Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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We’re Off the Bottle

20160524_134733If you live within a 5 mile radius of the farm you may have heard that we are weaning our hand reared lambs.  Their bleats for milk can be heard far and wide! Weaning is the practice of removing from lambs the milk diet provided by the ewe (or a milk replacement diet).  From the milk diet, lambs are moved onto forage or grain based diets.  The separation can be stressful for ewes, lambs and those of us who are caring for them.

Weaning age varies greatly in the sheep industry. Lambs have been weaned successfully as early as 14 days, while some lambs are allowed to wean naturally, staying with their mums for 6 months or more.  Hand-reared lambs can be successfully weaned from a milk diet at 25 to 30 pounds body weight or when they are 30 to 45 days old. Weaning abruptly is better than offering a diluted milk replacer the last week.

Our hand reared lambs are now 3 months old which is when we usually wean them.  They have had access to grass to forage from the first few days of being alive and have been introduced to grain from a week old. 3 months of feeding 6 times a day is a huge commitment for all of our staff, co-farmers and volunteers and it’s a relief when we make it through and feel confident that they can survive without the milk.

In a natural situation, weaning occurs at approximately 6 months of age, usually in the autumn when the ewes begin returning to estrus (the ewe reproductive cycle). Our male lambs with mums will be separated from the ewes and weaned next, but our female lambs will stay with their mums and wean naturally.

There are several advantages to late weaning. It is more “natural” and results in less stress for the ewe and lambs. There is less risk of the ewe developing mastitis since her milk production has declined significantly by the time the lambs are removed.

For now our lambs are learning to fend for themselves, it’s a tough lesson but their instinct and resilience will hopefully see them though.  In the mean time we have ear plugs on order!

—Rozelle

 

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The Birds and the Bees

Last month, Red Kites, this month, Honey Bees. The variety of the life around us on the farm both human and otherwise can be staggering.

In a colony of bees you may have thousands of these insects taking up their roles in keeping their species going.

  • The Queen Bee, who will spend a lot of time laying a lot of eggs
  • The drone, a lazy, good-for-only-one-thing male
  • The worker, an astonishingly hard working, sterile and short-lived female

Local beekeeper since the age of eleven, Euan Brierley, informed us of some of the facts surrounding these tiny creatures in the midst of Vicar’s Orchard at the end of June.  It turns out that the location is entirely suitable as the inventor of the modern beehive structure most widely used was Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth who patented his design in 1852.  The dimensions of the hives were based on champagne boxes which of course most Vicars will have lying about somewhere!!!

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Euan with eager intern Tyler and a lot of bees

 

Bees will fly a couple of miles to check out the local environment for their food, and Ardeley is happily filled with gardens of bee friendly flowers.  Euan tells of his own adventures with his father driving up to the North of England with hives in the back of the car in search of nectar and to help pollinate local flora.

We looked inside the hives, both British Standard and Top Bar varieties, one more geared to man’s needs than those of the bees.  Questions rained in about royal jelly, colony level decision making and levels of honey production, beeswax and waterproofing, sugar syrup and organic bee keeping, as well as pollen types and honey intoxication!

 

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Istvan examining Emma’s Top Bar Hive

 

Euan has avoided the dreaded varoa mite amongst his bees for over four years, and puts it down to only taking what is reasonable, rather than replacing honey with sugar syrup when harvesting the crop.

Many thanks to Euan for his willingness to share his learning and his bees, to Darren for organising our introduction to bees, and Emma for helping to support and extend the farm’s involvement with them.  Also to the interested interns and volunteers who resemble the hard working, worker bees and managed to fit in a class after the usual demands of a day on the farm.

bees - Euan and interns

Darren, Euan, Su, Eva, Tyler, Andy, Amber, Istvan and Viv and some bees!

 

N.B. When the time comes for that talk about the Birds and the Bees it is really a very difficult and rather terrifying example, for a male at least, of the consequences of copulation! As the Queen flies high into the air, to tempt the strongest drone, his success is rewarded by being emasculated on decoupling!

—Chicken Dave

 


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Radio 4 At the Farm

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Adrian from Radio 4

Rural care at Church Farm Ardeley hosted the recording of an BBC Radio 4 All in the Mind programme.

Finding people ready to talk to the reporters was harder than we expected but luckily a few brave volunteers came forward.

Radio 4 recorded here for about 4 hours and talked to 6 people on the farm for a 15 minute part in a programme. It is a real eye opener to see what amount of work goes into making a programme !

I have just listened to the broadcast and, as much as this is my everyday job, I had tears in my eyes listening to the stories of how the farm is helping some of our co-farmers and volunteers, also knowing that so many people’s stories stay untold. They also talked to Rachel Bragg, a leading researcher into the benefits of Care Farming and Green Care and Development Coordinator for Care Farming UK.

The programme is a real testament to the benefits Rural Care and Church Farm offer to our community.

You can hear the podcast on www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07gfjht.

Ann De Bock