Since mid April about 650 lambs have been born on the farm. We started with a very big spate of new arrivals but now there are just a few stragglers left. We've had a few sets of triplets as well as one set of quads - which is particularly unusual when you consider that an average ewe has 1.75 lambs. They have certainly provided a lot of the aaah factor around these parts! Watching the lambs at play is very reminiscent of most mammals; sticking together in their little cliques and groups is deeply embedded in their behaviour - rather like humans really. Lambs are considered lambs up to 9-10 months and then they are known as hoggets or 'old season' lambs. We are saying goodbye to Ken the Shepherd (pictured) this week after 11 years with us. He is moving on to another farm to look after beef animals. We are going to sorely miss him and wish him well.
More stories on Baby Animals
May '09 18
Feb '09 6
There's something about the soft winter sun that is very special and unique to the period between mid November and February. It's very hard to capture its beauty but it really is rather breathtaking. There were some days last week that were especially lovely, with an almost smoky sunlight over the gently rolling Gloucestershire slopes. With the heavy snowfall down here this week most of the animals are sheltering inside. Cow rubbing is a very popular pastime in the pens and it always makes them go a bit gaga. There are two scratching brushes in the cowshed and each one has a horizontal and vertical set of bristles. It's a natural activity for the cows who are partly woodland animals anyway and so by nature would rub on trees and branches when outside. A friend on his farm has an electric motorised scratcher and it's an hilarious sight when it activates to the touch. The cows get a lot of pleasure from it, becoming incredible contortionists as they wriggle and writhe to scratch those parts that are hard to reach!
Jan '09 20
It's been very cold on the farm, like everywhere else in the country, and the weather tends to dictate everything that happens here. There are always pros and cons to these frosty conditions and the trick for us is trying to turn it to our advantage, where we can, particularly as the days are much shorter so we are kept very busy. On the upside it's given us the chance to give some of the yards and cattle beds a good clear out of manure and tip it, although we can't spread it just yet. It was a beautiful sight when there was a flurry of snow earlier in the month and a hoar frost which left a coating on the trees for a while, particularly in the early mornings, but it meant the ground has been very solid for digging up some of the vegetables. Parsnips in particular need to be dug up fresh and are best stored in the ground, so we've had to pick our moments for this job, aiming for around two in the afternoon before the ground starts to ice up again. And celeriac needs to be handled very gently so that it doesn't snap off when it's picked.
Nov '08 14
I've been the Duchy Home Farm dairy herd manager for two years. It's my job is to make sure we're producing the best quality for our Duchy Originals Milk and to ensure that our Ayrshire cows and calves are looked after to the highest possible standards. The average life of a conventional dairy cow is less than five years while the average age of our Ayrshire dairy cows is nearly twice that. This is because our cows produce about half as much milk as Holsteins and so are put under a lot less stress. Cows are not machines! Each of our cows has a name which starts with the prefix Duchy so, for example, we have Duchy Buttermilk, Duchy Daisy. Each cow also has a pedigree certificate and passport with a number which must correlate to the cow's ear tag number - this means that we have complete traceability of all our animals. Click on read more to hear about Mark's typical day...
Jul '08 31
The other day one of our young Tamworth boars (a male pig) thought he'd jump over a fence and get in with one of our older boars. Sadly the older boar, four years old, twice the size of the younger boar and with tusks, was not happy to receive an unexpected visitor.
Jun '08 22
We've recently seen the arrival of nine piglets which are adorable! They shriek like mad and you just want to pick them up, but they are very fast. The sow has had a couple of litters and nine piglets is about the average number, although we have had 14 piglets in the past.
Jun '08 13
The last few late spring calves have been born in the dairy herd. There will be no more now until late summer. Every cow has to have a calf each year in order to produce milk, and we have 180 dairy cows in the herd. The reality of life on the farm means sometimes cows are ill. A few days ago we had one cow with Milk Fever. This happens around calving time when a cow gets very low blood calcium and can become comatose.
May '08 28
We've almost finished lambing now and luckily haven't lost any lambs to foxes which I'm pleased about. We normally lose a few each year but this lambing season, for the first time, we borrowed two Alpaca (which look like mini Llamas) from a neighbour to deter foxes. They are intimidating animals and if you go into the field with a dog they are very defensive in the way they strut around.
May '08 16
In the last week 400 lambs have been born! It's a very symbolic Spring picture. Ken, the shepherd, gets tired at this time of year as he checks up on the lambs first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
May '08 8
Animal welfare rates very highly with an organic system. The pigs, for example, have to be kept outside and here at Home Farm they are given plenty of space for grazing. On a sunny day they really enjoy lying out in the sunshine and sunbathing. Pigs are intelligent animals and if they are not able to fulfil their instinctive desires then they tend to go stir-crazy!