Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices  (Read 2014 times)

rebeccaanne

  • Joined Jun 2020
10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« on: June 10, 2020, 12:07:26 am »
Hello

Very excitingly we have the possibility of acquiring a 10 acre smallholding in Cornwall on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

We are complete novices but have a rough idea of what we want to do.

Plans include the usual veg growing, planting an orchard or forest garden, and short rotation coppice for firewood (willow mainly), keeping chickens and bees.

We would love some livestock (cattle and sheep) but not for eating because were veggies and not for milk as we just don't drink it. Our main reason for wanting a few cattle is because we just love them, for soil fertility and because we really want to use the land to implement a range of conservation projects for wildlife (establishment of traditional hay meadows, rough grassland for farmland bird nesting habitat etc) and use the cattle for conservation grazing. We were thinking belted Galloway's, Dexters or Shetland cattle.

We would want a small flock of sheep also because we love them (especially Portlands) but possibly also for wool or even for rare breed conservation (longwools) or even to help with conservation grazing (Jacobs or Cotswolds).

So my question is (and this is going to make me sound really stupid so Im sorry) can one keep cattle / sheep without raising them for meat or diary products? i.e if I have female cattle that won't be calving what do I do if they go on heat? (if thats the right expression). Is is better to keep males or females? If I do decide to breed rare breeds, is it feasible to sell any offspring I don't want to or cant keep rather than to kill for meat? Is there anything else I need to consider?

Has anyone else used their smallholding for conservation / wildlife purposes (aside from producing their own food)?

Thank you in anticipation.

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2020, 09:31:31 am »
I would contact an animal rescue shelter local to your new place and ask them for advice and if they have any of the animals you desire availiable for rehoming, or of they know any rescues that have? Non-breeding pet homes like the one you are offering are rare and I'm sure any decent rescue would be happy to guide you through livestock management and also may give you some practical experience.

I'm sure your aware that if you went down the route of breeding rare breed sheep or cattle there will be a market for the offspring, however that may be selling through a market where you have no say in where they end up, just because an animal is a rare breed doesn't mean that it won't end up on someones plate!

Good luck in your new place - sounds like a wonderful!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2020, 10:20:25 am »
Hi there, you will be nearly neighbours.  We are about 20 miles from Bodmin - between Bodmin and Bude.

10 acres hereabouts isn't a huge amount of ground if you are thinking about cattle, and this is an area where the winters are very wet, so even if your cattle are hardy enough to stay out, most winters they will trample and poach the ground if they are out.  We have a couple of small dairy cows here now but it used to be Dexters, one of the smallest and hardiest breeds there is, and we used to have to bring them in unless it was an uncharacteristically dry winter.  (And that was 2 cows with followers on considerably more ground than you have.)

So perhaps you might be better thinking more about sheep and less about cattle.  Sorry, I know you love cattle!

A different way to have cattle around and to do conservation grazing would be to offer grazing to someone for a few youngstock over the summer.   (You need excellent fences for cattle, by the way.)

Sheepwise, in my experience the better conservation grazers are the native primitives.  Hebridean, Shetland, Manx and the like.  They used Portlands on Braunton Burrows for a while so I guess they are good for conservation too.

If you prefer to not breed, then the best thing would be to get wether lambs at weaning.  (That's castrated males.)  If you choose a breed with nice fleece then you should be able to sell your fleeces.  Or learn to spin yourself ;)

As an example for you, our holding here is 32 acres in total, of which about 14 acres is available for grazing year round, and another 5-6 acres we can get a bit of use out of over the summer.  We keep 2 small dairy cows and their calves (which go off at less than one year old to make room for the next batch), 2 Fell ponies, and 18 smallish sheep, of which we breed 6-8 each year so usually have 12-18 lambs (most of which go off before winter.)  The cattle are housed over winter, coming in as soon as the ground get wet, usually mid-late November.  When we have a wet winter followed by a dry spring such as we have just had, it is very tight for grass here.  We shall probably not be able to get a hay / haylage crop again this year, so will be buying in again.  That gets expensive - 2 cows need approx a bale a day from late Nov to end March.  At last year's prices, that's around £500.  2 steers (castrated males) would need a bit less, especially if you went for Dexters, but perhaps expect to spend £300 on hay and maybe 1/3 to 1/2 that on straw for bedding.  (Or you can feed straw as they'd  be steers, but  good chemical-free straw was about the same price as hay last year).

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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

arobwk

  • Joined Nov 2015
  • Kernow: either over-crowded or villages left half-empty.
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2020, 04:48:08 pm »
Well, seems to me SintN has pretty much summed it up wrt the prospective 10ac.
Other options if you want more livestock: 

Keep looking for a larger holding (if you can afford more acres), but as has been advised, livestock can need lots of acres especially taking into account the varying land uses you are thinking about;

Otherwise, if you are hell-bent on maximising your livestock, you could perhaps consider rent/lease of some other land nearby to get you through any lean months (no idea here about grazing rental/leasing costs*), but you won't know about that until you have already committed to contract on "your" 10ac and start to get to know your neighbours.  Also, I would guess, farmers could be reluctant at times to rent-out if their fields will end up a muddy mess, but around here (the southern side of Bodmin) there is lots of renting going on for "youngstock" grazing (I've not heard that term before).  I seem to think though that most take their cattle in for the Winter, hence the other preoccupation here with finding haylage/silage pasture.  (Neighbour taking Field 2 again this year even though not great quality:  not good because I am working on stunting pasture for my own needs rather than encourage lush growth!)

[*I don't know about rental costs as I've been working on the "favours" basis with my neighbours.]

To note:  a "youngstock" grazer of my land at one time simply installed electric fencing all around about 5ac.  It didn't take long for his 15 or so young bullocks to munch through unfertilised meadow.  As soon as he noticed they were putting distance between each other he simply moved them on to the next lot of land he had a grazing agreement for and upped posts.  Of course they were all destined for the abattoir as soon as (if you can live with that outcome of 'entertaining' itinerant grazers).



Good luck







« Last Edit: June 10, 2020, 05:09:55 pm by arobwk »

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2020, 05:08:28 pm »
Plus, I forgot to mention, it's all annual testing for TB around here, and the vets all insist on a proper crush these days.  So you will need a crush and a pen to hold your cattle in for 4 days a year  ::)  (10 mins the first day and another 10 mins on the 4th day.)   And if you go for the "letting the grazing" option, anyone moving cattle onto your spot will need to test them before they move and again before they return - and they have to pay for those tests.  (The annual one is funded by the government.)
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

rebeccaanne

  • Joined Jun 2020
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2020, 06:04:13 pm »
Thank you all for taking the time to reply and generously share your knowledge  :)

Excellent idea re the rescue centres - I will get on to that.

Sally what a wealth of advice, thank you! Good to know that wintering inside is required even for the hardy breeds and thanks for the price of hay / straw info, very useful. We tend to buy in a lot of compost to top up our no-dig veg beds (and establish new ones) every year (about £300  :o) so I guess the resulting manure we will get from overwintering and the cost of the hay / straw will kind of balance it out. How do dexters do inside over winter i.e do they need their backs sheared? Would Belted Galloway's need more hay than Dexters?

Sounds like if I did have cattle, steers would be the way to go and only really 2. Would 3 be pushing it? Also thanks for the TB advice and the need for a crush. Lots to think about. Am I right in thinking that if cattle are found to have TB they have to be put down?

How much land would you need to make your own hay? Is it worth growing your own hay?

Re sheep as conservation grazers Ive had a look at the Grazing Animals Project breeds handbook which is really useful https://drive.google.com/file/d/13vQcYreLLqxXCJ5049K718lCdCJbJovz/view

I am a bit worried about having sheep as there is public right of way through the smallholding (luckily not through the fields) with lots of dog walkers - a previous tenant had trouble with dog attacks on his sheep and had to put a few down. The handbook above states that Jacobs and Costwolds are able to stand their ground against dogs which is good but Portland are very vulnerable. Would electric fencing be a good way around this?

Also the smallholding in question is a very rare rental opportunity and comes with an application process. We have sent our application so have all our fingers and toes crossed.


SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2020, 06:45:22 pm »
Yes, I would imagine that the use of the FYM (farmyard manure) in the compost would compensate somewhat for the cost of forage and bedding.  We aim to return to the ground that which came from the ground, so in a year when we buy in all the hay and straw we are happy for a lot of the FYM to go to the compost, but if, like last year, we made our own hay/hayalge, we would then apportion the FYM accordingly, trying to put back on the field the dung produced from the grass taken off the field.  It's very inexact, of course, because we take calves and lambs away for meat, fleeces for spinning and other crafts, and surplus milk (the cows feed their own calves, we take the spare).  And we feed very little bought-in feed, so we are, over time, depleting the ground.

In terms of overwintering inside, cattle need to have the rain kept off them but the next most important thing is ventilation.  Ours have a yard to loaf in, an al fresco hay feeder with a rain hat, and a very well-ventilated strawed pen which they are free to enter and leave at will.  The whole thing was built with ventilation the foremost consideration.  If you can't give them something that airy then the worry is pneumonia.  You won't hurt them shaving a strip along their backs, and you may find they stop growing so much hair once they get used to being in for winter.

I would guess that Belties are probably similar to Dexters in terms of need for forage.  They are larger but they really are exceptionally good "do-ers".  I haven't kept Galloways myself - not for want of trying - but on the upland Cumbrian farm we had Blue Greys, which are Galloway x Whitebred Shorthorn.  Doris was in one winter and got fat as a tunky pig sharing the same rations (just hay and silage, no cake) as the other sucklers (mainly Angus crosses.)

I would think 3 stirks would probably be pushing it yes, on 10 acres when there are sheep and other things going on as well.  But you might get away with it if you are wintering inside.

Yes, TB reactors have to be put down.  And it happens :/

The rule of thumb is a cow needs as much land for hay as she needs grass under her feet in summer.  We like to make at 3-4 acres of hay if we can and that will pretty much do the 2 cows, 2 ponies (who get very little) and the 18 or so sheep (who get about the same as the 2 ponies.)   

It's a perennial question, is it worth doing your own hay.  We are blessed with wonderful local contractors who don't mind our small acreages and don't charge too much for cutting, turning, rowing up and baling, and can wrap small bales if it's not possible to make good hay that year.  (Which happens often :/)

Last year we made 233 bales, and had to wrap the lot.  Cost £3.70 per bale to make but was wonderful stuff; equivalent to buy would have been £6/bale.  In fact, because we prefer hay to haylage for the ponies and sheep, and also for the cattle to have a mix of some hay and some haylage, what we did was sell some of the haylage and buy hay in with the money.  But almost all the buyers were horsey folk and wanted it delivered 10-15 bales at a time, so it was quite a lot of work - and we needed our sheep trailer.

Cotswolds are longwools and I would say therefore not a sheep for novices unless you are very 'into' your sheep.  Longwool takes a lot of looking after, very prone to flystrike.  Shetlands and Manxes are naturally resistant to strike, I don't know about Jacobs. 

Dogs can be a heck of a nuisance, but it's usually far worse where there are lambs.  So if you aren't breeding, and therefore only have adult sheep, that would help.  Best sheep for standing up to dogs that I know are Manxes and Swaledales; they are both horned and both cracking conservation grazers.  (I have no firsthand experience of Jacobs.)  However, it is usually the ewes that stand up to the dogs, with their maternal protective instincts.  Wethers can be a bit dopey ;p

Electric fence would have to be two or three wire strands (can't use the netting style with horned sheep) and takes a lot of looking after.  Also, it only deters dogs who know about it, so whilst the local dogs would learn to respect it, visitors' dogs might be through it and chasing the sheep before they realise it stung them.
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2020, 06:47:41 pm »
Thank you all for taking the time to reply and generously share your knowledge  :)

Excellent idea re the rescue centres - I will get on to that.

Sally what a wealth of advice, thank you! Good to know that wintering inside is required even for the hardy breeds and thanks for the price of hay / straw info, very useful. We tend to buy in a lot of compost to top up our no-dig veg beds (and establish new ones) every year (about £300  :o ) so I guess the resulting manure we will get from overwintering and the cost of the hay / straw will kind of balance it out. How do dexters do inside over winter i.e do they need their backs sheared? Would Belted Galloway's need more hay than Dexters?

Sounds like if I did have cattle, steers would be the way to go and only really 2. Would 3 be pushing it? Also thanks for the TB advice and the need for a crush. Lots to think about. Am I right in thinking that if cattle are found to have TB they have to be put down?

How much land would you need to make your own hay? Is it worth growing your own hay?

Re sheep as conservation grazers Ive had a look at the Grazing Animals Project breeds handbook which is really useful https://drive.google.com/file/d/13vQcYreLLqxXCJ5049K718lCdCJbJovz/view

I am a bit worried about having sheep as there is public right of way through the smallholding (luckily not through the fields) with lots of dog walkers - a previous tenant had trouble with dog attacks on his sheep and had to put a few down. The handbook above states that Jacobs and Costwolds are able to stand their ground against dogs which is good but Portland are very vulnerable. Would electric fencing be a good way around this?

Also the smallholding in question is a very rare rental opportunity and comes with an application process. We have sent our application so have all our fingers and toes crossed.


Yes if cattle are found to react to the skin TB test they are taken for slaughter, if no lesions at the abattoir they go into the food chain. You have no say in this. Essentially when the vet reads the skin test and fails them, the cattle are almost compulsory purchased. If they are not fit to travel or in a meat withdrawal they are put down on farm by a knackerman. If they are fit to travel and in no withdrawal they go to abattoir. Cornwall is very bad for TB so this is something to be aware of before you buy cattle. If you do have reactors the cattle that are left then all have to pass 2 TB tests 60 days apart and then one 6 months after before you can go back to annual testing. We have been in and out of TB restrictions over the past few years.


You’d need to find a farmer willing to cut the grass for hay and turn and bale it. But with 10 acres you’d probably be better to just buy hay in.


Sheep would be better, electric fencing is good provided your sheep don’t have horns. But it is not dog proof- I had some ewe lambs attacked by a dog in the winter- it got through a gap in a chain link fence and through my electric fence too. Just an irresponsible walker and I nearly lost a pedigree ewe.

roddycm

  • Joined Jul 2013
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2020, 12:06:13 am »
Be sure to get breeds that aren't prone to obesity (like download breeds of sheep) if you're not going to breed from them they can get very fat and that can cause health problems. Some breeds are prone to obesity even if you do breed from them but it's easier to manage. This applies especially to sheep but potentially cattle too. Just do a little research and see what you like the look of. Sounds like a lovely adventure!! Keep us posted and best of luck!!

rebeccaanne

  • Joined Jun 2020
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2020, 08:59:52 pm »
Thank you Sally, Twizzle and Roddy

Sally is your yard for the cattle to loaf around in concrete or soil?

Also I'm wondering, instead of finding a farmer / contractor to cut my hay, turn and bale it, we could just do it ourselves old style i.e Austrian scythe and hand hay make  :excited: I've had a bit of a read about this and it appeals. Lots of good info advice here:

http://www.downsizer.net/Articles/Make_your_own/Hay_Making_by_Hand/

and here: https://scythecymru.co.uk/hand-hay-making/
:farmer:
I must be bonkers but I find this very appealing and could do this this on the traditional hay meadows I would be hoping to establish.

Shame the electric fence isn't a guarantee against dogs.

Yes, I think I would avoid the downland . lowland sheep, thanks Roddy.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2020, 09:01:52 pm by rebeccaanne »

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2020, 09:11:00 pm »
The yard is cement.  Cattle carry a lot of weight on 8 very small points of contact; on soft ground they just sink in.  Plus, you need to be able to scrape it and keep it clean.  (Especially with dairy cows, you don't want them with dung on their feet lying down with the udder then on their back feet.)
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Leicester
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2020, 10:38:07 pm »
Thank you Sally, Twizzle and Roddy

Sally is your yard for the cattle to loaf around in concrete or soil?

Also I'm wondering, instead of finding a farmer / contractor to cut my hay, turn and bale it, we could just do it ourselves old style i.e Austrian scythe and hand hay make  :excited: I've had a bit of a read about this and it appeals. Lots of good info advice here:

http://www.downsizer.net/Articles/Make_your_own/Hay_Making_by_Hand/

and here: https://scythecymru.co.uk/hand-hay-making/
:farmer:
I must be bonkers but I find this very appealing and could do this this on the traditional hay meadows I would be hoping to establish.

Shame the electric fence isn't a guarantee against dogs.

Yes, I think I would avoid the downland . lowland sheep, thanks Roddy.
Not sure how much has you want to make with a scythe in the UK it would be a bit risky to try to complete 10 acres.
I finally bought a pinning jig for my scythe (apparently it was cheaper to import it from Poland than buy it over here!) And I have cut some hay with it. Maybe 1/10 of an acre though, not any near as much as you would like. Another thing I'm making is tree hay for the goats for the winter.
If you really want a scythe (and i think they are brilliant!), don't buy a fancy £200 from those website m, instead get yourself one from ebay for £30 - that what I did, and its exactly the same!
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2020, 12:38:54 am »
If you really want to cut acres with a scythe you will probably find it worth looking at the Austrian scythe and having a bit of training with it.  We are very lucky to have Kevin Austin at Skyegrove not too far away, he'll set you right.  You will probably want a grass blade for hay and a ditch or even bush blade for general management.

They cut all and process all their hay by hand at Monkton Wyld in Dorset.  With 4 Jerseys they cut about 4 acres I believe.  Not all at once!  Simon says he just cuts what he can one day, then processes that over the next couple of days, however long it takes (weather dependant as well as how much help you have), then repeats. I think they have much better weather in Dorset then we do here :/
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2020, 07:54:23 am »
I can see why you would want to make your own hay, but it really is a fine art and you can risk your whole years work spoiling and being unedible if you get it wrong. Contractors won't be particularly interested in cutting and baling small acrages. They are usually very busy when the weather is good enough for hay making. You may be lucky and find a good neighbour who agrees to it though?

arobwk

  • Joined Nov 2015
  • Kernow: either over-crowded or villages left half-empty.
Re: 10 acres in Cornwall - complete utter novices
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2020, 01:51:53 pm »
Plus, I forgot to mention, it's all annual testing for TB around here, and the vets all insist on a proper crush these days.  So you will need a crush and a pen to hold your cattle in for 4 days a year  ::)  (10 mins the first day and another 10 mins on the 4th day.)   And if you go for the "letting the grazing" option, anyone moving cattle onto your spot will need to test them before they move and again before they return - and they have to pay for those tests.  (The annual one is funded by the government.)

@SallyintNorth - future "letting the grazing" on a bit of my land is actually not very likely, but just in case ... I sort of think that the owner of rented land can bear some liability for transgression of bio-security "orders" in some circumstances and so I checked current Gov.uk web advice on animal movements and on bovine TB.  I did not find guidance suggesting anyone grazing one's land needs pre- and post- TB testing.  Therefore, would you kindly clarify and/or point to official guidance on additional TB testing relating to cattle movements.  Thanks.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 01:58:49 pm by arobwk »

 

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