Enter Quentin or Quincy

June 30th, 2016

Some time on Tuesday morning between 8.30 and 10 am Misty our Longhorn cow quietly delivered a strong bull calf all on her own.  They’re great these Longhorns – no drama or fuss – just get on with the job.  The calf is by a Beef Shorthorn bull, a gorgeous foxy red colour with a white stripe down his back.  The Longhorn society designate a letter for each year and 2016 is ‘Q’ .  I suspect a lot of Queenie’s amongst the female population this year.  However, if we stick with convention I’m a bit short of choice of male names – I suspect Quentin or Quincy will chosen!

Lambing time again

February 1st, 2016

As storm Henry sweeps across Staffordshire I’m in the lambing shed again.  We have a new ram this year called Dynamo.  Its always exciting when you have some new stock coming through and I have certainly been impressed so far.  We’ve had 16 ewes lamb so far and about another 14 in this group.  All strong and healthy apart from one old ewe who wasn’t in the best of shape and consequently suffered from twin lamb disease.  We kept her going with energy drinks and glycol in the hope that she could recover and keep going until her due date.  Sadly the stress of the condition caused her to give birth early to two very feeble tiny lambs.  Too weak to stand we fed them colostrum but sadly they didn’t make it.   The ewe was too weak to properly expel the afterbirth and was put down after intensive antibiotic therapy failed to pull her round.

Such are the ups and downs of lambing.

Off to see if there are any new arrivals!  I resolve to update the blog and the website more frequently.  I tend to rely on Facebook for updates and pics – so do check in to our facebook page Holly Bank Farm

New Year’s greetings

January 18th, 2012

Looking back I realise its over 6 months since I wrote anything.  Mainly because getting to my wordpress site is such a pain in the **** that its much easier to just post something on facebook!

Lambing has started in earnest.  It feels like only 5 minutes since this time last year – unbelievable considering how much has changed.  This time last year I was facing redundancy – well that came and went and despite a rather nervous few months with no work, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

This time last year it was considerably colder – and the daily battle to keep everything watered was a nightmare.  We had two cattle last year, this year we have four Longhorns, the two angus heifers have gone to slaughter.  These are likely to stay as suckler cows apart from a young steer who will be produced for meat. They are gentle cattle despite their ferocious appearance.  Lucy the 9 month old heifer calf loves a good scratch behind the ears.

We have reduced our flock significantly and will only lamb 34 ewes this year due to some uncertainty over our rented grazing which now seems to have resolved itself. But as I am now pretty busy with my teaching will make it a less daunting task.  Most of them will lamb over a three week period which is handy for our lambing courses which are starting to get booked up – just a few places left.  We also have another Basic Animal Care course coming up for staff and care workers from a local school, and provide Introduction to Smallholding Courses on demand for anyone who wants one.  I am also thinking of offering short courses in Stable Management for new horse owners or those wanting to brush up rusty or outdated knowledge.  I also have one or two riding clients who I teach on their own horses and Monte will be available as a schoolmaster now that he is back on track and feeling well.

My teaching work is keeping me busy – I now teach equine studies, animal care and PE – the latter being slightly out of my comfort zone to be honest but I don’t think I have ever been so fit in my life!  I am enjoying the challenge of working with young people, especially those who haven’t had the privilege of a secure, happy upbringing with loving parents.  No wonder they go off the rails when you hear their stories.

My new horse Nero is coming along well.  I backed him last year and have given him some time off while the weather is poor and will pick up his education again in the spring.  He is going to be a big horse I think – he seems to get bigger every day! 

Off to the lambing shed again….

Learning how to stand still while I send a text

Learning how to stand still while I send a text

Funny old year

June 8th, 2011

Its been one of those years so far – all ups and downs.  Being made redundant earlier in the year was a new experience for me and one which has been rather unsettling all round.  I used the time to complete my first ever formal qualification since A levels and was pleased to learn yesterday that I have passed my final assignments so I now have a NVQ Level 7 in Executive Coaching and Leadership Mentoring.  I hope to find freelance work as a performance coach working with individuals and teams to improve their performance and develop their managerial and leadership skills.  My new website is under development ready for a launch in the next few weeks.

A few weeks ago I lost my beloved horse Mustique after a short but devastating illness.  Despite all the best care we couldn’t save him and he was put to sleep on 3 May aged just 15.  As Monte is still unable to be ridden we decided to look around for a young horse and bought a 4 year old skewbald gelding from a fellow Jacob sheep enthusiast and horse breeder, Berni Barker from Worcestershire.

Nero is a lovely horse, kind and willing and I’m enjoying working with him and teaching him new things.  He is taking it all in his stride and learning to trust me.  Watch this space!

The lambs are growing very well and we have the first of our new season lamb booked into the butchers on 4 July.  If you would like to order some then drop me a line using the contact form on the website or email me. 

We are looking at Longhorn cows at the moment with a view to having Longhorn suckler cows and eventually some Longhorn beef.  We tried it at the county show and it was honestly the best beef I have tasted in a long time. Its a long term project though as Longhorns take around 30 months to finish so from conception to table you are looking at over 3 years! But believe me it is worth it.

Spring is in the air

March 11th, 2011

P3070819At last the weather has turned a bit warmer and after a couple of relatively dry weeks the ground has dried out enough to be able to turn out some ewes and lambs.  The shed were starting to get a bit over crowded although we don’t cram ours in as much as a lot of commercial producers do. 

Being at home for lambing has made a big difference this year.  At least something good has come out of being made redundant (thanks Mr Pickles).  We have had only one loss so far – one of an early set of triplets born overnight was dead when I found it in the morning.  Other than that, nothing.  We seemed to suffer a lot of losses last year.  Most shepherds would say you get good years and bad years.  I have had to assist quite a few more than I would expect.  We have had a lot of big lambs with one or both legs back. Normally a lamb is born in the diving position, front feet first with the nose tucked on top of the knees (see pics on the website which I am about to load up).  The shepherd has to put a hand inside and draw the legs forward.   This involves a fair bit of scrabbling face down on the floor and a bruised right hand from all the pressure. At one point my hand was so swollen that I was having to apply arnica every couple of hours to reduce the pain! But had I not been around I am sure some of these lambs would have suffocated before the ewe could deliver them herself.

This year we have had only two sets of triplets.  The first set I have mentioned and the second set was born just an hour or so before another ewe had a single so I was able to wet foster one of the triplets onto her.  This is where you add the extra lamb at the same time as the ewe is giving birth so that you can cover it in afterbirth and make it smell like her own.  She took to it no problem.  Its not often that the timing falls like this, especially in a small flock like ours. 

We just have 13 more ewes to lamb, ten of which are first-lambers.  We always lamb them a bit later so they are over two years old when they have their first lambs.  The sheep are all looking very well – although we are rapidly running out of haylage.  Last years crop was so small that for the first time ever we have had to buy in some hay to top up.  Another good reason to start turning some out.  The grass is starting to grow thankfully.

At this time of year a shepherd is always thankful for a good lambing and starting to make plans for this year’s sheep.  Are any of them good enough to produce for showing?  Only time will tell, but I do have my eye on a couple of particularly eye catching ewe lambs….

Lambing Courses a big success

February 14th, 2011

Jacob sheep are very popular with small holders being relatively easy to look after and attractive to look at.  We sell around 30 breeding females each year – often to newcomers to sheep.  This year we decided to offer practical one day lambing courses for new sheepkeepers to cover all the basics and give them some hands on experience of the various tasks.  Our first two courses have gone so well that we are now offering two further dates on Sunday 20 and Sunday 27 February.  The day covers all practical aspects of lambing as well as some of the theory.  You will have course handouts to take away with you and will have had the opportunity to practice a range of tasks on our sheep. 

Participants from the first two courses said that they felt much more confident approaching the lambing of their own sheep and welcomed the opportunity to actually have a go at tasks like castrating and tailing lambs, giving injections and ear tagging – all under close instruction.  Quotes include;

“Great day, really practical, exactly what we needed”

“I feel much more confident ”

“Wonderful food!”

“I can’t believe we actually saw 2 ewes give birth – it was great”

Participants with lambs born during the course

Participants with lambs born during the course

If you’d like to attend one of our courses contact us via the website or phone me on 07973 397898. 

We are also offering a summer course in June covering foot trimming, worming, and dagging.

First lambs of 2011

January 11th, 2011

As usual we have been caught on the hop again.  All that careful planning and mother nature steps in and chucks everything out of the window.  By now we should have the new shed completed, the heifers and straw moved and the lambing shed all shipshape and ready.  Bad weather in December meant that progress on the new shed has been slow.  We are nearly there – the roof is on and two thirds of the block walls constructed.  Once the cladding has gone on the top bits of the walls we can think about moving things around. 

On Sunday I set up a couple of lambing pens in the lean to as a “just in case” measure.  Good job I did because on Monday morning one of our favourite ewes, Matilda, had given birth to two strapping lambs!  She’d had them out in the field and the ground was quite cold and frozen so I quickly fetched the new family inside and made sure they were warm and dry.  They were good strong lambs and soon drinking from mother so all’s well.  The rest of the ewes are about a week behind her so hopefully we can get everything set up before the rest start! 

My last day at work is on 21 January and then I have 5 weeks paid leave – which coincides nicely with lambing.  I shall be launching my new business on 1 March – more of that another day – but in the meantime keeping my hand in by running a couple of training courses for newcomers to sheep keeping – see the website for more details.first lambs of 2011

More snow on the way?

December 15th, 2010

After a brief respite from the weather it appears more snow is on the way.  Having snow this early in the year caught us on the hop as much as everyone else.  Ian had to down tools for a couple of weeks – you can’t lay concrete in sub zero temperatures – not unless you want to have to dig it all up again in the spring and redo it anyway!  All our sheep were away from the farm so taking hay out to four different places and breaking the ice in four different troughs all took time in the morning. 

However, Ian and Josh did manage to get the framework for the new shed up so some sort of progress was made.

The ewes are all hopefully in lamb and the first group are due late January/early February.  As I shall have more time on my hands in January/February I am planning on putting on some day workshops for all you first-time lambers out there.  If you are interested then drop me an email.  Dates can be arranged to suit and the workshops will be very practical and leave you hopefully knowing what to expect.  Of course you could just watch reruns of Lambing Live….. 

In the meantime – wishing all our friends old and new a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful 2011.

2010 Xmas Card

Top honours for the Needwood Flock

November 8th, 2010

We attended the Jacob Sheep Society Central region AGM yesterday which was held at Burcot near Bromsgrove.  These events are always great fun, with lots of like minded people, LOADS of wonderful food and plenty of laughter.  The icing on the cake for us was to be awarded first prize in the Large Flock category of the regions biannual flock competition and equal first in the Nutwood Tropy for the best pen of ewe lambs. 

The judges, Bridget Wilson and Anna Milner travelled up from the south west one very wet and windy weekend in October and spent three days travelling around the region looking at members’ sheep.  They judge flocks on their uniformity, quality, wool, health and management – and special prizes for the Best Ram and Best Ewe Lambs.   We entered for the first time in 2008 and found the judges comments very helpful and encouraging.  Bridget and Anna equally gave us useful feedback.

As the results were announced, with third and second place going to well established showing flocks we didn’t think we stood a chance.  I nearly fell off my chair when they announced we’d won!  We shared the honour of best pen of ewe lambs with Vera Ridout and Hayley Higginson – who pretty much swept the board winning the overall Best Flock and Best Small Flock as well.  Truly illustrious company!  We also took third place with our two horned ram, Dalewode Preacher, who bless him wasn’t looking his best when the judges visited.

Members also got the chance to see John and Jacqui Emberton’s lovely Nutwood flock – another regular show winner and previous winner of the flock competition.  The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed walking round the lovely wooded fields and were amazed at how well John’s eleven year old ram Woolpit Gus is looking – despite having lost one of his magnificent horns!  We then enjoyed a wonderful hot lunch and then a talk from Lesley Partridge on selecting wool for spinning.  Diane Hall and Jacqui Emberton had brought some of their beautifully made garments and accessories – all made from Jacob wool of course.  I particularly liked a delicate crocheted shawl made from very fine wool and silk – and a felted handbag decorated with silk roses.  I wish I could make things – unfortunately I’m totally hamfisted when it comes to needlework and I can’t knit!

I am tempted to have a go at felting though…… watch this space!

What’s in a name?

November 5th, 2010

Well quite a lot really!  We’ve always felt that the name of our house didn’t do it justice – and confused everyone from Tesco.com to the pizza delivery boy.  A flat?  In the middle of the countryside?  Surely not!   Following some discussion with the estate they were quite happy for us to change the name to Holly Bank Farm which reflects who we are and where we are much better.  So a conversation with the council, who had a conversation with the Post Office and 62 quid lighter we are now known as Holly Bank Farm.

Why Holly Bank?  Well that’s the name of the small piece of woodland which adjoins our property – and which provides a backdrop to many of my photos.  The wood has some holly, as well as oak trees, rhodedendron (?) and various varieties of softwood which is due to be harvested fairly soon I think.  

We’re having our annual meat sale on Saturday 13th from 12 until 4 pm.  We will have joints and chops of both pork and lamb for sale as well as lamb mince and tasty traditional recipe sausages made for us by Johnsons Butchers of Yoxall.  It will all be fresh and you can fill as many bags as you like and stock up your freezer!  While you’re here feel free to have a look round the farm and browse my selection of scarves, throws and cushions made from Jacob wool and Mohair – available to order in time for Christmas. 

Ian and Josh made a start on the foundations for the new shed today.  The steel is on order and we have several tons of aggregate, sand and gravel sitting in the yard.  Already Ian is planning on filling all four bays with pigs and wondering whether its going to be big enough!

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