Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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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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Why Our Work is Important to Us

There is nothing that Rural Care isn’t involved in at Church Farm, we keep ourselves busy with anything from picking flowers for the shop to hanging a new door in the pub. Our days are diverse and filled with purpose, which is how we like them! Some of the roles we embark on at the farm offer us more than you may think and benefit us as much as the farm.

We offer opportunities for a diverse range of individuals, all of whom have their own interests, strengths, skills and abilities. We are able to tailor a day where everyone is involved in their own way.

This newsletter this was published in has been contributed to by Co-Farmer Holly, then folded by some of the students in our group from Greenside school, some of them have been hand delivered by Co-Farmers who like a walk and are learning about being safe in the community.

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Here are how some of our bigger responsibilities on the farm benefit us and the farm as a whole.

Laying hens
The laying hens offer us routine, which is important to some people.  The job is relatively predictable, there are many tasks involved in completing the job, and everyone finds their role. Harley loves to scatter the food. Luke enjoys collecting the eggs.  Daniel likes to get stuck in mucking out and Sean health checks the hens. Each with our own role, we work as a team and there is a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the session. That then leads onto processing the eggs.  Some people like sorting over a chat about what happened on Eastenders. Florence likes to grade the eggs. Matthew is a keen egg boxer.  Many of the eggs you have purchased from the farm might have been boxed by Matthew. There is a wonderful cycle to chickens and eggs.  We all play our part and the result is our lovely fresh, free range eggs for sale in the shop. All of our Co-Farmers in some way have been involved in the journey those eggs have made to get there. Those eggs for sale in the shop offer us independence skills, confidence, social skills, numeracy and writing skills and a sense that we are part of something that people appreciate.

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Sheep
Sheep are wonderful creatures for us to work with, they are relatively safe, very sensory and are a great platform for us to learn about behaviour, body language, spatial awareness, teamwork and communication. Again, as with the hens, there is a cycle to working with sheep. Their cycle is over a year and starts with the rams being put with the ewes (tupping). Throughout the year there are then numerous tasks such as foot trimming, shearing, lambing and worming. These become part of our own cycle. We know it is spring when the lambs come and we know it is summer when we shear. To work with sheep you have to be aware of their signs and signals, what they are telling us. This can teach us a lot about behaviour, observation and team building.

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Allotment
Rural Care has their own allotment garden.  The idea behind the garden was to grow food for the Co-Farmers to cook with. Each spring the Co-Farmers choose what they would like to grow based on what they like to eat. Throughout the spring and summer the Co-Farmers tend to the fruit and veg they have sown. This again offers many different tasks which altogether result in the fabulous produce they harvest at the end of the summer and early autumn.  Then comes my favourite part, the cooking, as we learn how to turn that variety of veg into something yummy. Again there is an annual cycle that is predictable, the tasks change with the seasons and there is a great reward and sense of achievement at harvest time.

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Our work is so important to us. It’s not just about getting a job done it’s about finding out people’s interests, strengths and abilities and matching them to a wide range of tasks that together make up the farming that we do.

Rozelle

 

 

 


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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

 


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A Farm to Produce Food for People

Church Farm Ardeley is a “community interest company” set in order to innovate and create sustainable small farm enterprises. It took us 6 years of huge losses and a steep learning curve to get to full production and to break even! It is still a work in progress and a never ending challenge.

We produce every cut of meat, every vegetable and fruit we can here. Value is added through doing our own butchery and processing, making ready meals and we are reliant on people eating our food to sustain the farm in the pub, café, and direct farm retail.

To produce such a wide range of food, without using fungicides and pesticides, and in a manner we are proud of, takes a lot of people. We have a core team of full and part time people who help across the enterprises, we provide supervised work experience for adults with difficulties and education, have volunteers, students and interns contributing to getting the huge amount of work done to grow food and bring it to market. In all there about 48 full and part time staff on the payroll to run the farm, café, shop and pub.

We grow:

Livestock includes:

· British Lop, Large White & Berkshire breeding sows, boars, weaners and finishers (120)
· Red Poll and Red Poll Cross Cattle and Followers (80 head)
· Llyen, Suffolk, Texel, Black, White and Badger Faced Welsh Mountain sheep and fat lambs (140 head)
· Light Sussex, Cuckoo Maran, Black Rock, Rhode Island and Hybrid Laying hens (750)
· Outdoor reared table poultry – we produce 50 a week
· Norfolk Black turkeys, Embden geese, Aylesbury ducks, Bee hives and Apiary Garden

In addition we coppice and produce over 1500 bags of logs, make kindling, and grow some Christmas trees.

Thank you to everyone who eats our food and enables us to farm.

—Tim Waygood


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Choosing the Right Ram for the Job

October was the start of our sheep year, a funny time to start a year you might think but for us here at Rural Care it’s the start of our breeding year and what we raise our sheep for.

By this time, the ewes have been on the summer grass and have reconditioned after lambing.  They are in peak condition, and their fleeces are starting to grow back from being shorn earlier in the summer. Their lambs were weaned, and they have enjoyed a few months of lush grass, warm weather with no hungry mouths to feed.

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Jeff

The Rams, having spent 11 months now away from the ewes, are also in prime condition.  They have had their full MOT—feet trim, teeth checked, weight monitored and resilience checked. We have our Suffolk Ram, Randy Dandy, who proved himself last year and produced some beautiful strong Suffolk lambs. We have also kept a shearling Ram who we have called Andy.  He was a lamb who was born here is the spring of 2015. He is a Lleyn-Texel cross and is a handsome boy.  He has a beautiful temperament and takes forward the strong  points from both breeds, the strong bones of the Lleyn, and the temperament and excellent mothering skills and strength, stamina and conformation of the Texel.

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Randy Dandy

The flock here at Church Farm started with the Lleyn, good sized sheep who make excellent mothers, and we still have some of the original flock amongst this year’s breeding ewes. They usually carry triplets, and big ones at that! They are old timers at this and know exactly what to do. They are large, heavy sheep and not the easiest to work with when you need to tip them to trim their feet. However their calm, sensible, gentle nature makes up for it.

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Lleyn Sheep

So October brought with it big decision making.  We retired our Black Welsh Mountain Ram, Jeff, this year.  After 6 years of service we felt he had earned his retirement, however we are not sure he is ready to retire! You should always have a reserve ram ready just in case anything goes wrong, and so we chose one of Randy Dandy’s lambs born last year.  He has all of Randy’s characteristics, and is a handsome boy.

On October 13th the boys or the ‘tups’ went in and the’ tupping’ began. Tupping is the term used when referring to a ram mating with a ewe.  The ‘tup’ is an uncastrated male sheep. It’s always an exciting but tense day, with overwhelming anticipation the boys fly around the field, smelling the air, the girls in a flurry of excitement.

The ritual  of tupping is a polite one, which may surprise you. The Rams will seek out which ewes are in season, the ewes will come into season every 17-21 days. The odour of the oestrous ewe stimulates the ram, although it is the ewe who seeks out the ram and stays close beside it. The male responds to urination of the oestrous female by sniffing, extending the neck and curling the lip. This is the flehmen response. The tongue goes in and out and the male may bite the female’s wool, and raise and lower one front leg in a stiff-legged striking motion. If the female is receptive she will stand for copulation.

Once they find a ewe in heat they stick with her for about 8-12 hours, sometime longer.  There is a courting ritual, as ewes typically stay in heat for 6-18 hours. (Allowing just enough time for dinner and a night out!) They talk to each other in a low chattering type bleat, the same affectionate voice the ewe uses with her new born lambs.

After the first 24 hours we start to get an idea about how the tups are doing, as they wear a coloured crayon called a raddle on their chest. We are then able to see which ewes the tups have seen. The field is usually a sea of different colours.

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Bums for inspection

Randy had made it around about 10 ewes by the morning, and Andy, with his more polite approach and being a first timer, had seen 2. Unfortunately Randy overdid it in the first 36 hours, pulling a hamstring and had to be pulled out (with much resistance) and rested for a week. Luckily we had his 2016 lamb in reserve and our old timer Black Welsh Mountain Ram Jeff was on hand to muck in!

The tups remained with the ewes for 5 weeks, and they are now recuperating in the R&R field.  They lose a lot of their condition through tupping, often forgetting to eat or drink and need to be monitored closely. Randy is on the mend but he will need some physiotherapy on his leg and warm up exercises for next year!

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Say cheese!

The ewes are pregnancy scanned early in the year and we will find out who is carrying lambs and how many. Fingers crossed their hard work has paid off and we will have a successful lambing season. Here’s to the start of another sheep year!

Rozelle


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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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Lambing with Rural Care: The Real Picture

This is the second year Rural Care has taken on the full livestock management of the sheep at Church Farm, and this of course involves lambing!

Charlotte, our Rural Care livestock manager, gave us a course in lambing in advance. For some of us who were involved last year it was just a little bit less daunting than the year before.  The whole Rural Care staff team, volunteers and co-farmers got involved and several of our co-farmers actually delivered lambs this year!

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Lambing can take a long time and lots of energy for humans as well as sheep.  For humans this might be bags full of chocolate and biscuits, for the ewes it is soaked sugar beet as well as loads of lubricant and orange arm length gloves.

All the pregnant ewes where put into our lambing bays two weeks before the first lambs where due.  The ewes had been scanned beforehand so we knew if they were expecting one, two or three lambs. They were marked with a coloured spot on their back, so we knew how many lambs to expect during delivery.

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The signs to look for when a ewe is starting to lamb is that she might separate herself from the herd, she might stop eating, her udder fills up and her vulva is getting very pink. She will also start pawing, as she is making a nest. She will also start licking her lips and might start making certain noises to start communicate with her lambs, even though they are still inside her.  But obviously some sheep won’t have many of these signs, some have them for days, some give birth quickly,….It all depends on the ewe.

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A ewe in labour

Once the lamb is born the mother will start licking the lamb dry.

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If the lamb struggles with breathing and you might have to put a bit of straw up his/her nostrils to make it sneeze and start breathing properly.

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It is also common to swing the lamb from its back legs to drain the fluid.

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Mothers can be very protective of their very precious offspring!

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Charlotte keep meticulous records of our ewes. We record their number and breed, but also if they had any problem during their last pregnancy and birthing and which tupping group they were in ( e.g. which ram the father is). We record if they ewes has milk and if the different lambs can suckle and if they are male or female.

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Once the lambs are born, the ewes and the lambs are put in a pen where they can bond with each other.  The navels of the lambs get iodined to stop infections and we check if the ewe has milk and the lambs are able to suckle.

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Our lambing pens where built out of pallets by Tony (Rural Care) and the co-farmers and made such an improvement to last year. The co-farmers even made little blackboards so we could put the vital information about the current ewe and lambs in the pen for the next person coming on shift.

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Once we are sure the mother and lambs are fine and have bonded well, they go into the nursery, where they mix with a small amount of mothers and toddlers. Eventually after a few more days they get up out in the field with the rest of the mother that have given birth.

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Lambing is a lot about observing your animals and getting to know there normal behaviour as well as checking if everything is going to plan with the mother as well as the lambs.

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Lambing is hard work, emotional, exciting, upsetting, exhilarating, exhausting but most of all it teaches you about life and death and how precious life is !

Many thanks to the Rural Care staff for all the extra hours.  And thank you to Nick Hooper for the photos in this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ewe in labour

 

 

 

 

 

Once the lamb is born the mother will start licking the lamb dry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the lamb struggles with breathing and you might have to put a bit of straw up his/her nostrils to make it sneeze and start breathing properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is also common to swing the lamb from its back legs to drain the fluid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers can be very protective of their very precious offspring!