Welcome to another edition of the occasional newsletters from Wigborough Traditional Meats at Garr House Farm. It is a family run stock farm from where we have been retailing our own meat since 2000, all produced from our own animals.
There are signs of Spring all around which is good to see; daffodils out along the road which dissects the farm and some blackthorn blossom. We have had some unpleasantly wet and windy weather but no frosts and cold temperatures worth mentioning. These are a natural way to reduce bug populations and improve soil structure, problems which will become apparent as the year progresses. On a more cheerful note if we have a cold snap now, it shouldn't last for long.
The only animals exposed to the elements are the free range laying hens. Mostly they manage 75 eggs from the 92 birds. The older flock will have been laying for 2 years at the end of April and on past experience will become less reliable and so due for replacement then should anyone be interested in providing them with a home for their retirement from commercial egg laying.
Meanwhile the cows in the suckler beef herd have calves due from March 10th. They are a mixed bunch of older Continental breeds and Red Polls along with the younger Angus crosses which we have bred ourselves. Since we have no facility for separating them and their feed access is ad lib
it is tricky to maintain everyone in optimum body condition. Previously due to access to good silage some have been well up on the obese chart, this year the silage has been fed along side straw and they are more rotund than obese which will hopefully help at calving time. Annoyingly, but as usual we still await the chap to pregnancy test the cows and scan the sheep which are due from March 25th. ( Latest update - he is appearing on Tuesday and promises it will be in daylight ).
In previous years I have had many lambing 'helpers'. If anyone would like a half day, please get in touch for more details, the only requirements are to be physically fit and over 8 years old.
One of the things we spend time doing is moving animals around and like all jobs, having the right equipment makes things so much easier. The transport box in the photo on the left can be used for a couple of ewes and lambs being taken to a field after lambing indoors, bringing a single sow from the sow yard over the road where they spend their gestation to the farrowing house or any number of small jobs. The trailer on the right is used to move pigs as they grow out of their accommodation and are moved on an 'all in all out basis'. It can hold a batch of 7 sows moving between a farrowing house the service yard and the sow yard or about 30 sheep. The side gate can be replaced with one which holds a sheep in place by trapping its neck. This enables crutching out and dagging activities to occur in a more relaxed fashion for human and ovine than if they have to be restrained manually.
The covered Ivor Williams trailer on the right is used for bringing an individual beast from over the road to the Monday lorry and taking sheep ( 23 max ) onto rented land too inconvenient to walk to. Along with ATV's ( which we don't possess ) they are the most frequently stolen pieces of farm equipment. Hopefully this one looks sufficiently weathered to not be appealing - it also has a lock on the wheels and our post code punched out in an obvious place should anyone be thinking along those lines.
The middle trailer in particular is showing its age and needs major repair surgery. There is a compromise between being large enough to hold several animals whilst still being manouverable around the buildings. We may well need to move more stock around to outlying fields so a larger roofed trailer is needed. Phil has done some research and the current thinking is to have one built to his design with a removable roof ...... watch this space.
Yes, the sun is shining and the boys are concreting but ( regular readers ) curb your excitement ........ no pictures till next month. Instead you have some poor photographs aimed at illustrating some lamb chop options which we regularly stock as I am often asked what a Barnsley chop is ....
Loin chops ( on the left ) come packed in pairs, they are exactly the same as a single Barnsley chop ( on the right ) which has been halved along the backbone in the centre. A Barnsley chop opens up to a butterfly shape when cooked.
If the blurred photographs haven't sold them to you - come along and see for yourself !
And a cute one to finish on - Poppy the fox red labrador now 4 1/2 months.
Mutual adoration in the farrowing house.