News from the farm gate – November 2017

20171117_080233Andrew and I have some exciting news. Last week we became parents for the first time and welcomed Angus Freddie Fyfe into the world weighing 7lb 15oz. We are enjoying being parents and caring for our new addition, he really is the sweetest baby and we couldn’t be happier.

From breastfeeding to nappy changes, we already feel like pros thanks to the practice we have received from raising livestock on the farm. However, nothing can prepare you for the sleep deprivation and night feeding which is a different ball game completely. It’s all totally worth it and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to applaud NHS hospital workers, especially the midwifery teams, who provide the most incredible care for patients. I’ve thankfully never needed to have access to such services or care in the past and I came away from the hospital with such admiration for the dedication and support that is provided under such pressured working environments.

Back on the farm, there is a cold chill in the air each day with a pronounced grass frost on some mornings. The cows are still out on the fields thanks to a dry Autumn and a plentiful supply of grass to keep their bellies full. In 2016 the cows didn’t come into the sheds for winter until December and so we hope we can enjoy a similar situation this time round.

The tups (male sheep) were put out into the field a fortnight ago with the ewes to start getting them into lamb. Each tup has 50 ewes each to serve and we could identify when each had been served with a raddle mark left on the rump of each ewe. Sadly, we lost one of our tups in the first week they were put out into the field. Having spent all Summer together in our orchard, the moment they are put in a field full of ladies, testosterone took over and the tups started fighting with each other. Two of the tups head butted each other and one broke the others neck. It is a reality of life on the farm but also made me think of the similarities of a group of men on a night out who get into a fight over women.

We are so pleased to be able to share all our good news with you as I am not going to lie, it has been a tough few months on the farm. Our farm succumbed to Bovine TB and we have had to go through a series of tests with the ministry. It has been a very upsetting time for us as it is a disease that every farmer avoids and ensures that all precautions are taken to keep at bay. Sadly though with Bovine TB, there are certain carriers of the disease that we are unable to manage and therefore are at the mercy of mother nature. You can be the best business person, or best farmer, but it is the most frustrating thing to not be able to control every part of your business from something so dreadful as TB.

The cows that have tested positive for Bovine TB have been born on the farm and haven’t moved or come into contact with other cattle, so the only explanation for us is that the TB has been brought onto the land by wildlife.

Today the ministry organised for the cattle who had positive readings for TB, to be collected and taken away for slaughter. Amongst those slaughtered is Andrew’s best pedigree show cow and our breeding bull. These animals were halter trained, would allow us to walk up to them in the field and have a head scratch and had names. They are more than just cows to us.

We now have to go through a series of further testing every 60 days until we get a clear reading. This means getting over 100 cows in, twice in one week, to test then the vet conducts a reading. In the meantime, the ministry have not identified the source of TB on the farm so in reality there is nothing much we can do but go through the process again and again. There are measures we can do to help, including protecting where the cattle eat from where wildlife may roam. But this will only get easier once all cattle come indoors for the winter period.

We have to remain positive and thankfully having our beautiful little boy around makes all our problems seen so insignificant.

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