Category: Blog

Farm diary – Spring 2018

Well, we’ve never had a Spring like it! (Nor autumn or winter)! It has seemed a very long, wet winter this year as autumn 2017 was so wet and the cattle came into their winter quarters early. The wet time in 2017 had a knock-on effect throughout the winter period with feed stuffs and bedding being in short supply PLUS expensive. Our Spring barley crop, planted in Spring 2017 failed as it was too wet for the combine harvester to get onto the land. This meant we didn’t have our home-grown barley to feed our cattle nor did we have the barley straw from the crop to use as bedding for the cattle. We did manage to salvage the crop by mowing it and putting it into round bales which we sold a ‘whole-crop’ silage (as it is the whole of the plant), but took a dramatic loss on input. This meant we had to go out and buy our cattle feed and straw instead of using our own. As the weather affected the majority of the country it meant everyone was in the same boat and straw was in short supply. We managed to get enough to see us through but at nearly double the cost of the previous years price.

Because this Spring has been such a long wet, late Spring, farmers in the area have been running out of feed for their cattle. Most of the cattle have ‘gone out to field’ approximately 2-3 weeks later than previous years. We have been selling round bale silage to friends and neighbours and for the first time we have got to the end of the winter with nothing to carry forward into the following Winter. We have had farmers coming to our door asking if we have feed for sale. Also, we have heard a tale of a farmer driving up and down the A39 – seeing round bales in a field and seeking out their owner to see if he could buy them. It has been that desperate for many with large herds to feed.

This situation has also compounded the restriction we are currently under with regard to bovine TB. Every year our stock have a compulsory test and we have been fortunate to ‘go clear’, despite being surrounded by farms that are ‘shut-down’ due to TB outbreak. In December 2017 we were asked to have an out of sequence test as there was a case of TB discovered on a farm that borders our own. In this test we had an animal that was ‘inconclusive’. She was tested again 60 days later and again was ‘inconclusive’. Because of this we were placed on restriction which means no stock can move off the Farm and we would not be able to sell our yearlings this Spring as we usually would have done. This gave us 24 more mouths to feed for longer than usual. We have just had another test at which we went clear but the authority will not remove our restriction until we have a second clear test. This test is scheduled for July and we are keeping our fingers crossed that we go clear and can resume normal trading. Incidentally, the post mortem on the cow that was ‘inconclusive’ showed no lesions. Frustrating!

Thankfully we have had a period of beautiful weather; our cows and the calves have been turned out into the fields (they we overjoyed too)! It was the first time the calves had felt grass under their feet.

The swallows arrived a couple of days early to Headon Farm and for the first time in two years WE HAVE HEARD THE CUCKOO! So this is going to be a good year we’ve decided! Some of you who have been following our Farm Diary for a few years will have already seen this, but Richard’s Gran, who has since passed away, would tell us this rhyme about the cuckoo – sorry if you have read it before but this is the first time we’ve heard it for a couple of years…. This is how it goes……

The cuckoo is a pretty bird
Its sings as it fly’s
It brings us good tidings
And tells us no lies.

It sucks little birds eggs
To make its voice clear
And when it sings ‘cuckoo’
The summer is near
We hope you have found our update interesting, farming doesn’t always go to plan as the weather plays such a vital role. Somehow, however, Mother Nature has a way of making things better.

Swallow

Swallows have arrived early this year!

Cow and calf

Walk this way!

Calving 2018

Our calving season of 2018 has begun!

Our first little calf born on the Farm was a heifer and since then the girl calves have outnumbered the boys! We have seven heifer calves and two bull calves to date with four left to calve. Nature mostly has a way of evening things up so it will be interesting to see what we have next. The most important thing for us is that cow and calf are healthy.

Calving means late nights and early mornings, but seeing new life born and take its first steps is rewarding.

If you are staying on our Touring Site and would like to come down onto the Farm and see the calves please let Linda or Richard know. We can show you a safe place to view from as sometimes the mummy cows are quite protective!

Calf enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

Cow and calf

I’m the Mum!

Spring is on its way!

Hedgerow

Primroses outside our Touring Site

It may be cold and grey where you are but Spring is just around the corner! We already have daffodils out in the garden and the beautiful hedgerows will soon be bursting into flower with primroses and bluebells.

Daffodils in Spring

Spring at Headon Farm

Why not book a Bargain Break after half term? Four consecutive low season nights for £42. Our Bargain Breaks run right up to 23 March, the Easter holidays. Breathe in that Devon air and relax…….

 

Tree fellas working!

Well, for the eagle eyed its only two, Richard and Des! Now is the time of year to do such jobs as fencing and hedge laying. Just turn left out of our Touring Site and wander down the road you come across a piece of woodland on the right which we call ‘Hollies’. The woodland has become very overgrown and not much light is getting in preventing any growth on the woodland floor. Much of the hedge has dead or diseased wood which needs taking out along with the diseased trees, many of which have been blown over in past storms. The cut wood is sorted and the branches or ‘toppings’ are put aside to act as cover for wild animals such as deer, foxes and pheasants. The good wood on the hedge is then partially cut and leant over and tied in to form a hedge. This is the ‘laying’ process. Although the hedges look quite bare initially in time they produce new shoots and the hedge thickens to become stock proof and habitats for wild animals and birds. Not many farmers do, or can do, this process; it is a skill that is often passed down through generations. However, there are colleges that do teach it, but practice and experience lays a good hedge!

Farm diary – early Summer 2017

Lots of things have happened since my last blog. We have finished calving with our AI bull and ended up with 10 bull calves and 14 heifer calves. We would have preferred it the other way around but we are just pleased they are all healthy and growing well. Lots of things have happened since my last blog. We have finished calving with our AI bull and ended up with 10 bull calves and 14 heifer calves. We would have preferred it the other way around but we are just pleased they are all healthy and growing well.

They are doing so well, we have been asked by Mole Valley Farmers in Holsworthy if they can use some photographs they took during their recent visit to us on their promotional material for the beef industry! The new AI bull we used has certainly produced some well-shaped calves, this was a new venture for us (previously we kept our own bull) but has been very worthwhile!

Cattle market

Many of you, who follow us on our Headon Farm Facebook page will know that we did rather well at Exeter Market when we sold our 2016 yearlings. We got awards for the top pen of heifers, second best pen of heifer and second best pen of steers. This market has nearly 800 cattle going through it and in that area there are lots of very good beef farmers, so we were chuffed!

Field

The cattle are all out in the field now and they love being let out of their winter quarters and so do we as it cuts down the daily feed round, bed up routine. This of course makes way for other jobs, one of which was the planting of the spring barley (our second year of doing this), for the winter feed.

At work in the fields

Last year arable crops in this area were down on yield, but the barley we produced was fed to our yearlings that sold in Exeter Market. It did a very good job as the cattle reached optimum weights a month earlier than the previous year when we were using a different feeding regime.

At work in the fields

To plan the spring barley first of all the field has to be sprayed to kill the weeds, then the winter dung is spread on the fields, it is then ploughed, harrowed, the seed is drilled and rolled in. All of these jobs are weather dependent but we have been blessed with a fine Spring which allowed these jobs to be done at optimum times. Let’s hope the rest of the growing year is kind and we have an improved yield this year.

Swallow

We have had the swallows and house martins arrive, a week later than last year. Sadly, so far and for the second year, we haven’t heard the cuckoo. We usually hear the singing coming from the wood down the hill. Richard’s Gran used to recite a verse to us about the cuckoo when she was alive and I like to include it each Spring time and remember her.

It goes as follows:

The cuckoo is a pretty bird
It sings as it flies
It brings us good tidings
And tells us no lies
It sucks little bird’s eggs
To make its voice clear
And when it sings ‘cuckoo’The summer is near

We have also just completed our firs cut of silage, the bales have been wrapped and are being brought in as I write. For those who don’t know, silage is the preserved grass that our cattle eat in the winter when they are in the housing sheds. It is important to make dry, good quality silage as this improves the feed quality for our cows.

We round bale and wrap our silage as we find this easiest to manage when feeding the cattle. You can see the bale wrapper in the picture working in one of our fields.

Farm diary – Autumn 2016

We have been truly blessed with an amazingly dry October which is such a bonus allowing us to get on with the jobs required at this time of year. The cattle came into their winter housing at the end of September because at that time we had a very wet period and not enough grass in the fields for them to eat. However, we do have plenty of round bale silage to feed them when housed so took the decision to ‘bring them in’.

The cattle now get the best of both worlds, they are able to sit out in the open passage way when it is dry and sunny, but when it is wet they have cosy dry beds to sleep on.

We have changed the way we do things a little this year. You may remember we have used the artificial insemination method of getting the cows in calf this year rather than keeping a bull. We are hoping for some lovely, healthy, strong calves starting around February 2017. Another thing that has changed is we have grown an arable crop of spring barley for the first time this year. We had more than enough round bale grass silage left over from the 2015/2016 winter so decided to grow 22 acres of spring barley. The barley is the basis of the cow pellets the cattle are fed, plus the crop also provided us with barley straw. In our opinion the best type of straw.

Linda Reader

So our bills from the feed merchant and straw merchant will go down as we have been able to produce our own! We have needed to make a dry storage area to keep the barley clean and dry. It will be milled with protein and molasses added to make into the complete feed for both the cows when necessary and the 2016 calves which are growing at a rate of knots!

Barley in storage

As I write we have nearly completed the annual hedge trimming task which tidies up the hedges. Trimming the hedges encourages them to grow from the bottom so they don’t get to thin and tall. This in turn helps keep the cattle/sheep in the fields.

Hopefully in the next Farm Diary I will be able to report on the arrival of the new baby calves!

Farm diary – early Summer 2016

Spring 2016 has been a strange one weather-wise. For a while the grass seemed slow to get going and we were concerned about having enough grass for the cows when the left the winter housing to go out to the fields for the summer. Then, within a week or so, it warmed up and the grass grew like mad!! (I’m sure your own lawns were doing just the same)! To the great delight of the cows they ‘went out to field’ on the 13th of May this year.

The protective mothers completely abandoned their calves- tails up – galloping off to eat fresh grass! Eventually the mooing of the calves reminded them they’d left something behind and they soon coupled up again.

At work in the fields

This year we’ve done several things differently to previous years at Headon. One example of this is we have planted 22 acres of spring barley as winter feed for our cows. Like many farmers, we have an excess of round bale silage left over from the winter of 2015/16 and so don’t need to make so much grass silage feed for this winter. Fortunately the soil conditions on a block of 22 acres of our land proved suitable to grow spring barley so in the spring we ploughed up the grass fields, harrowed them and planted the seed and kept our fingers crossed.

We’re not very experienced at this arable lark and it seems that at any time the crop can fail due to weather, rabbits, pigeons, disease, pests etc… However, at the moment the plant has risen out of the ground and seems to be growing!! This crop will also give us the straw that we would usually buy in so will be doubly useful. Will keep you posted!!

Cow

As we don’t need to produce a large quantity of grass round bale silage this year we have cut the fields we needed to cut earlier than usual which was a relief as at our usual silaging time the weather changed for the worse and it would still be in the fields. As many of you who read this newsletter regularly will know, so much of what we do is based on the weather conditions!

Another change to our usual practice is this year we are not keeping a bull to produce the next year’s calves; we have gone down the artificial insemination route.

Although cost wise it is on a par with keeping a bull by using a nominated inseminating bull we can gain the characteristics we are seeking to improve our herd. It also has the added safely bonus as you can never be too careful when dealing with a bull. It may be that we revert to the previous system but we felt it worth ‘giving it a go’. When the cows are pregnancy tested in the coming weeks we will know how successful it has been.

Swallow

One disappointment this year is that in our area we haven’t heard the cuckoo. Along with the arrival of the swallows and house martins, this Spring event signifies the end of winter and the coming summer for us. We all try to be the first to hear the cuckoo but as yet this has not happened. Not sure what this is a sign of but we keep our ears out!!

Following a very warm fortnight the weather has slightly deteriorated but many have predicted a long hot summer – let’s hope they are right!!

Farm diary – Spring 2016

Cow and calf

As I write this diary it is a beautiful sunny day, albeit with a cold wind. On the whole, it has been a wet winter and very windy on occasions. The wind has taken off some slates from our farm buildings and we are just waiting for this to be repaired.

The good news is that we have started calving! The first calf was born on the 12th February (a very small little heifer calf – I think she was bit early). Since that time we have had 14 calves born with the tally being 7 bulls calves and 7 heifer calves. Now our herd is at the number of cows we can house and calve-down we would prefer bull calves mostly, but we are grateful that everything so far is alive and born without incident. We have another 8 to calve including 3 maiden heifers who will be having their first calves. Let’s hope it all goes without a hitch! The calves are very cheeky and escape their mothers and gather in little gangs. When the mother’s udders get tight with milk they start moo-ing for their calves & it can get very noisy until they are reunited!

The sheep that visit us in the winter to eat off our grass have mainly returned to their home farm to have their lambs. We did get a few early lambs born here. We still have some of last year’s ewe lambs here but they will also soon return home as they’ve eaten most of the grass.

This spring we will be doing something different with 3 of our fields. Last year we produced more grass round bale silage than we needed (the grass grows and we must deal with it)! We have a large stock of round bale silage that will carry us into next winter.

So, this year we will be growing some Spring Barley which will be harvested with a combine and give us barley and also straw (both of which we currently buy in for our beef herd). The ground will need ploughing and cultivating to get the crop to grow so we have purchased some second hand equipment to do the job.

At work in the fieldsWe will soon have a plough and power-harrow (to break down our heavy clay soil in readiness for the seeds). Like most industries farming is ever-changing and we need to react, doing something new to meet the demand for feed. Some of you may be here when the combine harvester is here later in the year.

The ground we farm is not renowned for arable crops as its wet, but we need enough to feed out cattle and certainly won’t need more grass (which we do seem to be able to grow)! Fingers crossed for a dry time to till our barley and 8 more healthy calves and mums!

Farm diary – Autumn 2015

Well, summer has left us now and we will soon be thinking of bringing our cattle into the sheds for the winter. The fields are getting quite wet and we don’t want to spoil the pastures for the next season’s grass. For those who have regularly read our Farm News you will know that we are always looking forward to the next season and how much influence the weather has on our timing decisions.

We have plenty of feed for our cows and calves coming in for the winter, but as I write we are awaiting a delivery of barley straw which we use for bedding. Hopefully this will come soon! We buy our straw from ‘up country’ as the soil conditions in this area are not good for growing cereal crops. We usually have an articulated lorry load of big bale straw which is dispensed into the cow cubicles with our very ancient straw chopper tractor!

Straw chopper tractor

Last month our cows were pregnancy tested and we were delighted to know that 85% of them are in calf – due February 2016 onwards. Our pedigree stock bull, Jofrey Hans had done his job, but sadly, as his daughters are due to come into the herd next year; we have had to sell him.

Lambs

When he came to us he was only 16 months old and completely ‘untried’ but he certainly proved his worth with a lovely crop of calves born earlier this year. Let’s hope the calves born next year will be as good. Jofrey Hans has gone back to the breeder we bought him off and will continue to be hired out as a stock bull.

It will soon be time for the sheep to be brought to us for the winter. In order to keep the grass in the field ‘mowed’ we have another farmer’s sheep here for several months. They are usually ‘in-lamb’ ewes that come here prior to giving birth, although sometimes we have early lambs born here which we love to see!

Swift Owners Club Rally – June 2015

We hosted a wonderfully organised 10 day Holiday Rally for the Swift Owners Club. Held in our rally field, 28 caravans attended, there was even a waiting list! The Rally was efficiently marshalled by Elaine & Colin Baker with Maureen and Ron Ward as co-marshals.

There were activities such as enjoying a cream tea, a visit to the Eden Project, a Rally meal at a local pub and a ploughman’s supper. As we are centrally located, there was lots of time during the Rally to visit beautiful Devon & Cornwall.

For many Ralliers this was their first time to the area and the consensus was ‘we didn’t realise there was so much to do and see’!

Scroll to top