Thursday 2 May, 2013
In early spring 2012 we planted about 60 apple trees as the first part of our orchard. The orchard is also home to our laying flocks of hens - about 80 hens in all, split into two flocks - the idea being that we get double use from the land, the hens fertilise the ground, take care of a lot of pests, and will eventually benefit from the cover the trees provide.
One of the challenges we faced was how to protect the young trees as they grow. To give young apple trees the best possible start you need to keep an area of at least 1m in diameter clear of grass - otherwise the grass competes with the shallow roots for nutrition, and if left unchecked will stunt and in extreme cases kill the tree.
Wednesday 17 April, 2013
I think I have said before that managing grass causes me more headaches than any other part of smallholding. All I can say is “nothing’s changed”.
Last year (2012) was pretty awful for our grazing. Grass doesn’t really appreciate being under water – and some of ours was for a good part of the year. Although our soil is mostly loamy sand and sandy loam, we are close to sea level and the water table is quite high. Coupled with the fact that some of our neighbours aren’t terribly assiduous are ditch clearing, we had a lot of standing water for much of the year.
Monday 15 April, 2013
Well, that’s lambing over for another year. We didn’t see the vet at all this year, which is good. We had a C section and two other visits last year. :-(
We put eight ewes and three gimmers to the tup; of the 11, nine scanned in lamb with six sets of twins and three singles.
And we have fifteen live lambs and nine live ewes, which is a pretty good result. One of the two empty ewes has gone to a pet home – she was the one that had the C section last year – and the other one will get another chance with the tup this autumn. She is currently taking on “auntie” duties.
Monday 25 March, 2013
Well, our first lambs are due next Sunday 31st March. According to the raddle marks, I have two sets of twins (out of six) and two singles (out of three) due then. Normally, I leave the ewes out until a day or so before they are due but the weather has been pretty awful (although not as bad as in the west) and I decided to bring the ewes expecting twins in on Saturday. In previous years I have also let them out during the day and brought them in at night – this year, they are in from now until they lamb. There’s nothing out there for them anyway.
Monday 25 March, 2013
Our smallholding here at Dalmore is not registered for Single Farm Payment and until this year, we’ve never applied for any subsidies. But with the cattle coming along, we found that we were eligible to apply to the Scottish Beef Scheme 2012 (which, confusingly, replaced the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme).
The application form was fairly simple. The Scheme operates on an annual basis and has a fixed pot of money; a claim is made for calves born in the calendar year and once applications close at the end of December, the pot is divvied up on a per head basis, but with a higher headage payment for the first 10 calves in each business. Payments are due to be made between April and June. Yippee!
Saturday 2 February, 2013
When we bought our first two weaned calves in autumn 2010, we housed them in the old byre. It’s fine for two beasts, but I wouldn’t want to put any more than two in there as it’s a bit dark and the ventilation is not up to modern day standards. We do leave the door open (with a gate inside :-)), and the door through to the looseboxes, which helps.
In 2011, we had a concrete floor put down on one quarter of the barn, about 31 square metres, with half height block walls on three sides. I used this for lambing last year but found that the wind and rain blew in, if the wind was in the “wrong” direction.
Tuesday 22 January, 2013
Well, Gillian, our scanner from Booscan has been today. As usual, she was prompt and efficient and the eleven ewes were scanned in about 20 minutes. She’s got great kit – looks a bit like “Ghostbusters” when she’s all dressed :-)
For the first time, we’ve got empty ewes – two of them. Nova wasn’t really a surprise; she had a C section last year and the vet said she might not conceive again. However, Nellie WAS a surprise. She lambed for the first time last year and had twin tup lambs. She didn’t have a lot of milk though, and we topped the lambs up with a bottle.
Sunday 13 January, 2013
When we only had three ewes, we couldn’t do what those with bigger flocks would do as a matter of course – for example, splitting the flock into those carrying twins and those carrying singles to allow correct feeding just isn’t going to happen. With eleven in lamb this year, it’s become a bit easier.
However, the perils of small numbers now apply to the cattle. We have two cows with calves at foot and a bullock of about 18 months. Now, when we bought Henry - the bullock – he was six months old and a year younger then Breeze and Blizzard. Now he’s bigger than both of them.
Tuesday 8 January, 2013
Last year, 2012, was the first year we’d kept pigs at Dalmore. We bought three Hampshire gilts, born 1st January, and had them slaughtered on the 21st August. We would have had them away earlier but we had an Introduction to Smallholding course running on the 18th August, so they had a stay of execution until that was passed.
Thursday 3 January, 2013
When we bought our two heifer calves in October 2010, we kept them in until February / March time. This was to allow them to get to know us and to be halter trained. Over the winter 2011/12, our two heifers (now in-calf) and our bullock out wintered, with access to a field shelter. Now Shetlands will outwinter quite happily but we don’t have masses of grazing, so during the “summer” of 2012, I was thinking about housing the cattle for at least part of the winter, mainly to protect the grass.