Archive for the ‘news’ Category

New pictures of the farm

4 December, 2010

We have a new slideshow at the farm’s main website.

Sheepdrove in pictures – Sheepdrove Organic Farm

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Farming Notes 14 Nov 2010

14 November, 2010

The cold weather has now set in and the autumn/winter livestock routines are well under way. This places quite a bit more burden on weekends so the need to get the labour profile right becomes paramount.

The weather generally has been fairly kind with a nice spread of rain/sunshine and cold and mild weather so crops look well and the forage is still of a good quality for the sheep still outside. The particularly wet and cold days when they occur do hold the stock back and the straw usage in the sheds (Roundhouse in particular) increases significantly.

Arable:

All drilling completed in reasonable conditions and the crops are now fully emerged and looking very well.
No real slug or weed problems have emerged thus far, although weed pressure at this time is always mild and merely an indication of what may materialise at a later date.

Feed and milling wheat sales have gone very well, with little in the barn. The human consumption oats, barley and rye are all scheduled to start in February.

Sheep:

All ewes have been sorted through and given a prep up. These are now split into various groups, according to breeding requirement, and are on their respective tupping blocks. In doing this we’re are aiming to increase their metabolic rate by giving them much better pasture than they’ve had in the last couple of months since weaning (this keeps them fit and helps prevent mastitis).

With the better pasture comes and increase in body condition (vital to store fat for winter, maintain pregnancy and assist milk yield at lambing) and a corresponding increase in metabolism. This metabolic increase produces a ‘flush’ of eggs rather than one and thus a higher percentage of twins is achieved.

We have to closely match the availability of forage to the ewes body condition so that she does not go without but also doesn’t get too fat. We have to also ensure there is enough grass to see her through the first month after tupping.

The rams have also been gone through as they will be required to do their years ‘work’ over six weeks commencing 25th November to give a lambing period of six weeks commencing approximately 18th April.

Beef cattle:

The cattle are now all inside as the spring calving cows now come in for winter to protect the pasture and help the calves to keep growing well. The performance of all the young stock since changing the grazing regime and using better forage converting breeds appears to have improved immeasurably. Autumn calving has started in earnest with circa 25 cows now calved.

Chris Blunt
Farm Manager

Living with bats

20 August, 2010

We love bats, and it was great to have some keen bat fans come over to the farm to see them. How many do you think we counted? Find out in our news story about bats living with us at the Eco Conference Centre…

Farming notes 12 Aug 2010

12 August, 2010

A Herdwick ram shakes off the rain

The weather continues to be most frustrating – enough drizzle to hold up hay making and slow the ripening of the crops but no way near enough to do much good for grass growth.

Summer activities in full swing which places a great demand on my, Andrews and Will’s time, therefore in Nick’s absence (on honeymoon!) Matt is our sole full time livestock person (other than big jobs where I get involved – obviously we try to work these into wet days even though it’s not so comfortable then!).

Livestock

Matt has been doing a fantastic job and is very keen to take responsibility for the stock and contribute to management discussions where a lot of his ideas are ideals shared by Sheepdrove (minimal input systems, production from forage, cutting housing costs and keeping stock out to grass for longer to name but a few) – most encouraging.

New season lamb continues to be of excellent quality. Also, rather than chasing for numbers to keep coming forward, we’re having to rotate each group we pick from just to stop them from getting too big! Again, further proof even in a dry year that our new extensive system works and we’re allowing the stock to achieve their potential, rather than stunting their development through lack of adequate food.

We’ve now got most of the bulls running together so that we don’t end up with housing issues at a later date. More checking at the moment to find those cows in calf and those who are not.

Arable and forage

Harvest has started, all of the barley has been cut. The droughts across Europe have pushed conventional commodities to unprecedented levels and it is hoped the organic grain market will follow suit, albeit in a more sustainable manner, rather than being driven by speculating fund managers!

We finally got the hay made on Hundred Acre field (Bockhampton Down) – very touch and go dodging the showers but it has made well, retaining a good colour and has stayed cool in the stack. Most importantly we didn’t need to wrap any.

My thanks to our contractor for having the patience and diligence to regularly check his moisture probe and wait for a while after each bout of drizzle and to Andrew for staying out until virtually midnight with me to get them all under cover as the skies blackened for a thorough soaking several hours afterward – finding bales in the dark is not easy! So we now have 200 half tonne bales for the young stock and dry cows for this winter.

Chris Blunt

Food shortages we all help to make.

11 August, 2010

Fruit, salad and veg are the UK’s ‘most wasted’  – The Daily Telegraph (2 March, p.1). Meanwhile in the USA, according to a recent study, over 40% of food produced each year is wasted, and only 2% of that waste is composted.

Article by Sadhbh Walshe in The Guardian – Of Feast and Famine.

Cloned beef? What does the fiasco mean for food?

6 August, 2010

“Beneath the sensationalism, it highlighted several serious issues for people who care about where their meat comes from, food quality – and last but not least – animal welfare.”    
Jason Ball, www.sheepdrove.com

Read the full article… No Cloned Animals Guarantee!

No cloned organic animals guarantee!

4 August, 2010

We believe in saying noDon’t worry, we won’t be stocking cloned meat – ever! Sheepdrove would rather produce organic, grass-fed meat the natural way.

We have consistently called for better traceability for food – and we deplore the secret trade of cloned farm animal offspring which has been revealed in the news. The Food Standards Agency admitted they cannot track the cloned meat which went to market. No wonder Lawrence Woodward OBE describes the food watchdog  as a ‘lapdog’…

A spokesman for the FSA  said on BBC  TV, “We don’t think there are any health risks from eating meat from cloned animals.”

More on cloned animals later this week…

Meanwhile, why not renew your faith in healthy meat? Buy from us and lose yourself in the natural taste of our sumptuous meat cuts.

How important are GM crops today?

25 July, 2010

“The GM companies like to give the impression that food produced from GM crops is widespread, but the truth is rather different. The area of land on which GM crops are being grown is only 2.7% of all agricultural land worldwide. A small proportion of GM crops go directly to feed people, with most going into animal feed, biofuels, or to produce cotton. GM crops weren’t designed to feed the world, but to extend the profitability of the pesticide companies producing them.”


Isobel Tomlinson, Policy and Campaigns Officer at the Soil Association, quoted in Country Smallholding Magazine

Farming notes 25 July 2010

25 July, 2010

It would’ve been nice to have started the hay making in Hundred Acres (Bockhampton Down) however, the weather is going through a changeable period at present and with lots of cloud cover and high humidity, you can work the grass as much as you like and it won’t make (all that happens is diesel is burned and the leaf falls off) so we have left it until this week when some more settled weather is forecast.

The red clover leys have bulked up and flowered so second cut silage needs to be taken, again ideally this week but the weather has pushed it into next. The team have got the indoor clamp ready for this operation.

Arable

Not much arable work this week, just some maintenance work.

Livestock

Nick and Matt have weighed and sorted the first group of new season lambs at Pounds. Across the board we have seen an average of 2-3 KG lift in this group so all lambs sent were at excellent weights and the fat levels have increased compared to the last of the old season (which in themselves were good lambs) so this bodes well going forward into the summer.

Our new bull has arrived from the Nesbitts and has settled in well – we’ve penned him up with a couple of smaller steers so he has some company but he’s definitely the boss so he doesn’t have to sort the pecking order out which can risk injury.

BATS AND MOTHS – National Moth Night 2010

14 May, 2010

Bats and Moths

National Moth Night 2010 Saturday 15 May, 8pm start

Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire.

a moth lamp in action

a moth lamp in action

Come and discover moths and bats at the Eco Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn. Meet real live bats up close with expert David Endacott.

A large Robinson Moth Lamp will light the way for colourful local moths, and our Bat Detector will help us to hear some fantastic flying insect munchers! We should see and hear a few bats around the courtyard and garden as we watch the moths come in, and we will take a short Bat Walk to see what else is around.

Please bring a torch, warm clothes, sensible footwear and be ready for changes in the weather. Sunglasses are very useful near the moth lamp! All welcome, children must be supervised at all times. Sorry, no dogs permitted.

EVENT CONTACT DETAILS

Admission is free but please tell us you are coming. Call Jason Ball on 01488 674727. Mobile (during the event) 07747 848429.

Directions at www.sheepdrove.com

Silver-Y

Purple Thorn

Magpie Moth

More events around the UK

Follow the link to find National Moth Night events around the UK.