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farmer

Farming

Common misconceptions about what it means to be a farmer…

18th October 2017

Upon telling people ‘I’m a farmer’ I’m often met with a quizzical expression. This could be down to the fact that, lately it’s usually when I’ve been at a wedding sat next to someone I don’t know, and I’m scrubbed up, made up and dressed up (no mud/straw in my hair… etc). The expression is usually followed by, ‘Oh really…you don’t look like a farmer…’ (whatever that means…what in everyones mind DOES a typical ‘farmer’ look like?! Flat cap? Chewing on some straw?!).

In my old career, when I was in marketing, answering the dreaded ‘What do you do?’ question was a hell of a lot simpler to answer. But now, when I tell people what I do, a flood of questions ensue and they are usually of a simular nature. I’m not complaining, as I’m proud of what I do, and it’s nice for people to find it intriguing. But everytime I answer that ‘I’m actually a farmer’ I usually end up dominating the conversation answering questions like ‘OMG, do you like have to get up at 4am everyday…?’. When actually, I might quite like to discuss the ‘difference between the shades of cloud paint in the Glossier make up repertoire instead’ or ‘what the new Blade Runner film is like…’.

Usual questions I get asked upon telling people ‘I’m a farmer’…

You must be exhausted, do you have to get up a 4am everyday?

No. I’m a shepherd/livestock farmer, not a dairy farmer. So I get up at 6am, like the rest of the world. (Actually later than when I was commuting into London/Brighton when I was working as a marketeer!).

How on earth did YOU get into farming?

I fell in love with, and now have, married a farmer, and this has naturally bought me into the farming world having come from a non farming background. But Andy is just as much a ‘farmers husband’ as I am ‘a farmers wife’. I have really found that there is a common attitude that if you are a women in farming that you must have come from a farming background.

Do you drive the tractor?

Yes. I do. And I bloody love it. You’re so high up and can spy into everyones gardens! I was actually quite daunted at the idea of learning to drive the tractor, but the controls are really intuitive. I think its probably easier to learn to drive than a car to be honest.

Do you have sheep dogs?

Yes, two of them…Joey the Kelpie who is an Australian yard dog who is great in smaller spaces/in the yard and Zac the Collie who is a traditional heading dog, great in large fields for gathering. The two of them have been together since they were young so they work as a little team when we are herding sheep, with us shouting/whistling commands. They are invaluable to our day to day existence.

How many sheep do you have? (to this, when Andy or I answer, around 2,000) It’s usually followed by – how on earth do you cope?! Especially during lambing?!

Because we run an extensive New Zealand system, and the sheep we have (NZ Romneys) are extremely hardy, we essentially leave the sheep to their own devices. Obviously making sure they have enough grass to eat and water to drink with little intervention. This is true of lambing too. All of the ewes lamb on their own outside and we check round them a couple of times a day, just picking up any that seem to be struggling and taking them inside for a bit of TLC. As we run this system, it means we don’t need half as much man power to run the farm, and it also means the sheep are happily left alone to live their lives without us bothering them too much!

Those are the main questions I get asked…but if you have anything else you want to ask, let me know and I’d be happy to answer 🙂

 

 

 

 

Farming

Our first year Lambing at Cocking Hill Farm

14th May 2017

Wow, where to begin. On the 1st of April we had our first lambs. A triplet (they always tend to drop earlier than the twins or the singles!), we weren’t actually expecting any until the 6th/7th but as we moved them into their lambing paddocks, they had fresh grass and the sun was shining and I think they just thought, yup – I’m ready to have my babies now. And they did, we had the triplet go on the 1st and then after that it was a whirlwind of lambs from then on.

Luckily, the beginning of April also saw the arrival of Will. Will came to help us with lambing having (almost) finished at Agricultural college and he has been a very welcome addition to the farm! He knows pretty much all there is to know about tractors, is great with the livestock and even shares my passion for keeping the barn/farm clean and tidy.

We got ourselves into a nice routine, or as routine as you can get with the unpredictable nature of lambing! A typical day would see us with me going into the barn to feed/water the orphans and ewes we had to bring inside, then Andy would check round the ewes/lambs around the home paddocks and Will would go to the other side of the farm to check the rest. Andy and Will would look out for anything struggling, and bring back ewes/lambs that had problems to the barn so we could keep a close eye. Also, typically when ewes have triplets, or quads we tend to have to take one of the lambs off the mum as they can struggle to feed all three lambs (or anything more than 2) – this is where the bulk of our orphans come from. We can however foster the orphans off to ewes that have lost lambs, or even just have singles – and we did so really successfully this year leaving us with only around 30 orphan lambs (out of 2500ish – not too shabby!).

Aswell as Will, we also had a couple of friends to stay which was such a great help. Welshy, our friend came down from London to lend a hand for a week and a bit. Having him to stay was a dream, aside from letting me steal his beaut photos to use on instagram, he cooked (one night even from foraged wild garlic he found in a field) and gave me an excuse to drink wine each night guilt free! Our friends Ed and Lu also came and helped a couple of days which was amazing – we’re so lucky to have a job that we can invite or friends help!

We had about 1,800 pregnant ewes to tend to so at its peak it was pretty intense, as you can imagine. Moral was kept up, usually by breakfast table photo show and tells. Each of us would fight over who got the best shot of the day of lambs in the sunshine! Obvs I’ve never known any other way, and I’m completely bias, but I really think outdoor lambing has to be the best way to do it. The Romneys are amazing sheep, and such proud mothers – in a matter of 2mins, you can see a lamb being born, the mum licking it off and it get up and drinking. I mean, it puts humans to shame really doesn’t it! So that’s it, year one lambing at Cocking Hill – DONE….well almost…we’ve finished lambing the main flock and now its the ewe lambs turn, there are only about 200 of them, so compared to the main bulk, its been a dream. They’ve done so well considering its the first year they have lambed, and we’ve had minimal problems (hopefully it continues!).

So all in all lambing went well, we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather for outdoor lambing conditions, and we managed to hold on to grass in the lambing paddocks. So yes, onwards to the next chapter (the fun never ends in farming you see!), next we will be turning thoughts to summer with lots of farm related events, shearing and eventually selling some stock! Zero chill time in 2017 for us!

If I’ve left anything out..or if you have any lambing related quezzies, let me know!