27th March 2013
Well it would be fair to say that last year was horrendous for farmers especially in our area. The excessive rain left our fields waterlogged for months, and they still haven’t dried out properly. Due to standing water in our silage fields we were unable to make the normal volume of silage that we require to feed our cattle through the winter months so we have to buy in from other farmers which is proving to be an expensive exercise.
Good clean dry straw was also very difficult to get as the rain was relentless, fortunately my uncle had a fleet of balers on standby for when the sun came out and we got everything baled.
Our new Herd of Pedigree Dun Galloway cows all calved through the summer; again the water logged fields meant that calves were being born in puddles at times and we had to intervene otherwise the calves would have died. Obviously any new born animal ideally should be born in a clean, dry warm environment.
Cattle numbers reached a record high on our 2 farms, so much so that we had to take buildings at a neighbouring farm for 5 months. Numbers have increased due to demand for our beef, slow maturing, well marbled beef is what connoisseurs are wanting.
Christmas proved to be massive this year, it’s a real balancing act between the farm and the butchery. We are limited with space in the butchery but you need plenty of meat to cut at so it means that we are selecting stock for slaughter nearly every day and transporting them to the abattoir which is very time consuming. The butchers worked amazingly and organisation was put in place by Rob and James in the office, we increased our December turnover by a massive 78% on the previous year.
Horse meat hit the headlines in early 2013, no real surprise to people in the meat industry. You can’t make a cheap beef burger out of proper beef, the only way you can make beef cheap is by adding something that is cheap; it's as simple as that. I don’t have a problem with eating horse meat, just label it properly and let people make their own choices.
The farm took on a new stockman in February; Andrew is young, enthusiastic and my cousin so we have high expectations!!
So far so good.
Livestock prices seem to have hit an all time high, beef has increased steadily over the last 18 months, since the horse meat scandal trade rocketed and looks to stay very high.
Pork prices needed to increase and possibly need to go up slightly more, pigs are very costly to produce and if farmers keep losing money when producing them they won’t do it for much longer.
Lambs have gone from being very cheap 6 weeks ago to very expensive now. We bought our first spring lambs this week, really good lambs but they are like little bars of GOLD!
The current snow and freezing temperatures could not have come at a worse time for sheep farmers, lambing is hard enough with out having to cope with this.
31st July 2012
My apologies for the delay since my last blog; a lot has happened on the farm over the last few months. We have continued to increase cattle numbers, with the introduction of a Pedigree Dun Galloway herd. Nice compact cows that seem to look after themselves and don’t like any assistance when it comes to calving. You could say they are rather protective!!!
We experienced a very warm March which was fantastic for lambing and calving but April brought snow, rain and cold temperatures. Thankfully this didn’t cause us too many problems but a lot of hill farms suffered massive losses due to lambs dying in severe weather conditions.
This summer has been one of the wettest that I can remember; we were fortunate to get some good silage from the first cut but our grass has not grown well since then due to water logged fields. Our other farm (Mount Grace) has free draining soils so the land has coped far better. We will have to buy in extra silage to help with our shortfall.
Our fattening cattle spent very little time grazing this year, they were not thriving whilst it rained nearly every day so they are been fattened inside which has increased our costs massively.
We have calved about 75 cows of various breeds so far this year, all have done very well with few losses, pictures will be posted shortly of some of the new arrivals.
Finally our farm worker Chris has moved to a new job in Scotland, we wish him all the best. I have taken back my farmer role until further notice, so am even busier than usual splitting my time between the fields and the butchery.
4th October 2011
We thought autumn had arrived but last week’s fantastic sunny weather has proved us wrong. All the straw is baled and stacked in the sheds, silage is clamped/wrapped and we haven’t got any fieldwork to do so now is a time for stock work.
The ewes have got 1 month freedom before the rams are introduced so the next few weeks are vital for us to ensure that their health is tip top and therefore encouraging a good crop of lambs in the spring.
We have purchased pedigree Tamworth gilts and Oxford Sandy and Black sows within the last 2 weeks so will post pics when they have their youngsters.
Cattle are still grazing outside; the dry warm weather is suiting both them and me. Grass growth has slowed right down so we are currently supplementing the cows' feed with a mixture of grass silage and wheat straw. All the cows and calves will be brought into sheds within the next 3 weeks and will be housed until next spring. This is when the real work starts!!
August 5th 2011
Well it is exactly 1 year since Taste Tradition took on Abotts Close Farm. It has been a tough year with a shortage of forage through the winter months and the extreme freezing conditions that we experienced for weeks on end. Carrying water to animals became a full time job. An early spring was wished for and thankfully it came, grass had grown enough to allow me to turn cattle outside in March which made life easier.
The Aberdeen Angus and Longhorn cows all calved well and are doing nicely, the Texel gimmers lambed in March and have produced the best lambs we have ever had, and the pigs are thriving in the summer sun.
We have taken our 1st and 2nd cuts of silage which have yielded extremely well, and harvest is fast approaching which is no bad thing as we are down to our last 5 bales of straw!!
Chris Roberts has taken on the role of stockman, he started for us in June and is proving to be a good asset. Chris seems to have found a new best friend in Bob the dog!