NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Help! I'm new...  (Read 283 times)

wuuaf

  • Joined Jan 2019
Help! I'm new...
« on: January 14, 2019, 06:35:37 pm »
Hello all, I've joined up as I have some probably very newbie questions to ask!

A little about me, I grew up in the country side and spent my childhood outside, albeit without any livestock, bar my grandparents 2 pet highland cows! I have been living in a normal house on an estate for a few years, with my partner who has a horse on a livery yard about 300m from home and my cocker spaniel.

I have just found the opportunity of purchasing 2.7acres of land just down the road from my grandparents house and around 10minutes from home (conveniently on my commuting route too). I have been missing the country for a long time but house prices forbid me from returning at the moment. I am seriously considering purchasing this land as it is incredibly good value and starting a small holding.

I have always wanted to keep a couple of dexter cows for beef, and a few chickens / geese. Now my main questions are as follows.

Would 2.7a be enough for 2 x dexter's, my thinking is to get two heifers to start off with to get me 'settled' then after around a year or so put them into calf to start my beef production?

Is there any problems with keeping dexters on sloping ground, there is around a 10-15m drop across the length of the land?

Are there any problems with keeping poultry so close to cattle?

I work 12hr days and would be tending to the holding at least once a day, however if my work overran or I had an appointment will the cows be ok without being checked up on?

Now I know I am pushing my luck here (and space!) but is there any chance of keeping the horse with the cattle or is the space really too limited?

With regard to hay I'm in the luck position where around 200 bales come off my grandparents land around 0.5miles from where this land is located, which I'd be able to keep a number of to keep the cows and possibly horse going through the winter.

Any advice is very much appreciated and I'm very excited about the possibility...

Thanks;

Wuuaf
Voss Electric Fence

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2019, 10:09:48 pm »
It will depend on where you are and what sort of land it is.

Generally, average to good land the rule of thumb is one acre per cow, two acres if you want to make your own hay.  Dexters are small and thrifty so you might get away with two on 2.7 acres.  But if it’s poor land - marshy, scrubby, not good pasture - then it might not support two.  (And you can’t keep herd animals on their own.)

If the land is poor, if your winters are wet, then you will probably find that the land becomes a quagmire in winter.  Cattle must have somewhere dry to lie, and need solid ground where you feed them, so this could be a problem.

Would you be able to erect a shelter for them?  You might need planning permission.

Is the land classed as agricultural?  Suitable for livestock?  You might need planning permission (or equivalent) to put livestock on it.  If it’s surrounded by housing you might not get it.

When your heifers have calves, how long would you keep them?  Up to six months or so, with spring calving, you might get away with it.  But two adults and two adolescents over winter, on 2.7ac... probably not.

All livestock needs to be checked, in daylight, every day.  And early enough in the day that if action is required - eg, veterinary attention - you have daylight and working hours left in which to effect it.  So in practise, they need checked in the morning, after sun up, every day.  If you work 12 hours a day, can you do this?  And if there is a problem, will you be able to deal with it?  Would you be able to call work and say you have to stay back to sort out a cow issue? 

Hay-wise, depending on where you are and the winters you get, you might need to feed hay for four months or more.  A full-size suckler cow with good shelter would get half a bale of hay a day, so your two Dexters might need 100 bales, maybe more.


There’s no reason a horse couldn’t share with cattle - but a) all herd animals should have animals of their own kind for company, and b) 2.7ac, even if very good ground, wouldn’t support two Dexters and a horse other than in the very best growing weather.  Last year, we had an evil winter, a cold, slow spring, then two months’ drought.  We had no grass until September / October.  Farms around us were feeding hay in August.  I’m in North Cornwall.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2019, 10:19:56 pm »
You’d also need to think about getting your heifers in calf.  Would it be safe to have a bull on the land, and would the land cope with a third - and large - beast for six weeks.  If you calve in spring you’d have the bull in summer, so at least the grass would be at its best then.

Cattle have to be TB tested.  You have to have safe handling facilities to do this.  You’d need to construct a pen, and maybe hire a crush for the vet to visit and do the test.  Depending on where you are, this might be once every four years, or every year, plus whenever an animal is moving on or off the holding within 60 days.

You’d also need to think about how you’d manage for treatment if needed, for loading the bull when he goes, or for penning and handling the cows if you went for AI. 

Fencing will need to be excellent, particularly if you are starting with heifers who will be determined to escape to find a bull every 21 days (each) until they are in calf!

I think I’d be inclined to buy the land if you can afford it, but start slower and smaller.  Maybe fatten a few lambs over the summer, send them off before winter; keep your chickens, get used to having livestock and fitting it around your job.  (But do check you are allowed livestock on that ground.)

Edited because auto-incorrect
« Last Edit: January 17, 2019, 10:43:05 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2019, 10:30:10 pm »
I agree with most of what Sally says, and most especially about buying the land. After all - they don't make any more of it, and how often does anything affordable come up in the right place? However, you do not need planning permission for farming operations, ie simply keeping animals, although you would need it for any substantial building, but might get away with a basic shelter.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2019, 10:43:49 pm »
I agree with most of what Sally says, and most especially about buying the land. After all - they don't make any more of it, and how often does anything affordable come up in the right place? However, you do not need planning permission for farming operations, ie simply keeping animals, although you would need it for any substantial building, but might get away with a basic shelter.

Mightn’t the land need change of use if it’s not agricultural now?
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Mad Goatwoman of Madeley

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Telford
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2019, 11:00:40 pm »
Hi Wuuaf :wave: . Can't help with what you are asking but wanted to welcome you to TAS forum.

Backinwellies

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
    • Nantygroes
    • Facebook
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2019, 07:49:47 am »
Hi

Personally I would buy the land if at a reasonable price (always a good investment).   As to cows and horses I would try to adjust those ideas …..  2.7 acres would be very tight for 2 cows if they are to be out wintered. If you could hire a barn for them for the winter then you would probably be OK.   

You mentioned beef production …. by which I am assuming you meant to rear to beef ….  this requires enough land for your 2 cows,  one 2 year old, one 1 year old and your 2 new calves (assuming you sell off one calf each year) …..  how do I know?  I started with 2 Dexter heifers!  ….  ;D

As to slopes … they love them  :)

As to keeping them in bulling Dexters can jump over normal height fences if they have other cattle near (voice of experience!) .   

You could consider buying 2 Dexter steer calves and rearing them for beef (or other breeds?)

Linda

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.

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wuuaf

  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2019, 08:03:20 am »
Hi All, thanks for your replies, especially Sally.

The land is greenbelt and agricultural, it is currently unused, but google earth shows sheep grazing the land. My plan would be to put a field shelter (on skids to avoid planning) on some hard standing for both shelter and handing, with a gate on the shelter and inside for 'pinning' the cattle for handling.

I haven't actually been to the land yet, but will be going over the weekend to have a look, I will take some pictures and see what the soil is like. I imagine it is well drained, due to being quite steep and a stream passing through the next field (further down the hill).

As I say my grandparents have around 30 acres of unused land around 0.5miles down the road from this land so if I needed to rest the land I suppose I could borrow a field for a couple of months. Perhaps a better idea would be to get 1 cow with calf at foot?

I will not be rushing into anything, i'll pop some pictures up of the land once i've been tomorrow for your opinions!

Thanks again for the replies...

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2019, 08:57:14 am »
Hello and welcome  :wave:

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2019, 10:20:14 am »



"Mightn’t the land need change of use if it’s not agricultural now?"



No! Definitely not. You do not need planning to keep an animal or grow a plant on land. Planning (or confirmation of permitted development rights) is only needed for the associated structures you might want to erect in order to house the animals/plants.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2019, 10:22:06 am by landroverroy »
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2019, 12:20:36 pm »
<<< I will not be rushing into anything, i'll pop some pictures up of the land once i've been tomorrow for your opinions! >>>

Don't forget to take a spade to dig a couple of test holes to see what the soil is like.
www.scothebs.co.uk

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2019, 12:52:15 pm »


As I say my grandparents have around 30 acres of unused land around 0.5miles down the road from this land so if I needed to rest the land I suppose I could borrow a field for a couple of months. Perhaps a better idea would be to get 1 cow with calf at foot?



It’s not illegal as such, but the welfare codes for cattle say that all cattle should have bovine company of their own “age and stage”.  Therefore it is regarded as not kind to keep a solitary cow and calf.  If you think about it, the cow would feel constantly stressed, as there is only her to protect her calf.  However, smallholders on small holdings often have to choose between a solitary house cow, or goats for their milk, so it does get done.

Clearly your heart is in cattle.  Would it be worth talking to the grandparents about renting some space from them once you get to the point your spot is too small?  If you know you can have it (and have a way of transporting the cattle to and from safely), then you’d feel more confident about getting started.  Maybe they’d help with checking your beasts, too, when work and daylight hours don’t combine in your favour?
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

wuuaf

  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2019, 01:13:02 pm »
The problem with my grandparents is they're big softies, they had 2 x Highland cattle years ago which they kept as pets and would get attached to anything on their land!

Ideally I would like cattle, however I have been looking into pigs also. I've been put of sheep after a girlfriend years ago had 300+ and they were a nightmare, escpaing and killing themselves!

I've been reading that pigs need a lot less land, but do tend to absolutely destroy what land they are on, I suppose 2-3 maybe even four, moved around often could work...


arobwk

  • Joined Nov 2015
  • Kernow - some say it's in England
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2019, 02:45:01 pm »
@wuuaf - haven't worked out where you are, but, down here in the SW, smallish plots of 2.7ac can fetch a very premium price if half-decent pasture (as long as the slope doesn't feel like a hike up Rough Tor or Brown Willy, which are the highest Bodmin Moor land-marks).  So, unless the price seems very low per acre compared to other small plots in your area, I would line up behind others here and say "buy it" if it suits you and you can afford:  BUT if price seems too good, I would suggest take a very hard "look" at why that might be before jumping in !

But, I am also bemused:  your grand-parents have 30ac and make hay (or rent out for the purpose).  30ac is a decent enough bit of land (I would be v happy to be sitting on 30 ac) and I really can't understand why you are not pressing them for access to a part of it (rented or otherwise) to pursue your interests !!?  You could, perhaps, agree a "pets corner" to address their softy inclinations, but with any other live-stock being subject to normal small-holder disposal/consumption.  That's what I'd be doing even if I also wanted to own the discrete 2.7ac for myself.   
« Last Edit: January 18, 2019, 06:35:01 pm by arobwk »

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Help! I'm new...
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2019, 06:47:21 pm »
Would agree with working on your grandparents - :eyelashes: . How about getting a couple of suckler cows which you could keep as pets. Even some highlands, which can live quite happily outside. Get them in calf each year and sell the calves. I'm sure your grandparents, as animal lovers, would love to have something else to keep an eye on. :innocent:
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

 

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