The Autumn winds always bring in chance to recuperate and refresh, I take great joy as we walk checking the stock when the cold wind whips around us blowing the golden leaves into a frenzy, taking in deep breaths I feel like I can think again, revitalised by the both the beauty and power of nature. Autumn has always been my favourite season, as the life on the farm prepares for hard winter months, as the leaves change and the air becomes fresh. I particularly enjoy the cycle of the rams re-joining the ewes which builds excitement for the following year
The ewes are slowly recovering after a hard dry summer and therefore I was not completely happy of their body condition as they were split into groups for the rams, despite having weaned the lambs early, the dried out grass did not allow for the ewes to rebuild condition after being pulled down by their lambs. All our ewes are dagged out before they head to ram with the aim being to reduce the risk of infection for the ram should the ewes be dirty. We also made the decision not to increase our ewe numbers this year as originally planned, we felt that as we are still getting to know what the land can hold, we would instead hold back more ewe lambs which could be sold in the spring/summer rather than have a high number of ewes and lambs. So we put 150 ewes to the four tups this year. We run four different breeds of tups which is a little over the top for only 150 ewes but each has a purpose within our future plans. The Berrichon ram heads out with our first time ewes, ensuring a easy birth, the lambs generally have narrow shoulders and head allowing the ewe to birth easily, they are quick to stand and suckle making the mothering up easier for the inexperienced ewes.
The Texel ram heads out with out with the Welsh Mountain and Badger Face ewes to breed us replacements for our flock of Welsh x Texel ewes. The Millienium Bleu Ram heads out with the highest number of ewes so our main flock of Welsh and Cheviot x, his role is to produce our grassfed fat lambs for our meat boxes.
And my favourite ram, our Cheviot heads out with the pure cheviot ewes for our flock of pedigree cheviots, these breed not only replacements for our flock but our higher value ewe lambs to sell and our future hogget meat boxes.
.Our cheviot ram is new this year, we made the decision to held to the NSA Builth Wells ram sales where over 4700 different rams were put up for auction this year. My mum, Fergus and I headed up for the day arriving early to choose our favourite rams amongst the North Country Cheviots. I set my top price of what I wanted to pay at £500 and then armed with what type of breeding and look I wanted I scanned the pens marking in the catalogue my top choices.
The problem with an auction is of course you have to attempt to bid on your first selected ram into the ring even if your favourite is further down the line, due to the fact you cannot guarantee which you will win. I had selected four rams who we liked the look of, and took my position at the side of the ring, hands shaking with nerves, while my mum was trying to control Fergus from climbing into the ram pens and jumping in the puddles. My first of my chosen rams came into the ring, and I took a deep breath and joined the bidding but he soon went above my price range so with a shake of the head I pulled out. And within a short while my next chosen ram came in and bidding resumed, as his price climbed I thought I was going to loose out again but on my final bid, the other bidder pulled out and Wolverine became ours at the price of £470. My heart was beating so fast, I felt a massive surge of adrenalin and excitement after the auction, having never spent so much on a single sheep before!
We paid for our ram and then using the tup taxi service took him back to our vehicle, while we were offloading him into our trailer in the car park, Wolverine clearly fed up of being moved around saw his opportunity for freedom in the tiny gap between trailers and tried to make a break for it, I leaned over and managed to get my hand under his neck and held on for dear life, which considering as I weigh in at just under 60 kilos and Wolverine at 95 kilos it was no mean feat. Luckily the tup taxi driver was quick off the mark and jumped over and we soon manoeuvred him into the trailer. It was a great day out off the farm and I am already trying to think of an excuse to use to Mark so I can go next year and buy another ram.
Our rams have all worked hard this year and tupped the ewes quickly with very few returns hopefully meaning lambing will be a lot tighter than last year, which dragged out over a long period.
Other plans are also slowly taking hold with our new herbal lay fields reseeded and springing up new growth, we adjusted the seed mixes slightly and this time added some fertiliser to aid the growth after the poor performance last year of the new lays. We would prefer not to use fertiliser long term in these fields in line with regenerative principles but the initial establishment with the poor organic matter in the soils we felt it was better in the short term to give a boost for establishment and slowly over time our soils will recover and we can remove the need for any fertiliser.
Mark and I are definitely feeling refreshed from the stress of the summer and finally feel we are able the think of future plans again rather than firefighting constantly, this has included making a decision over the use of the vernacular buildings with the plan to place a wood fired pizza oven within the buildings and offer pizzas on Friday nights during the Summer, we are hoping to build a social relaxed atmosphere for people to enjoy within the courtyard while keeping its rustic charm, a mini Exmoor Italian experience, we will share these plans as they take shape!