A cute photo to start with - this day old piglet is using his Mum's ears as an under and over blanket rather than go under the heat lamp with its siblings.
Contained in the metal box are the brains controlling the new dirty water irrigator and the pump. The dirty water in question is run off from the muck produced all year round by the pigs and by the cattle and sheep when housed in winter. The lead going into the grill on top of the tank has a float on the end which senses how full the tank is. It is programmed to operate at night with sensors to cut out if the pressure is too high ( a blockage ) or too low ( a burst pipe ) and its own heater to kick in should the temperature drop too low and ice damage the pump.
This is the self propelled irrigator itself. Once set up there is a wire at the front which reels in and thereby pulls the irrigator in a straight line at a pace governed by gears ( cogs based round the metal wheel in the centre ) so the dirty water is dispersed evenly over the field.Trailing behind is the black hose which the dirty water is pumped into from the storage tank. There is enough hose that we can irrigate the three field on the south side of the farm - remembering to only have sheep in there at the time not cattle who would investigate with unnecessary force. So far the red error light visible from the comfort of the landing window has declared the pressure too low on several occasions necessitating closer investigation. Apparently a modification advised after calling the installation team rather than opening the handbook has rectified this.
The arrival of the bale spreader on demonstration caused much excitement and even generated an audience. It fits onto a telecsopic loader with a quick hitch fitting. The jaw at the front opens so you can drive up to a quadrant (technical term) sized rectangular bale and scoop it up.
Having driven carefully round the yard (Phil only) to the chosen pen, blades on the two spreaders at the front are rotated at speed to scatter straw in an even coating for bedding down. It doesn't chop so isn't dusty and is not too noisy so doesn't frighten the animals. In fact some of the cattle now choose to stand underneath for a straw shower. Visibility is limited so only with experience can you judge how much straw has been showered. Some of the pig pens only need 4 seconds - not a good moment to receive a phone call. Not only does this reduce the time taken to straw up, it makes the task a one man job and crucially with the cattle means nobody has to enter the pen. Avid listeners to The Archers will know Tony's fate ....... it is also no coincidence that a red oxide covered human escape ladder is included in the corner of the new cattle shed. For those of you new to the newsletter; all Phil's metal constructions get a lick of red oxide paint. My interest in Radio 4's 'every day tales of country folk' has declined since the death of Nigel Pargeter after falling from a roof whilst putting up Christmas lights. However, Phil thinks it isn't a soap and 7:05 pm every night is 'do not disturb time'.
The third investment was a 60ft extension to the straw shed. A new departure was buying the frame and having it erected for us. Time pressure meant doing it ourselves we wouldn't have achieved this before winter when there is peak demand for shed space to house cattle and sheep.
These are the footings before being 'planted' and concreted in then left to set for a month. The RSJ stantions are then bolted onto these.
Three men are busy for four days and the job is complete. Impressive.
That shed is now full of straw enabling last season's lambs to move where the straw was after completion of the last concrete pad. Murphy dog being the only one on site wearing a high vis' jacket.
Regular followers of Garr House Farm activities may recall that a shed conversion for use by some of the suckler beef herd on the North side of the road was taking some time. It is now completed and the bull is in residence.
The second pen will shortly be occupied by the calves born last March when they are weaned just before the cows calve again this March.
The 2015 calving season started unexpectedly early with some heifer replacements who weren't meant to be put to the bull till the following Spring receiving the attentions of a rig - a bull we had put the castration rings on when he was a calf, but not sufficiently well to do a complete job. The heifers had not reached an ideal size for calving and we needed the vet out to perform a caesarian on one where the calf was too large for a natural birth. Unfortunatley though the vet was extremely efficient, the calf died during the procedure. It was the first time I had observed a caesarian and there seemed a lot of rummaging around to extract the hind legs. This has to happen without damaging the umbilical cord so the calf still has an oxygen supply until born and able to breath air. Some speedy needlework has left the heifer recovering well and hopefully she will have a calf successfully next year. Meanwhile she is sporting an impressive scar.
A 10 pence per kg drop in the pig price last Friday puts a stop on any further investment for a while. It is the largest single drop in our pig keeping career - still as a result of the Russian embargo on imports from Europe which means there is surplus pig meat in Europe being imported into britain at low prices just to clear it.
If you want to help........ buy British, buy local and for your meat buy WTM. As an encouragement there is
See top left for details. We look forward to seeing you in the shop very soon !