Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Lambing 2018

There has been lots of activity down in the lambing sheds this year with 106 lambs being born! We officially finished the season on Saturday 21st of April with a lovely set of Suffolk triplets. It is always bittersweet when lambing finishes as there is no longer the anticipation, surprise and excitement of new arrivals each morning. But there is also relief as the long nights waiting and worrying about ewes in labour and newborn lamb troubles are over for another year.

Our public lamb bottle feeding activity has been as popular as ever again! Our Co-Farmers have really enjoyed feeding the lambs that were not fed during the public sessions, with many taking responsibility to make up the milk and making sure the bottles were cleaned after every use.

As we are a working farm it is never a good idea to have favourite animals but it is very difficult sometimes! A huge staff favourite this year is Swede. He was the first lamb to be born on our site this year and also the first Church Farm lamb who needed to be bottle fed! Swede’s mum was a first time mum, who can often have difficulties delivering and bonding with their lambs. She had delivered the lamb all by herself but another pregnant ewe came over and started cleaning him up. This caused Swede’s mum to become very confused and reject him! We tried all the tricks like rubbing Swede with straw, rubbing the afterbirth and fluids back on him but Mum still didn’t want to know. She ended up becoming aggressive towards Swede and the decision was made for us to remove him. He is now 7 weeks old and is the leader of all the bottle fed lambs! As you can see by the pictures he is growing into a big lad!

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We now have the mammoth task of looking after 106 rapidly growing and ever exploring lambs! It is a good job we have the help of the Co-Farmers to assist us with this! At times it is very hard work and often stressful but when the sun is shining and 106 lambs are running and jumping around the field we look around and think—it wasn’t that bad, roll on next year!

Kelly

 

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A Night in the Lambing Sheds

Our ewes have always been kind to us during our lambing season and for the most part lambed during the day.  7.30am breakfast usually kicked things off, and we would have a couple of lambs just after 9am. The 4pm feed would induce the same. This year however, it seems they have decided night time lambing is the way to go. I think the weather has played a part in this decision!

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On one of these nights I take over from another staff member at 7pm. A ewe expecting triplets is lambing. She has the first lamb, and an hour later the next one follows, a very small lamb who appears quite weak. The temperature is dropping and I hope mum can get them cleaned up before they get cold. Its now 9.45 and she delivers the 3rd lamb, this one a little bigger, although it strikes me how small they all are. Its now a fight against time for mum to get all 3 clean and up, colostrum in them before the frost sets in. It’s an anxious time and mum still seems distracted—something isn’t right.  She fusses over them but then keeps walking away and laying down. My first thought is she is tired, or perhaps low in trace elements, something that can occur after lambing. Another hour passes, the longest hour of the night, and I am willing her to get these lambs clean.  If I interfere at this stage it could break the bond. Its 11pm, and I start to wonder if there is another lamb, as the first 3 are small, and she is still distracted. Mum is protective of her brood, but she is tired and lets me have a look—there is a lamb laying in a breach position. She has been unable to deliver it because of its positioning, and it’s a big lamb and needs a bit of encouraging out. Quads! Now it is a race against time to get them all dry and warm, and mum seems overwhelmed.  I help her dry the lambs and get hot water bottles, as their temperatures are dropping and the 2nd lamb is going into shock. The first lamb is up and looking for milk, 15 mins later the 3rd is the same. Lamb number 2 is still down struggling on his front legs.

It feels like we make hundreds of decisions in a day, and I have come to realise that decision making is 90% of what a lambing season entails. The decisions are often hard, sometimes made with your head but more often than not, with your heart, and they are not always the right decisions, but you learn from them. I don’t know what the next 24 hours will hold for these lambs—it’s going to be a struggle.

I sit in the back of the lambing shed, I look to the left in awe of this ewe and her quads, immediately devoted yet overwhelmed.  To the right there is another ewe who is quietly delivering twins, murmuring to them as she delivers. One of my favourite ewes comes and lays down next to me, and I look up at the clear sky and see it’s full of stars.  It’s now midnight, it’s absolutely freezing, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Rozelle

 


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Claire

dsc09879.jpgHave you met Claire?  She is embracing Church Farm with enthusiasm and passion that is contagious!  Growing up on a farm in the Scottish Highlands, where as she says, “rain and snow is every day weather,“ and the first vehicle she ever drove was a tractor, she is feeling right at home here.  Before joining us at Church Farm, she worked for 20 years as a wedding planner.  She adores  her three cats, and enjoys travelling, especially to Costa Rica, as they are 98% sustainable using the rain, volcanoes, rivers and sun, and they produce amazing coffee.  Claire says she loves working here in the fresh air alongside “so many dedicated and hardworking people.”  And so far, her favourite animal is Mike the rabbit.  She has also lived in Gibraltar, and is looking forward to the sunny days, as well.

 

 


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Easter Holiday Activities

Lamb Feeding
We are lambing now. If you would like to help us bottle feed them you can book online. A lamb feeding session lasts around 45 minutes and you will hear from our experienced staff all about the lambs you are feeding and the latest details about how the lambing season is progressing. A wonderful experience for all ages, bottle feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

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Indoor and Outdoor Play, Feed the Animals, and Farm Trail
With your day pass you can spend time in the indoor play room, the newly redesigned Woodland Play area, feed animals around the farm, and follow the Easter Farm Trail to get a treat from the shop.

Egg Collecting
Egg collecting can be booked for 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour.  Accompany one of our farmers and experience the free range hens close up, and take home a box of (6) eggs.

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Camping
Pitch up your tent under the stars and enjoy all the farm has to offer for a weekend or even a week. Church Farm is a great place for a glass of wine around the campfire to relax and enjoy nature as well as natural play. You can book to have an open fire. There are large straw bales provided for clambering on, which can provide young and older with hours of fun – but only under parental supervision. Basic facilities like compost toilets and hot shower cubicles are ready in the camping field. Camping prices include a free farm pass for every day you stay!

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Trailer Rides
Enjoy a trip around the farm on our popular tractor/trailer ride.  Book for 12:30, Saturday or Sunday.

Book all events online!

 

 

 


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School Visits to Martins Wood

At our school one of the topics we do in reception is ‘Origins.’ We think about where things have come from, especially wool and eggs. When we were planning our topic this year, we fondly remembered our visitors from Church Farm last year, and we just knew we wanted them to visit us again. Therefore, Chicken Dave and Ann were dispatched from the farm to come and talk to our children—all 90 of them!

Ann was the first to visit and spoke to the children about what sheep are used for on Church Farm. She spoke to the children about how sheep are sheared, and how wool is carded and spun before being dyed and turned into clothing. Ann brought with her a range of amazing items, from a peg loom to garments all made from wool. The children loved trying on her coats. They all commented on how heavy they were.
The children were very lucky and were also visited by Chicken Dave, two chickens and a chick! Shirley the chicken was the children’s favourite. Dave spoke to the children about eggs, how they are all different, where they come from and of course he had the children debating which came first, the chicken or the egg? We are yet to come up with a definitive answer.  Dave spoke to the children about how the chickens on the farm are free range and gave the children a chance to pretend they were free range chickens and move around the hall freely. Finally the children couldn’t wait to stroke the chickens. They loved this! All the children are still talking about the visit. We have completed some writing in class about the visits. Here are some of the things the children have written:
“We saw a cool chicken!”

“One chicken flied out of the box, the class went to the hall to see the baby chick.”

“The Chicks were soft and fluffy.”

“I enjoyed stroking the chicks with my friends, I liked the chickens the best!”

Thank you again for your amazing visit! We hope to see you again next year.
—Miss Mansfield, Martins Wood School


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Lamb Feeding and other Spring Activities

Preparations are underway for the first birth of the year.  The lambing bays have been laid with fresh straw and the ewes are moving into the maternity ward as we speak.

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New intern, Angelina, has arrived from North Rhine-Westfalia in Germany to work in Rural Care and lead the lamb feeding team.  Angelina is studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Applied Science, after WWOOFing in New Zealand three years ago sparked her interest in agriculture.  She will be with us through August.

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Our first lambs are due mid-March. If you would like to meet our hand reared lambs and help us bottle feed them you can book online . Bottle-feeding is £9.95 per person, supervising adults are free. A lamb feeding session will typically last 45 minutes.  You will hear from our experienced staff the latest details about how the lambing is progressing and how special this time of year is on our farm. This activity is wonderful for all ages and everyone can get involved. Bottle-feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

Booking is essential as this is a popular event.  Please check-in at the Farm Store on arrival.

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Pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are six painted lambs.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Chick Trail for Easter
During the Easter holidays, pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are painted chicks.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Egg Collecting
We offer Little Farmers the chance to help with feeding chickens and collecting eggs from our happy Church Farm hens.  Egg collecting is at 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour. Plus, as part of the experience, they’ll get to take half a dozen eggs home with them—eggcellent! You can book online. If you have any questions please call 01438 861 447. Egg collecting is £9.95 per child (this price includes the half dozen eggs and a bag of animal feed), free for supervising adults.

Farm Day Pass
A Farm Day Pass enables you to enjoy access to the farm trail, horticulture garden, woodland play area, home field and vicarage field animals and use of the indoor play room for just £3 per person or just £10 for up to 5 adults and children. Bags of pig, poultry and cattle feed are available at the Farm Store, where you will be given a safety briefing and a free map showing the points where you can feed the animals around the farm.

 

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Scanning Day for Ewes

Scanning day is always a big day here at Church Farm, the ewes are scanned using a mobile ultrasound  machine. They are marked with colours to indicate how many lambs they are carrying, blue is 1 lamb, red is 2 and orange is 3, an orange line on the top of the head is empty. With anticipation we gather the girls for the big scan.  It’s a tense moment when the first one goes through, and this year the girls were not behaving and avoiding the scanning crate at all costs. We eventually got the first batch through, but with all the commotion I missed the first 20 or so. As things started to flow I looked over at the ewes that have been scanned and can just see a sea of orange. My heart sinks, I immediately think they are all empty, our worst nightmare. I look again only to realise they are all triplets, and the panic sets in again!! 15 sets of triplets.

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Overall we are due 149 lambs, with 48 sets of twins and 15 sets of triplets, and the rest singles. A busy spring is ahead of us, but we can’t wait for this magical time of year,  looks like we chose the right Rams for the job!

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If you would like to join us for this special time of year we are running several experience days from family days to overnight experiences. If you have ever been interested in lambing this might be the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list!

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With the 15 sets of triplets we are expecting we will have an awful lot of extra mouths to feed this year and will be offering bottle feeding session from the 25th March.

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Please visit our website for further details or to book one of the lambing experience days or bottle feeding lambs, places are limited so get booking quick!

Rozelle