic over winter feed just ever so slightly.

So work wise I have been off on a course to learn how to shear sheep. We met at a farm out in the fens, easy to find as it was the only one with sheep! With a group of 12 of us milling around we all signed our health and safety forms and awaited our instructions. Our teachers for the day were Ed and Andy both very experienced shearers (but typically understated) and they split us into groups of 2 by skill level. I was horrified that only myself and a very small lady indentified ourselves as beginners and all the others got out there own kit!! bloody hell this was going to be a long day! We all lined up against Ed's shearing kit and Andy pulled out a shearling Lleyn and performed what can only be described as a choreographed dance with a sheep and clippers as the wool seemed to fall of in a graceful arc. He then did a second shearling showing us each seperate stage of the process and I thought to my self that i could do that. It soon became very clear that i couldn't. It was so difficult, it turns out that sheep are very attached to there wool and not over keen to have a rank amature nicking there skin while trying to hack the wool of there back. 20 minutes later and utterly drenched with sweat a shabby looking sheep limped off back to the field and the farmer turned to me saying "don't worry there's only 2 weeks difference between a bad haircut and a good one!" well at least he had a sense of humour and he needed it looking at the sheep leaving his shed! If i was having troubles it was nothing compared to my shearing partner, when we moved on to the mule ewes they were about the same size as her and God love her she got them sheared but they took a bloody long time!!

The course lasted two days and by the end of it I pretty much knew what i was doing and felt ready to shear my own sheep.

Fortunately most of my flock are Wiltshire Horns and shed there wool

but i have 10 suffolks crosses and 2 jacobs that need shearing, i got the shears, no excuse!

So heres one of my suffolks all done

Its got to be said that i now have so much respect for professional shearers who make a living out of shearing doing 35 - 40 sheep an hour. I did eleven in one afternoon and I was f*%ked!!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Home at last

We had the call we had been wanting all week this morning, "hello this the dog warden we have your dog."

We have just picked Dilly up from the kennels where lost dogs end up, she had been picked up about 2 miles away. She had however obviously been with someone all week as she was wearing a brand new collar and has been given a haircut, we think she may have run away from whoever had her and tried to get home.

So, so excited to have her home. It is our Son's 1st birthday party on Monday and a part of us was dreading it as we were one family member down. Now though we can all relax and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fingers crossed

Time had flown since our last blog and the news is unfortunately no better.

One of our dogs has gone missing, Dilly our 2 year old Parson Russell Terrier has been missing since Sunday 22nd May from the farm in Bawsey, near the ruins for anyone who knows the area.

We have contacted the police, the council, dog lost, petlog (the microchip database) and the national pet register. Any other ideas would be appreciated we really want her home, so just on the off chance that anyone knows anything I thought I would blog about her.
We have also put posters up in the local area, we did have a possible sighting of her in Gaywood a few miles down the road. So we are now working off the theory that someone has her, we have scoured the farm and she is definately not here.

Any ideas on anything more we could be doing or even better any information on Dilly's whereabouts would be wonderful.

She is a much missed and much loved family member and we desperately want her home safe and sound.

Please keep finger and toes crossed for us!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

She Devil strikes again!

So number 116 did come out and is currently residing in our garden.
She Devil gave birth late on Sunday night and much to Norfolk Farmers frustration abandoned her second calf (I actually thought he was joking when he told me). It seemed to be a fairly straight forward calving, the calf is quite big but she seemed to cope quite well this time, delivering with no assistance. But as soon as he was out she just walked off to the rest of the herd like nothing had happened. It was decided that the calf would spend a few more hours on the field to see if she would come back and we would make final decisions in the morning.

The next morning it was quite clear she hadn't fed him or really showed any maternal towards him whatsoever. We had two choices 1) Pen them together and try and force a bond
2) Take him away to rear ourselves
Norfolk Farmer decided on the latter as we all know only too well how she reacts to be confined on her own.

So Dodger, as he has been named is our latest charge and is settling in well, She Devil's future however is not so bright!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Will number 116 please come out!!

Back in mists of time when I first started this cow farming game I was a cautious lad who clucked about every new calf born. Since then 95% that have come out have been problem free deliveries that i have not witnessed. The ones that i have assisted in have been a mixed bag. At present count there have been 6 Caesarean ops with 4 live and two dead. I also had a run off one of those things when we lost a few calves for niggly reasons like cervix not opening.

Through this time I have had some mighty assistance from Norfolk Farm Vets without whom i would be lost. They are a large animal practice very fortunatly based up the road and deserve a blog post all to themselves!

Back on thread i am waiting for a calf that seems never to arrive. For the past month she has looked ready and in that time seven have arrived from Mums who didn't!! The cow in question is She Devil (Pedergree name Andrew Fredericks Why Primrose but i don't think it does her justice) who is the subject of the most dramatic Caesarean at Church farm. 26 months ago i arrived on the field and found her with feet out the back (crossed, bad sign) and tried to persuade her into a pen for further inspection. It became obvious very quickly that she was going to be a handful.

Now this wasn't my first time doing this, in fact we had done the same op the day before and it had gone very smoothly. The deeply grateful cow ambled in to the pen with only the mildest of instruction and stood amicably while we removed the calf through her side.

She devil took the opposite route. Dad and I ran her (quad and landrover) around until she happend to crash into the pen. Molly the vet arrived and giving She Devil 10 mins to calm down I prepared my self to go in the pen and halter her for examination from the vet. What happen next was a blur, I remember alot of shouting and dancing like i have never danced before trying to quickstep round the savage creature who was hell bent on ending me. As i leaped out the pen she tried to follow, i still have the scars on my knuckles from punching her nose. LOTS of sedative and reinforcments called we had her restrained and with me at her head and Roger Moore (same name, not as cheesy) with a leg up Molly set to work.

As the cow was lying it made the operation more difficult and i have to say that Molly was brillo pads. When the calf was born due to the sedative being used he had alot of fluid in his lungs, Roger set to work on him and pints and pints of fluid came out. Meanwhile the satanic heavy beast was thrashing around on the ground, the sweat was pouring of me desperatly trying to keep her still for Molly. Molly was stiching away without assistance, until She devils rumen popped out and onto the ground, cue more thrashing and mud and s**t and god knows what else going back inside her.  With the calf alive and stable Roger retuned to the party and Molly got her all stiched up, at one time uttering the phase "I don't know what i'm stiching to what in here"

We vacated the pen and with the calf just outside we stood back and waited to see what would happen. She looked relatively calm so I released her to hopefully care lovingly for her baby. No chance, she legged it, swaying. We consoled ourselves that at least we had a live calf and with the amount of c**p that had gone in the cow she was unlikly to live (at that moment i thought, good!). She was given a course of antibiotics for five days, i managed two and I left her too it.

After this I contemplated over the incident and thought that she really isn't that bad really, since then she has been through the handling pen without incident, showing no sign of agresion. On that day all the running around before hand was obviously awful and put her in a REALLY bad mood.

So here she is pregnant again and soooooo close to popping. I would like anyone who reads this to just cross your fingers for a peaceful natural delivery 'cause i don't reckon Molly'll come back for this'n!!!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

And so it goes on...

More drama today on the farm, what was supposed to be routine moving of the cattle ended with a dead cow. While moving the cattle we spotted a cow acting strange, she was lying away from the others and took a lot of encouragement to get up. Having eventually moved her we could spot nothing obviously wrong but decided to call the vet anyway. She quickly diagnosed the problem, gas in what is our appendix. She administered some drugs to try and get her guts going and left us to keep an eye on her.

After a quick lunch Norfolk Farmer went back to check on her and she was no better so called the vet in for surgery. Unfortunately it didn't work and she passed away. So frustrating as we really thought we had spotted it early!

So really hoping it doesn't come in threes today and that there is some good news on the horizon....
Hopefully starting with who we affectionally call 'She Devil,' she had a calf a couple of years ago and as you can imagine by the name it was a nightmare birth and we ended up hand rearing the calf, Oliver the orphan.
She is back in calf and labour is looking pretty imminent so fingers crossed it goes better than last time.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sad day.

Today there is an air of sadness around the cottage, we lost one of our pet lambs this morning. He was one of our first, we had come to know him very well and this morning he just wasn't right. Following a vet visit he passed away.
The sensible, practical side of me knows these things happen and that you can't win them all, but my emotional, sentimental side is very sad, upset and asking a lot of what ifs. But the fact is we did our very best and he had a lovely, if very short life!

On the whole working with the animals is an absolute pleasure and its always amazing to see them bring new life into the world but like everything in life bad things sometimes happen.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The other three

Its about time you were introduced to the other three members of our family... the dogs!!! We have three very different (not only in breed, but also in personality) dogs.
This is Zac (aka Zacman) a 10 year old Scotty

Zac is Norfolk farmers dog, they were bachelors together, sometimes I think Zac wonders how he ended up living with 2 young bitches and a baby. He pretty much does as he pleases and spends his days pottering around the farm looking for food or peace and quiet!

Next we have Cabbage (don't ask about the name, Norfolk Farmer's idea), she is a three year old Wire haired Dachshund:

Cabbage, what can I say? She loves people, she wees when she gets excited, shes very protective and very, very dramatic!

Finally there is Dilly, our two year old Parson Russell Terrier

Dilly is Norfolk Farmer's 'working dog', she is devoted to him. She spends all day, everyday out at work, running over all the fields and generally causing mayhem chasing hares, bunnies and if shes really lucky her arch nemesis a Muntjac. That is until she hears Norfolk Farmers whistle and she is straight back at his side!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

.....and back to m' moo cows!

Norfolk Farmers wife has been blogging away on the Sheep so I thought I would fill you in on how the cattle are doing. Since the bleak mid-winter of the last Red Poll blog we have converted a shed in the yard to store the young stock overwinter.  We cleared an old lean too out and the area of scrub land behind. This was an uncropped area that had been a building and then over time became a scrap heap and dumping ground for thirty odd years. I pulled several old hedgecutters, cultivators and several tonnes of old plough parts. We then cleared and levelled the soil and laid a base using 'farmers mix' (digger man said it would go like concrete, and was right!!). We added a feed barrier to the front of the shed and made a pen out back with crash barriers.

The cattle were at a low density with a deep straw bed and fed hay out of ring feeders. In general the shed did what I wanted it to, store the youngstock and hold there condition or with luck improve it. On average the cattle put on 0.5kg a day on hay and minerals, i did not use any other feed what so ever.

On the fields out in all the weather the cows and heifers got on with there job and produced some cracking calves, a few of which lined up for pics this morning. After a few years of learning how to prepare cows for calving (not to fat or thin plenty of minerals available and watch from a distance!!) I only had to assist two of the cows. One cesarean on an over condition 4 year old heifer who didn't hold her calf last year and was expected and a quick tug on a calf which mummy cow could have handled, good old Red Polls!!!

Here is an example of a heifer coming through the herd. She has been with the bull since January, I will be scanning them in May to see how many are in calf.  Next job will be moving the groups to pasture new and a bit of help to keep the flies off.

Environment enhancers...

I spotted this while checking the sheep yesterday. Norfolk Farmer put this up for the cattle, as in this particular field there is nothing for them to rub against. However the sheep seem to be enjoying it at the moment, the Wilts have started shedding (they shed their own hair so there is no need to sheer them) and appear to be loosing the majority in Norfolk Farmer's brushes.

Some of them are looking quite scruffy at the moment but they will look great when their summer coats finally emerge!

This particular sheep is not only scruffy but also filthy, they are supposed to be white but she has obviously playing the dyke with the lambs.

As the ewes are loosing their hair some of the lambs are starting to get mini horns, everyone is looking very well!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

So that was lambing...

Our first season of lambing almost come to an end and what a roller coaster it was! Between the 20 Wiltshire Horns, 10 Suffolk crosses and 2 Jacobs all lambing outside we have been kept quite busy.

Because we were learning on the job this year we tried to let nature take its course as much as possible, however that wasn't always the case! Lambing outside bought all sorts of problems, especially as they grazing over 60 acres and we have no dog and no pens!!! Norfolk farmer's favourite method was catching them in the dark, blinding them with headlights and pouncing from nowhere, although he did have several long chases in the light, who needs a dog! We had 44 safe arrivals, 5 of which are being hand reared in the garden.

These were our first pet lambs, both from triplets. We decided from the beginning to only leave ewes with twins because of them being outside, it was more difficult to keep an eye on who could cope with more than twins and impossible to adopt any off to an ewes with singles. As you can probably tell they were in the house, being the first we were not totally prepared for triplets having not scanned any of the ewes (definately a job for next year). So the first pair lived in the kitchen for a week while we waited for the arrival of out calf hutch!

There are five lambs living in there, the one you can't see is Wobbles. Wobbles is our special lamb, we think she suffered a spinal trauma  during birth and was unable to walk, we removed her from her mother as she couldn't feed. She has made a massive improvement and is slowly learning to walk again!

Lambing has really pushed our sentimental side of farming not knowing what is a hopeless case and what is worth spending (alot!!) time nursing back to health.

We have always strived to stay on the right side of sentimental and practical when it comes to the livestock side of farming as we believe this creates not only happy animals but also happy farmer and family.

Although the busy time of lambing is done we look forward to sharing more about the farm with exciting times ahead.