Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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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.

lambs

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.

Name the Lambs Competition20170302_131825
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.

 

daffs

 


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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!

Collage

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.

Lambing 41

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.

Lambing 38

A ewe in labour

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

Lambing 42

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.

Lambing 43

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

Lambing 44

Mothers can be very protective of their very precious offspring!

Lambing 16

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.

Lambing 6

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.

Lambing 14

Lambing 13

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.

Lambing 7

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.

Lambing 1

Lambing 3

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.

Lambing 45

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!

 

 


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Many Happy Returns

Some Birthdays we like to remember, some we like to forget but usually somewhere along the way we will celebrate them in one way or another.

Tim the Farmer reached his 50th birthday recently and tried to keep it fairly quiet but word got out and he had a few surprises.

Tim Roger tractor - Copy

Tim wondering why no one had wrapped up his Birthday present!

These included a Special Edition of this newsletter with photos supplied by his family to embarrass him.  A group of students fed 50 trees for him in the Vicars Orchard, and he had at least two surprise cakes with the big 50 written on them.

Uni challenge group

Students from North Carolina wishing Tim a Happy Birthday.

Tim and some of his friends spent the night in some of the cabins on the farm and then found their way to the café for breakfast.

Another of our visitors had other ideas and booked dinner in the Jolly Waggoner but her guests had to earn their dinner with a good walk around the farm after some spectacular duck herding.

herding ducks

Magnificent duck herding by this birthday group.

The farm is getting busier now with lamb feeding, butchers and farmers for the day getting unique experiences, often for a birthday and children’s parties heading off on farm tours on the trailer to feed the animals.

lamg and toy

Lots of birthdays on the way for those Airies
amongst you and also for many of our lambs.

For all of you with birthdays coming up under the sign of the Ram we would like to wish you a very happy birthday.


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

Sid the Sheepdog bounding through the Bluebells on the Circular Walk

Sid the Sheepdog bounding through the Bluebells on the Circular Walk

A lovely Wednesday morning and Sid was playfully running about amongst the beautiful bluebells that can be seen from the Circular Walk at the Farm. They won’t be there for much longer so he was keen to enjoy them while he could.

Meanwhile it appears that Chicken Dave had become a proper dog person and before they set off he had bought Sid a present.

Su showing Sid his present from Chicken Dave

Su showing Sid his present from Chicken Dave

During their perimeter security walk the three of them had bumped into some old friends of Chicken Dave who were doing a health walk for their hearts.

The Christchurch Cardiac Walkers from Hitchin had taken a day out from their art classes to come and see some bluebells and if you look closely you can just see them in the distance. (Sid of course could still smell them quite easily).

 

The good and sheltered pathway makes for a pleasant walk around the farm

The good and sheltered pathway makes for a pleasant walk around the farm

 

 

 


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

sid the police dog

Sid-napped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chicken Dave went for his lesson as usual on Wednesday morning but……

There was no Sid!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sid was missing and his main student Su was also missing.

Surely they must have been Sid – napped.

Feeling distraught Chicken Dave searched everywhere, the café, the chick shed, Rural Care, the lambs, the cows and of course the chickens and pigs.

But Sid was nowhere to be seen (of course he was worried about Su as well but really he was missing Sid).

He felt silly going for a walk by himself so got out his camera and took some pictures of the animals around the farm.

While he was doing this to take his mind off his missing dog he wondered where Sid might have gone.

dog races

Perhaps Su had taken Sid to become a racing dog?

cute dog - c

What if Sid had been swapped for another, smaller, cuter, better behaved dog!

week 9 sheep

Or perhaps he had gone to do some special undercover police work as a sheep?

Next week – what happened to Sid (and Su of course).

 


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

The SidSA goes TransAtlantic

The SidSA goes TransAtlantic

 

This week Chicken Dave got a bit forgetful and turned up on Thursday but with a whole bunch of people from American and British universities who wanted to learn about the Sid Sheepdog Academy.

It was gratifying that his Academy was now working with esteemed Universities from around the World and helping young people to appreciate dogs.

I ended up getting to train about six students, guiding them around the Vicars Orchard, where they were helping the farm with some tree feeding.

One of the Five Scarecrows on the Farm overseeing the tree Feeding by UNCW University of North Carolina Wilmington. Photograph by Merrick

One of the Five Scarecrows on the Farm overseeing the tree feeding by UNCW, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Photograph by Merrick

 

They were all much more attractive than Chicken Dave and younger so I gave them a good run about.

We introduced them to the flat noses (pigs) and the chickens (who don’t look anything like Chicken Dave), the lambs and the runner ducks where they practised a bit more herding.  Pretty good they were too.

Sid and Chicken Dave in Vicars Orchard. Photograph by Merrick.

Sid and Chicken Dave in Vicars Orchard
Photograph by Merrick

The Farm has asked me if I can extend my contract to work on Sunday as well this week so that means more biscuits.

It’s All Good.

Ruff.

 


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Reflections on Mothers Day at the Farm

mum and present

Once a year we set aside a day to really thank our mothers for all the work they have put in on our behalf.

I have been told that it is not until you become a parent yourself that you truly understand what that entails.

Well, at the end of another Mother’s Day at the Farm, I understand it a bit more.

tugging on mum

My last act of the day was to feed six hungry lambs, in the cold and without a proper woolly coat.

They kept sucking bits of me to try and get milk out but had to settle for the bottle which while effective probably isn’t quite the same.

Then they wanted to clamber all over me for a bit of fun while I was looking to get some sleep, not much chance of that.

crying

Farm life is tough, up early, cold, lots of tasks to achieve, animals to keep alive and people to keep happy.

Staff and volunteers to encourage and nurture and visitors to inspire and delight.

Chicken Dave doing what Mothers the world over do, all day, every day.

Chicken Dave doing what Mothers the world over do, all day, every day.

One of my favourite mothers came to the farm today as a Mother’s Day surprise and she was booked in to feed the lambs.  What a lovely thing to see a family grow up with a new little dog to look after and help to pass on those nurturing skills.

Delilah rushing over to meet Sid.

Delilah rushing over to meet Sid.

hug mum

Another of my favourite mothers is moving away and we won’t see her again for a while with her stick loving children.

The idea of family is what continually grows on me whilst I survive on the farm and it was beautifully summed up in a testimonial from one of our many hardworking interns.

family and sun

“People see the best and worst of me and still accept me.”

Something I suspect most mothers would be nodding their heads at but replacing the word accept with love.

 

love mum

So for all of you who brought mums to the farm, the pub, the café, the lambs thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.