Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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From the Farmer

  • Wet and cold spring has delayed cultivations, planting and the cattle going out into the fields.
  • 6 calves have been born so far this year, and there are 34 more to come!
  • It has been a great month for piglets – 3 litters of 8 going strong. One litter from a 7 year old Berkshire Sow.
  • Once the ground dries up, we will move pig pens to fresh ground.
  • Potatoes were in this time last year. We have two acres still to plant of Cara and Maris Piper.
  • Onion beds are ready and 2 acres to plant by hand soon.
  • We have finally started the planting of 500 summer raspberry canes at the bottom of Vicarage Field.
  • Everything is budding, and hopefully reports of hard late frost are exaggerated like most weather reports seem to be.
  • Unbelievably, its time to order turkey and goose chicks again.

Tim

 

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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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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Lean on Me

Just pain today

Lean on me

Fin’s Third Adventure

May 3rd 2017

National Walking Month

Dr Finlay was in a strange mood this morning as they set off on their morning walk around the Circular Walk. It was to be a very quiet walk today, no talking, no greeting the animals, not enough a glance up to the trees.  The only thing that Dr Finlay remembered was another stick lying in the middle of the path.  His eyes were downcast.

Fin wasn’t sure what to do?  So he just carried on being a stick, something for someone to hold on to.  Something to provide support and something to lean on.

Fin was a quite brilliant stick and didn’t realise how helpful he was being.  He was a quiet comfort in a time of sadness for Dr Finlay who had received some difficult news. He was glad Fin was there.  Can I stick be a friend?  Perhaps this is a good example of when so called inanimate objects can provide some comfort in troubled times.

Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 3rd 2017

 

 


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Vicar’s Orchard

Damsons, plums, greengages, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples and medlars: seven hundred and twenty trees in Vicar’s Orchard: mostly of local varieties. The orchard was first laid out and planted in 2008. Lots of local people came to help plant it. Next year we will be inviting them back to see how their trees have grown. It will be the tenth anniversary of planting, though the trees will be twelve years old. After planting, the orchard got a bit neglected and the labels on the trees wore off, so we didn’t know which was which. We had to recreate the grid on which the trees were laid out. We did this using recycled roof tiles painted with letters and numbers. Then we could match the printed plan to the actual trees. After that I inscribed 710 aluminium labels naming the trees, giving each of them an address and set them twinkling in the branches.

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Some trees had died, so last year we used a memorial fund for Daniel Gomm to purchase replacements in his memory. His relatives and friends came to plant 32 of them. Each tree has to be staked, fitted with a rabbit guard, swaddled with a mulch mat, manured and given a couple of cans of water, so planting a tree is quite hard work, and the orchard soil is often very stony. This year we planted another 12 trees and there are still a few gaps left to fill.

Under Darren’s guidance, Dave pruned the trees this year, and Mary and I scraped up the prunings. Many prunings on the ground had been gnawed, so we decided to pile them around the edge of the orchard, hoping that rabbits and voles would gnaw these rather than the trees themselves. Dave was awarded the title of Supreme Shit Shoveller of the Year, for barrowing over 700 loads of manure, one for each tree. Rabbit guards had to be checked frequently, leaning trees straightened with stakes, and weeds strimmed around the trees – and all this recorded in the orchard log which keeps track of each tree.

Shit award

Blossoming in the orchard starts with the damsons and plums, followed by the cherries, nectarines and peaches and by the end of April the apples and pears are in bloom. There’s some mowing to do but until fruit picking time it’s now mainly down to the bees.

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Roger Gomm

 


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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.

 

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!

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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!