September is a time of change on the farm. It is in some ways the beginning of a new year. The harvest is in, the silage is baled up and fermenting, the machines are getting put away and we are preparing to bring the cows and pigs in.
I feel very ready for autumn. The summer is wonderful in many ways but it’s also very hectic and challenging. It’s hard to make time for friends and family and to leave the farm. In the first week of September I realised I hadn’t left the farm for two months other than to visit our very small local town. I remember reading an, ‘advice to young farmers’ column that recommended leaving your farm everyday, your town every week, your county every month and your country every year. Not leaving had me losing perspective and not enjoying my work. It’s hard to explain how wonderful and hard farm life can be. Sometimes having so many colleagues can add to the challenge but they also keep it interesting!
Our new Jacob ram, Columbus, arrived. He will tup 20 Lleyn ewe tegs this November. I am very much looking forward to Jacob/ Lleyn sheepskins in the early months of 2018 as well as Lleyn/ Jacob knitting wool. Lleyn cross Jacob lambs tend toward being primarily brown and when this fleece is mixed with the very white pure Lleyn wool it creates a lovely oatmeal colour. Last winter I very slowly (with the assistance of Youtube) knitted a shawl with a previous Jacob/Lleyn batch of knitting wool.
At the beginning of September I sent off a second batch of weaving wool to Bovey Handloom Weavers to be woven into more blankets, this time plain white and navy in herringbone. We are very much hoping that they will be in the shop before Christmas.
We have started sending lambs off again. The process was stalled due to the lambs once again suffering from worms. This really set them back and I have now got them on some very luscious clover/chicory leys to help fatten them up. Usually we take the lambs in to the abattoir on a Tuesday and they are slaughtered and delivered to our butchers on Wednesday. Not having grandfather rights I haven’t been able to take the lambs myself with our large livestock trailer, but anytime now the farm will have a sheep trailer so I will be able drive them. Although Robin has been doing a great job driving the animals in for me it feels right to take them on their last journey myself.
We weaned four calves that had been with their mothers for nearly 3 months on Monday. This is always a painful process and there is a great deal of noise. It is said to be least stressful to wean calves at two weeks, which is what we usually do, but as these calves were born in July the idea of keeping them inside to feed ourselves seemed a little unfair. We recently introduced 3 new heifers into the milking herd who will have their first calves in a month or so. One of them seems particularly feisty and I think will be quite a challenge to persuade into the parlour. At the same time Robin has been drying off cows ready for autumn calving, which brings the number of cows we are milking down considerably. At this time of year it can be quite challenging going out to the field to get the cows in at 5am in the pitch dark. Thankfully I only have to do it once a week most of the time and the cows will be in soon.
May, one of our Tamworth sows, has just had a new litter of piglets. Our other sow isn’t pregnant but we hope that will change soon. We are currently trialling separating her from the boar for a time. Izzy (our Saddleback gilt) is growing well and will hopefully be ready to go to the boar around March. We are considering getting her a companion of the same age but having 4 sows would require more housing.
We are lucky enough to run the farm water from our own spring most of the year. It often dries up in August but this year it lasted through to September. The switch to mains water always plays havoc with our water troughs and connections but the advantage is we find the weak points and all get to try our hand at plumbing.
By the end of next month our daily routines will have changed entirely with the cows and pigs in for winter. I don’t know how the animals feel about it but I like having them close by in the winter.