A change to my  ‘weekly’ farmer blog update

I have realised my plan to publish a ‘weekly’ farm update was perhaps a tad ambitious and thus have decided to move to a more achievable fortnightly format.

So…with that little bit of housekeeping taken care of here’s a run down of the last couple or so weeks of life on the farm…

Black leg & new born calves

Since the sudden death of two cows from our herd, diagnosed as Black leg, we have been on high alert for more cases but I am happy to report that three weeks on and rest of the herd are in fine fettle. And with two new calves being born recently things are going in the right direction again.

Artisan School of Food – Meat Course

I spent two days up in Nottinghamshire on the Welbeck Estate learning about butchery from the master meatsmith Andrew ‘Farmer’ Sharp. During the two days we cut up a Dexter Veal beast, a Texel cross lamb and a Herdwick Ewe (Mutton) and covered all aspects of artisan butchery from breed selection, the slaughter process, hanging, knife skills through to presentation. If you’re a meat lover or an aspiring artisan butcher check out my pics and read about my experience HERE

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A break from the mud

We’ve had some spectacular frosts making for some attractive farm scenery and also provides a brief break from the mud which makes getting around on our mule ‘shrek’ a little easier ..

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Bovine TB Test 

We had our annual visit from our local vets to test our herd of cattle for Bovine TB (for those of you not familiar with TB it’s an acronym for (Bovine) Tuberculosis, a chronic and highly infectious disease that affects most mammals. East Sussex is a high risk TB area as designated by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Thankfully we have never had a case on our farm but it’s always a worry as there are TB infected farms fairly nearby. The vet returned a few days later after injecting our cattle to check if we had any reactors and thankfully we got the all clear. Phew.

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Hailsham Fat Stock Show 2014

We entered three classes for ‘lambs of any breed or cross breed’ with a pen of three, four and five lambs. Mum and Dad were typically coy about our chances of winning anything only to beat last years effort of one second prize – scooping two second prizes.

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Sussex Beef Producers Group

I attended the inaugural Sussex Beef Producers Group, held at Little Pixhall Farm in Hawkhurst. With about 30 farmers in the room it was the usual mix of tweed and muddy boiler suits you might expect as such an event. The speaker,  Simon Marsh – a lecturer at Harper Adams university spoke about how to maximise returns on continental suckler herds and much was made of estimated breeding values (EBV’s) to choose appropriate bulls or semen (In the case of AI’ing) to ensure easy calving’s and maximise daily growth rates. There was some talk of breeds – Simon asked for a show of hands in the room of continental and native breed farmers with around a third raising their hands for native cattle. After a spot of lunch and a short tour of the beef unit buildings by the farm manager Will I headed back to the farm.

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Sending fat lambs to Hailsham market

We sent 13 fat lambs to market and managed to get second to top price of the day. And whilst fat lamb prices have improved lately I can’t help but think we’re not realising the full fruits of our labour…

Note: I took these back in the summer hence the short sleeves but you get the idea…

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Lambs to slaughter

Inspired by my recent butchery course and subsequent direct meat sales research – I picked out two fat lambs, from our latest batch earmarked to go to Hailsham Livestock Market, to go for slaughter. Loading them up into our pickup Dad and I drove down to our local family run slaughterhouse Tottingworth in Heathfield. Luckily we beat the post market sales rush and arrived with no other livestock or haulage vehicles in sight – I unloaded our lambs from the back of the truck and walked them down a small concrete track to the abattoir entrance where I caught a glimpse of the slaughter man as they disappeared through the plastic curtain – a matter of seconds later they were dead, a quick, clean and as stress free death as I could imagine.

Having helped ‘lamb down’ a number of our ewes back in March it was my first experience to follow the whole process from birth, husbandry through to slaughter and our final product meat – an important step in understanding what farming is all about and a key selling point in dealing direct with customers.

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A new addition to the family

Meet Tilley our most recent addition to the Akehurst family – nearly 11 weeks now she has taken to farm life with great gusto…(and will be blogging herself so watch this space)

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Rounding up a batch of our 213 of ewes and rams I got plenty of practice to hone my sheep tipping and foot trimming skills, before transporting them to our wildlife land on Pevensey Levels.

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Getting into the festive spirit

With Christmas nearly upon us I need to create a festive greetings card to share across social media and would like your help to come up with a suitable image and amusing caption combo – which can be your own image or one from the website or my instagram page. There’s a free indie farmer t-shirt for the winning photo / caption suggestion. Here’s my effort from last year..

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Tune in for a Christmas special edition

Be sure to check back before the end of the month for the next edition featuring the latest on bulling our Sussex heifers, carol singing on the back of a tractor and trailer, lamb butchery and gearing up for meat sales in 2015..