Whoa – where did January go? It seems a blur of acupuncture sessions and slowly easing myself back into day to day farm chores under strict instructions to bend with my legs! It’s also been quite an exciting month in other areas – making progress on my road trip journal (mostly thanks to my bad back), attending a new food economy un-conference and getting involved in a new online food venture (more details to follow soon). For now here are some of the highlights from January on the farm…

There has been much talk of snow and cold weather but with the exception of a few minor flurries we’ve escaped with the occasional dusting..

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At this time of year grass is in short supply and we feed a mix of turnips, hay and barley to help fatten our lambs. Typically they are always rather pleased to see me roll up every day with fresh supplies…

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It’s may still be some weeks before spring but there has been a recent surge of hormonal activity amongst our 12 Sussex heifers. To help detect when they are in season or ‘bulling’ we apply heat patches to the rear of each animal which turns red when they have been ridden. Since applying the patches at the beginning of the month we’ve managed to catch 11 out of the 12 heifers bulling, with the AI (artificial insemination) man coming out the same day to inseminate them with semen from a Sussex Bull named Playboy..

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It’s now a case of monitoring them to see how many returns we get. The local vets suggest a 70% success rate is to be expected with heifers which means we will likely be AI’ing at least 4 a second time. Our 12th Sussex heifer pictured below has still yet to come bulling…

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As with most flocks of sheep you get a few ewes that for one reason or another (bad mothers, mastitis, old age) aren’t fit for purpose – we call these our cull ewes, which eventually get sent to livestock market.

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Our weekly visit to Hailsham livestock market. This particularly Wednesday was a rather grey and rainy day. Things didn’t bode well when Nick the auctioneer mentioned prices were back – a mixture of too many lambs, bad weather and worries over the Euro in the wake of the Greek elections. His fears were realised with prices back by nearly £20.00 a head. Luckily trade bounced back this last week with our largest lamb (64kg) fetching £109.

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We also sent some of our cull ewes to market with this pen of 3 making close to £100.00 each which is good money for cull ewes.

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Back on our Pevensey Marsh grazing land our 213 Suffolk and Mule Ewes are (we hope) all heavily pregnant and due to start lambing on the 21st of March. Ordinarily we scan our ewes in January to find out how many lambs to expect however this year we choose a particularly stormy day – managed to get stuck and after getting battered by the wind and rain decided to call it off. So whilst we can’t be sure our ewes are pregnant most of our neighbours who did successfully scan their ewes achieved around the 200% which would mean we’re expecting around 426 lambs give or take.

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On a nicer day more recently we penned our ewes and immunised them against Clostridium diseases.  We also moved about half of the flock to fresh pastures.

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And finally here are some jazzy looking sheep at Hailsham Market! Be sure to check back in a few weeks for the next instalment of life as a beginner farmer…

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