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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!

 

Farming

February on the farm

21st February 2017

Twins? single? triplets? (…..quads?) scanning the ewes, first year at Cocking Hill!

We’ve been very busy this February. Grass is scarce and typically always a hard month for farming. There is some positive news though…we’ve scanned our ewes, and it went really well!

We scanned at an average of 183% (…the boys did their job!), with a great twinning rate and hardly any triplets of quads. For us, as we lamb everything outdoors, it is crucial that we don’t have two many triplets or quads, as we have to foster them onto the ewes with singles – and it just makes things a bit tricky.

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Farming

January on the farm…

1st January 2017

First things first; It has been FREEZING on the farm. Like, the kind of freezing where I have worried that my fingers may actually drop off! All sense of pride within the fashion stakes have gone out of the window and every morning Andy laughs and asks me ‘Come on then, how many layers have you got on today then?!’ ‘Six…usually the answer is six’.

Traditionally January would be a quieter time for most sheep farmers in the UK (if there is such a thing for farmers!). But for us, taking on Cocking Hill Farm the previous September has meant that we have a lot of ‘setting up’ to do.

As we are converting an old dairy farm to sheep and beef we have had the grand task of upgrading all of the fencing so that it is stock proof for the sheep and lambs (around 25,000 meters to be exact!).

I’ve gone from someone who takes absolutely no notice of fences around animals, to a woman obsessed with all the different types. At the moment we are having to use a mixture of three methods, one being ‘temporary’, this is poly wire that is electrified by batteries, popped up with plastic posts that stick into the field. We’ve been using this out of necessity – just to quickly fence around any fields that don’t have secure fencing. Its quick to put up (rolled out on the quad bike attached to a ‘Rappa’ trailer), BUT some of our savvier and more brazen mobs of sheep have been cheeky, and the moment they discover that part of the fence is down (perhaps a deer has pushed through for example), they’re out in a flash! Not great when you look up onto the Downs and you see hundreds of fluffy white things all wandering along the South Downs Way! The other down side is the constant, having to put up the fences and take them down again – it can get very dull, very quickly!

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