Here at Castlemine Farm, you never know what to expect, or to be more precise, who to expect! And these past few weeks have been no exception! The month was kick started with a lovely, but no less unexpected, visit to our Farm Office by our friendly Castlemine cows. Looking for a change of scene, [...]
Here at Castlemine Farm, you never know what to expect, or to be more precise, who to expect! And these past few weeks have been no exception!
The month was kick started with a lovely, but no less unexpected, visit to our Farm Office by our friendly Castlemine cows. Looking for a change of scene, and hearing the grass was greener on the other side, they decided to take a wander through an open gate and pop down to pay us a visit!! After staying a little while and checking the Farm Office out, they decided that our gravel stoned car park and pathways, were not as appetising as they had first thought! It was not long before they were rounded up,and headed happily back to their lush green fields of sweet grass!
Speaking of the cows, I artificially inseminated 8 heifers and they were recently scanned to see how many were in calf. Six of the heifers are currently in calf, and one will be expecting twins. The cattle are still outdoors at the moment but I have a herd test, when all the cattle will be herded up and brought into the yard. A District Veterinary Officer from the Department of Agriculture will test the cows for TB (Bovine Tuberculosis). The Department also test for Brucellosis but this is slightly different as the date of this test depends on your herd number. Herd numbers that end in an uneven digit are being tested this year. Herd numbers with an even last digit will be tested next year, and my herd number here at Castlemine Farm ends in 6, so my Brucellosis test will be carried out next year. The control and ultimate eradication of these diseases is important for livestock health, but also for our domestic and export markets. These tests may take a bit of time but in my opinion are well worth it.
Sheep breeding began on the 15th August, where I let 85 ewes out with 7 rams. I have two Texel rams, 2 Suffolk rams and 2 Charolaise rams. I did borrow a Lleyn (pronounced ‘Clin’) ram from a neighbour. This will be the first time this breed of sheep will be introduced to the Castlemine Farm flock. Apparently they produce very good mothers, with good feet and little lameness. They are an old traditional breed of sheep, and if all goes well this year, I may invest in one next year. The rams currently have a ‘raddle’ attached to the underneath side of their chest. This raddle does not harm the ram in any way, or the ewe. It is a simple device, strapped on with a harness, to the chest of the ram. The harness contains a small container that carries the marking colour, similar to paint, on the front. This raddle is used to mark the ewes with a certain colour when they have mated with the ram. I change the colour of the paint for different mating periods. So for the first mating, the ewes were marked
with a yellow paint,and for repeats (ewes that did not fall into lamb at the first mating), these ewes are marked with a red paint. I keep a record of the mating, and their colour, this will help me identify which of the ewes will lamb first in the springtime. For the repeat ewes, I will expect them to begin lambing approximately 20-21 days (the length of a ewe’s cycle), after the first batch of ewes have lambed. The ewe cycle can depend on the breed of the sheep. I have another 90 ewes to mate with the rams, and this mating will begin on the 15th October. I did buy in 25 lambs which I will keep on Castlemine Farm specifically for breeding. I bought these lambs from a local farmer who I have been dealing with for years. I also kept another 25 of my own lambs for breeding. My aim is to increase, slowly but surely, my breeding flock here at Castlemine Farm and eventually I would like about 300 breeding ewes.
Unfortunately, I had some complications with the sows and new piglets this month. For both sows it was their
first time having piglets. My first sow had 15 piglets, but had lost 2 by the time I got to her. She had another two runts who did not make it, and one very weak piglet, who survived for a day or two. I brought him up to the house and heated him by the fire. But, sadly to say, after a lot of care and attention, he didn’t make it either. My second sow had 14 piglets, all born alive but she stood on two, which left 12 piglets. Generally speaking with such a high number of piglets per sow, it really is survival of the fittest and not all tend to survive. This then raises the question of a farrowing crate. Not something I am completely comfortable with, but it does have its pros and cons. A farrowing crate is exactly how it sounds, a crate wide enough for a sow to stand up, and lie down in, with enough room to nurse her piglets. There are troughs on either side of the crate where the little piglets can be fed without being trod on. A farrowing crate would reduce the piglet losses. The down side is however that I would need to put the sow in the crate 1-2 weeks before she has her piglets, and she would remain there for a possibly another 2 weeks afterwards. As you know, our pigs here at Castlemine Farm
are free range, something I take great pride in. My concern would be the shock to the sow of being so confined, after being so used to the wide outdoors. But my mind is not decided yet – if you have any opinions on this, let me know, or if you know of any alternative solutions, I would be glad to hear them! Our boar is back again too after I leant him to the ‘Friendly Farmer’. I’m glad to say he is in great form and happy to be home again.
We finished the turkey shed just in the nick of time before our latest arrivals to Castlemine Farm. Our turkeys are a traditional Bronze breed which has a very good marbling through their meat. They all arrived safe and
sound and are settling in nicely. Dad and Brendan helped me out with the building, which was a great help. We put in a new concrete floor and recycled some old sheeting too which is always good. We replaced the doors to the shed as well, where there were once swinging doors, we now have sliding doors. The great thing about the new shed is that it is large enough to do a few jobs. So we still have room for the turkeys but we are also able to use it for other purposes – like storing our bales.
Regarding the tillage side of Castlemine Farm, on the first day, a Wednesday, we began at 6.30 pm. We cut 6 acres of barley and got 2.75 ton to the acre. We had very good moisture percentages, ours was 15.5 % moisture.
Generally anything above 20 % has too high of a moisture content and your price can be penalised. Less than
20% is good, and you get a better price. So I am very happy with this. On the Thursday we began at 10.30 am where we cut 11 acres of wheat. We got 3.5 ton to the acre and a moisture content of 16.5%. So again I was pleased. Thursday evening we started to cut a 14 acre field of barely but unfortunately the weather was against us and we only got two thirds of the field cut. On the Friday we cut for an hour before the weather went against us again, and we had to stop. We still have about 12 acres of spring barley and 7 acres of oats to cut. The persistent rain will damage the barley and its value will deteriorate, but the oats should be fairly ok. But all in all, I can’t complain as it was a very good year. I got the silage cut this month too – 30 acres are stored in the silage pit, and I had 10 acres baled and wrapped. We finished covering the pit at 10pm that night, luckily enough, as the rain reappeared the following morning.
Well that is all for the moment. If you any comments or opinions about any of my blogs, I’d love to hear them.
You can follow me and all that goes on here at Castlemine Farm, on Facebook, on Twitter or drop me an email: email@example.com In the meantime, take it easy, and as you know I will………….