Castration rings in the washing machine…

Amniotic fluid, flying placentas and castration rings left in pockets… it’s that time of year again. With 900 breeding ewes, this is our busiest time of year and also the most rewarding. Here’s one of this morning’s lambs…

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2015 was a bad year for British farmers, here’s hoping 2016 will be kinder. RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolant Institution), is a charity supporting farming families in need and this week the Monmouthshire branch was launched with a quiz at our local livestock market. Support was overwhelming and a great time was had by all with amazing food and Jim’s cider on tap…hic! Hopefully the first of many events raising awareness of this wonderful charity.

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The name of our farm translates to “home of the frost” and this was certainly true earlier this week. Made a nice change from the relentless wet weather over Christmas and New Year.

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The classroom is having a cleanout as February lambing courses are nearly all full and we also have a school group visiting the farm. Education is so important in our industry and I’m proud to be a Bright Crop Ambassador, promoting positive perceptions in agriculture and will be attending our local secondary school’s careers evening in a couple of weeks to hopefully inspire budding future farmers in areas of technology, engineering and science.

Our own future farmer Sam has just left school, attends college one day a week and has worked hard and saved for a 3 tonne digger with which he’s making more money than we are with the sheep! With his forward thinking ideas, we think this young entrepreneur will go far.

In the mean time, I’m off to check the washing machine for castrating rings…

 

 

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Sheep farming crisis.

We’ve just returned from our annual visit to the Royal Welsh Show where Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he is going to reduce red tape for farmers which is great news following our recent sheep inspection. All sheep were counted, tags checked and paperwork examined in detail so stress levels were high but following a five hour inspection, we passed with flying colours. A week later we were informed that an inspector was coming to inspect the inspector who did the inspection. When he arrived I asked (tongue in cheek) if there was going to be another inspection to inspect him, I was told that it was possible from Europe. So yes Mr. Cameron, I think it’s a cracking idea!

Meeting the Royal Welsh Goat.

Meeting the Royal Welsh Goat.

We recently heard that Tesco have taken another shipment of New Zealand lamb when our lamb is at peak season. At the time of writing this blog, with our lamb prices at rock bottom, we are still awaiting a response from Tesco regarding it’s lamb sourcing policy. Explaining the situation on social media resulted in an overwhelming positive response from the public, reaching over 100,000 people. We really appreciate the support, thank you. At the end of the day, the consumer has the power to make change through informed choices. Showcasing our produce is what shows like the Royal Welsh do well and supermarkets need to follow suit with produce labelled and displayed effectively to aid customer choices.

Public support

Public support

Courses on the farm are very popular and we’ve recently added team building days to the list. Last month we had members of the armed forces rounding up sheep, shearing, wool rolling, spinning and sampling our home produced cider. A great day was had by all…..hic!

No sexism here, whilst the girls were shearing….

No sexism here, whilst the girls were shearing….

With no holiday planned for this year, I’ve put up the tent by the river and escape to it whenever time allows. I was joined by this lovely couple last week. Wine cooling in the river, cooking on an open fire and noisy otters joining us in the evening, it really is idyllic.

Kingfishers chilling by the river

Kingfishers chilling by the river

On a final note I would like to congratulate son Sam and his team mates who are now the junior Welsh tug-of-war champions. They will travel to Ireland in September to represent Wales in the world championships. Good luck lads!

The evenings are getting darker…..

Just when we’re getting into the swing of the summer holidays, there’s an autumnal feel and I’m back at work (college that is, not my work as an unpaid farmhand) next week. Where did the time go?

Haymaking is now complete and what fantastic weather we had for it during June and July. Combining is almost complete so we’re hoping the weather will be kind for another week.

Bales

Our polytunnel is finally planted (better late than never) and we are hoping to have a fully home produced Christmas lunch as our turkey poults are growing well. Terrier Gyp has taken a shine to this one!

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Our very free range piglets are running around the farm, causing mischief but currently getting away with it as they look so cute!

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We had our first stag party on the farm which was great fun although my risk assessments were in overdrive combining cider and shearing. More “fun” group booking requests are now coming in. If you fancy a party with a difference, please don’t hesitate to get in touch (cider compulsary).

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Our first Family course was a great success with students of all ages discovering how food is produced, tracking wildlife and enjoying home produced sausages cooked on an open fire, washed down with real lemonade. Children planted seeds to take home and nurture whilst the parent took some home produced cider home to sample, For medicinal purposes of course (part of your 5 a day)! River dipping, estimating ages of trees, poo identification…. there’s so much to do outside, you just need to know where to look.

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This is a great time of year with shows, large and small, across the UK and beyond showcasing the best of farming and our beautiful countryside. We will be at Monmouthshire Show on August 28th with the Kate’s Country School stand. Please come and say hello and have a go at our famous “Guess the Poo” competition. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Kate x

Busy month of May

We have finally finished what I can only describe as our most challenging lambing season to date. Congratulations to all our new lambing graduates, all ewes and lambs are now outside enjoying the sunshine.

Lovely blue sky.

Lovely blue sky.

Our 30 Fresian x British Blue calves have just been weaned. They were bucket reared so will become friendly, easy to handle cows. 52 of our 2011 bucket reared calves were sold at market this week, following a clear, pre-movement TB test. More calves are arriving soon.

Mabel the chicken training the calves.

Mabel the chicken training the calves.

Lambing may have finished but with sheep there’s always something to do as our students found out last week on the Sheep Husbandry course. Working well as a team and so confident in performing stock tasks by the end of the day, we left them to it! Well done all.

Hard working students.

Hard working students.

They also sorted the first of our spring lambs ready for market. These were sold the following week at Abergavenny Livestock Market. Hard to believe that there will be a supermarket standing here next year.

Abergavenny Livestock Market

Abergavenny Livestock Market

It will soon be shearing season, essential to prevent fly-strike during the hot weather. Details of our Shearing courses can be found here.

Coppicing and fencing of the river has now been completed. We were extremely happy to see one of our otters with two of last year’s cubs. Not only can you see them here but if you turn the sound up you can hear them communicating.

Thanks to the change in the weather, we have managed to plant 20 acres of spring barley and 20 acres of spring oats for animal feed and straw next winter and also sown 10 acres of grass seed. With farming, you’re always planning ahead. Here’s hoping that the weather is going remain kind.