December Blog

At the start of the month we got our Christmas trees from the local Lions Club. We get two trees, one for the farmhouse and one for the Byre self-catering cottage. I love Christmas time and so we get the houses nice and festive early on!

We sold Huntfield Russet Red (one of our red coated Belted Galloway bulls) at the Belted Galloway cattle sale in October to a buyer in Germany. We haven’t sold an animal for live exportation before and so it was quite a learning experience – there was a lot of paperwork and health tests to be completed! We tested the bull for tuberculosis (TB), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) which he passed! He was picked up on 16 December (seven weeks after being sold) and although we were very fond of Russet Red we are grateful of the space in the shed we now have (to complete health tests properly, animals have to spend three weeks in isolation before being tested). We now have our young stock in the pen where Russet Red was and they are very much enjoying being in and out of the cold!

We are appreciative of our biomass heating system at this time of year! Joe in particular – can’t get him to stop putting the thermostat up to 25 °C! We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – we hope 2015 is full of fun!

November Blog

At the start of November our ponies (Copper, Miele and the Bees Knees) got their flu tetanus jabs. Just as we get our flu jab in winter so do the horses! Horses are susceptible to flu and tetanus regardless of their age, and so each November they get their initial jab and then their booster jab in January. Copper is particularly scared of needles and so he needs a lot of jollying along and apples to get his injection!

To ensure that our cattle are healthy we periodically get the vet to take blood tests. The results from the latest test indicated that some of our cattle were deficient in selenium and cobalt. As such this month we gave our cattle trace element boluses which are large tablets that the cows swallow. Boluses slowly release trace elements and vitamins which are not adequately supplied by the grass. As our cattle calve once every twelve months it is important to keep our cows fit in order to ensure we get healthy, lovely baby calves!

We winter our sheep outside and feed them on the hay, haylage and silage we make during the summer. In the winter, we clip the lamb’s tummies before we send them to market as this is a compulsory requirement for hygiene purposes. As it’s winter, they get their tummies clipped immediately before we leave for the market so that they don’t get a chill! We tend to send our lambs off in batches of six, we only have twenty seven lambs left to send to market before the lambing starts again in March – it really does come round quick!

October Blog

All of our September calvers (except one called Rowan) have calved. Once each cow has given birth we dose them to protect them from liver fluke and treat them to stop them getting itchy due to lice.

We are already planning ahead for our lambing season in March. Our tups went out to the ewes on the 14th October, a week earlier than normal, so that I can start training Copper for the 2015 carriage driving season at the end of March! We can’t put our tups out any earlier as we lamb our sheep outside and so try to time our lambing to coincide with the milder, nicer weather of the spring. We have three tups for our flock of seventy ewes. Each tup is painted with a brightly coloured marking fluid on their chest so that we can see when our ewes are impregnated and which tups are ‘working’.

With the clocks changing at the end of the month and the dark nights coming in even earlier now, the farm animals have been enjoying having their tea earlier and getting tucked in sooner! Although I am not necessarily a fan of the dark nights and chilly weather, seeing the cows and calves snug on their straw beds is definitely a perk of farming during the winter. Happy animals definitely makes for happy farming!

September Blog

Our September calving session has begun, so far four cows have calved. We prefer heifer calves to bull calves as we keep the heifers for breeding stock, whereas the majority of our bull calves are castrated and sold as store or fat cattle within thirty months. Each calf born regardless of sex must be registered within twenty seven days of birth with the British Cattle Movement Service. They are then assigned a unique number (displayed on their ear tag) and a passport. We also register our heifer calves with the Belted Galloway Cattle Society to get their pedigree status recorded.

We have started to gather our winter wood supply. It is perhaps slightly late to be doing this as the wood needs sufficient time to dry out before being burned, otherwise it doesn’t generate much heat! We source our wood from the couple of acres of land at Morrington (about five miles away from Low Kirkbride farm) where we have a stretch of woodland along the River Cairn. We use the wood from trees that have fallen due to natural causes and cut it up with a chainsaw before splitting it with an axe. It is quite a labour intensive process but there’s nothing nicer than snuggling up in front of a fire with Inspector Montalbano on!

Raymond and Emma (our son and daughter-in-law) were home the last weekend in September. It is super handy having a structural engineer in the family and so we put him to good use whenever he is home! Joe and I bought a new field water trough in August and thought it the perfect job to get Raymond involved in!

I have been busy painting the outbuildings whilst the weather is still nice, and Joe has been helping point the walls so it has been a combined effort! Our four friendly chickens have been helping too and have Pure Brilliant White Weathershield on their feathers!

August Blog

The first Saturday of every August is the Dumfries and Lockerbie Agricultural Show. Unfortunately this year it was a bit of a washout but we had a great day nonetheless - even managed to get Reserve Champion with a Berrichon du Cher fleece! We took the 2014 show team of Opal, Ripple and Quick and had a wet but super fun time!

Having made our winter fodder of hay, haylage and silage in the summer, we have begun to prepare our shed for wintering our Belted Galloway cattle inside. We keep our September calvers in so that the calves don’t expend all their energy on keeping warm and instead grow up to be big and strong! We’ve pressure-washed and disinfected the walls to keep the shed clean and prevent new-borns from potentially picking up infections, and we’ve also started to concrete the floor to facilitate mucking out. It’s nearly too clean to use but with a few bales of straw it’ll be lovely and snug for the Belties come November - unless it's bad weather before then and they’re keen to come in early! The cattle will stay inside until April when hopefully the weather should be nice enough for them to graze outside again.

At the end of the month Joe and I went on holiday to Switzerland for my niece’s wedding. My son Raymond, his wife Emma, and my daughter Josie, came along too so it was nice to have a family holiday together. It can be difficult to get away with the commitments of the farm but we are very fortunate in that we have super neighbours who look after things whilst we are away.

Joe and I really noticed how autumnal the countryside is turning since coming back from Switzerland, and having had such a nice spring, summer and now autumn, we’ll get quite a shock when winter finally arrives!

July Blog

It’s been a great year so far for fruit in the garden, we’ve had lots of super rhubarb, raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. I’ve made jam from the gooseberries and blackcurrants and several crumbles and tarts from the rhubarb and raspberries, so you can come and enjoy some lovely homemade jams at breakfast. Although we have strawberries in the garden, rarely do we manage to beat the hens to eat them! I’m sure most people struggle with slugs and insects eating their fruit and plants but it’s the farm animals we’re up against!

In June, July and August sheep are particularly susceptible to flystrike due to the warm weather. Flystrike occurs when a fly lays its eggs on a sheep, the eggs hatch into larve (maggots) and the larve consume the sheep’s tissue - pretty horrid really! To avoid flystrike we spray a chemical called Crovect along their back and hind quarters which prevents the eggs from hatching. As Crovect is a chemical we ensure that it is approved by the Soil Association before we use it so as not to jeopardise our organic accreditation.

The lambs which were born in March are now of a sufficient size and weight to be sold. We sell our lambs for meat when they weigh between forty and fifty kilograms and when Joe thinks they are suitably fat enough! Our lambs are slaughtered at Lockerbie (twenty two miles away) and sold to T H Carson the butcher in Dalbeattie (twenty four miles away), so the whole process is kept quite local.

At the end of July we separate the ewes from their lambs. This is important as the tups will be put out to the ewes in October and the ewes will lamb again in March. Weaning the lambs off their mothers gives the ewes a chance to recover before it all starts again in the spring! Rearing two lambs is a lot of work and we don’t want to exhaust our ewes!

It’s really been a busy month on the sheep front! Next month we’re looking forward to the Dumfries and Lockerbie Agricultural Show at the start of August and a family wedding towards the end.

June Blog

We clipped our sheep at the beginning of the month. As we have a flock of sixty nine sheep (sixty six ewes and three tups), we do not get contractors in, and rather Joe and I do the clipping ourselves. I am the main shearer and Joe is in charge of maintaining the clipper machinery (clipper and motor), rolling the fleeces and packing them nicely into the wool bag. Unlike the professional shearers you see on television who can shear a mature sheep in under forty seconds, it takes us slightly longer! But it does mean that our sheep aren’t manhandled or cut during the clipping process. Clipping is very important as it prevents our sheep from overheating and becoming susceptible to heat stress. June has been particularly warm this year so our sheep are pleased to have their fleeces off!

We were at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, just outside Edinburgh, from the 19th to the 22nd June. From our herd of Belted Galloways we took Opal, Ripple and Quick. We got a third in the yearling heifer class with Quick and a fifth in the cow class with Opal. Ripple is our six week old calf, she wasn’t entered into a specific class but was just there to keep her mother (Opal) company. The Highland Show is a super day out; the livestock grand parade, craft tent and food hall are my favourite bits of the show. I also did a spot of farming shopping for farm machinery and equipment and I got Joe an early birthday present of a sheep handling crate – there’s nothing like giving practical presents!

We did our first cut of silage in the last week of the month, as we are organic we are normally slightly later than other farms in starting our crops. Silage is the easiest fodder to make as it can be cut and collected in a single day, providing the weather is amenable. We tend to put our first cut silage into our silage pit and our second cut gets baled and wrapped into large round bales. We make silage to feed our cattle and sheep over the winter months and we make haylage for the horses. Haylage is slightly more difficult to make than silage as it requires a longer period of good weather and we make wee bales which are labour intensive to individually wrap in plastic. We have just cut down more fields of grass for haylage, and all being well the weather will hold into July to allow us to make haylage and hay at the start of next month.

May Blog

The start of the month was largely consumed with preparations for the Belted Galloway cattle sale in Carlisle. Our cattle winter indoors so that they are nice and snug over the winter months, however a combination of dirt and muck often makes their coats matted. Rather than cut out the tuggy bits we tend to slowly tease them out in order to maintain an even length and coverage of hair, but this requires a lot of washing! Fortunately, several bottles of shampoo later they were sparkling and ready to go!

Washing the cattle every day for the past three weeks has proven to be a hit with guests staying in both the bed and breakfast and self catering cottage. As such we have decided to introduce ‘Wash Flora Friday’ to our farming calendar! This is an opportunity for guests to join in the fun and get their wellies, buckets and shampoo at the ready! I’ve chosen Flora from the herd because she is particularly tame and one of my favourite cows, there’s also a lot of her so plenty for everyone to wash! Our first ‘Wash Flora Friday’ date is Friday 27th June but look out for additional ‘Wash Flora Friday’ dates being added on our Facebook Page …, or if you’re not social media savvy then drop us an e-mail or call.

The lambs are growing up super fast! At this time of year it is important to watch out for Coccidiosis which is a parasitic disease that affects their gut wall. This can be a serious issue as Coccidiosis can result in death but fortunately it can be identified early. As we are an organic farm we do not administer medication to our animals without first getting samples tested at a laboratory. This ensures that we are not unnecessarily using chemicals in our farming practice whilst still providing the highest possible care for the farm animals.

The weather has been warm and wet this month which is ideal for the stony land we farm. We are intending to make silage, hay and haylage this summer so we will be hoping for warmer, sunnier and drier weather come June!

April Blog

Copper got his shoes on at the start of the month in preparation for the driving season ahead. I have been gradually working on his fitness by taking him out every day, except Mondays because that’s his day off and he likes his routine! He’s twenty four this year and still keen which is great, we’ve got our first competition on Sunday 4th May at Bladnoch, Wigtown so we’re getting geared up for it!

The last nine remaining ewes have finally lambed and so we are officially finished the lambing – hurrah! Joe has shut off fields designated for our silage crop to allow ample time for the grass to grow long enough to harvest in July. With the farm being organic we do not apply fertiliser and instead we use manure to encourage the grass to grow. The weather has been lovely this month and so the ground has dried up underfoot. Joe will start to roll the fields in May which is a very important farming practice as this shoves all the stones back into the ground and prevents them going through and damaging the machinery come harvest time – an essential job to avoid angry contractors!

We have started to get prepared for the Belted Galloway spring sale in Carlisle in May. This involves initially haltering the cattle to let them get used to the feel of a head collar and then slowly training them to walk nicely with you. Low Kirkbride farm is part of a health scheme and so we get blood samples taken by the vet and tested for BVD and Johnes Disease. The females also get pregnancy scanned so that prospective buyers will know whether they are in calf and when they are due. We are taking a cow, a heifer and her calf, and a bull to the sale. I have begun washing them and generally making them look pretty. As I am allergic to cow/ animal shampoo we wash out cattle in Head and Shoulders, Pantene or Herbal Essences, whatever Joe or I are using at the time! My favourite part is making them look lovely and fluffy by blowing them dry with an industrial size hair dryer! The cattle love getting a bath and fair enjoy their makeover, after all who doesn’t like to be pampered!?!

Easter is a jolly time on the farm and in the B&B, this is the only time of year we serve chocolate at breakfast! I made my annual simnel cake and chocolate Easter nests for guest’s afternoon tea, and I have just recently discovered the addition of Cadbury’s flakes to make more authentic looking nests.

The swallows arrived on the Monday 14th April so summer is officially here – bring on the good weather!

March Blog

March is one of my favourite months of the year but it is without a doubt the busiest time for Joe and I on the farm. Lambing started on the 14th March, we tend to lamb slightly later than some farms as we lamb outside in the hope that the weather in March is mild and lovely. There is a saying “In like a lion and out like a lamb”, where if the weather is bad at the start of the month it should be nice towards the end. This year, the opposite happened where March came in like a lamb and certainly went out like a lion! Although we have had a couple of wet days this month, the weather has been predominantly mild and so we haven’t had to warm too many lambs up by popping them on a hot water bottle and blowing them dry with a hair dryer! A super effective way to warm up chilly lambs!

We currently have six pet lambs which we feed every night at six o’clock between the months of March and June. All guests are very welcome to come and help bottle feed the lambs, they are extra jolly and cute when they are this young. When one of our ewes gives birth to three lambs we take one off. Sheep only have two teats and so we choose to take one lamb off when she has three. This means we don’t end up with one lamb considerably smaller than the other two and it doesn’t take too much out of the mother, producing enough milk for three hungry lambs is exhausting! Some farms run their ewes with three lambs but we prefer not to. All of our pet lambs are girls and so we keep them for breeding the following year. This is a nice way to build up a friendly flock of sheep as they become very used to human contact and very easy to handle and manage. As we don’t have a sheep dog it is nice the sheep come to you when you call (of course a little bit of food always encourages them)!

This year we have sixty four ewes in total to lamb, so far it has been a success with nine sets of triplets, thirty six pairs of twins, and ten singles – only nine ewes left to lamb! I am always keen to get the lambing by as once the lambing is finished I start taking Copper (my driving pony) out on a daily basis to get him fit enough to compete.

The ground underfoot is still very moist and makes it difficult to drive or walk across the fields without leaving a muddy mark. We house the majority of our Belted Galloway cattle indoors over winter, although they are meant to be hardy animals with their warm long hairy coats, they certainly do enjoy coming in! Next month we would hope that the ground dries up considerably in order to allow us to put the cattle out to grazing. If it is too wet underfoot the cattle plough the fields up which isn’t ideal come harvest time.

As the snowdrops wilt, the daffodils and tulips begin to come through. Hopefully it shouldn’t be too long until we see the first swallows arrive. At the end of March, Joe cut the grass for the first time this year. He couldn’t get his sit on lawn mower to start because the battery was flat so ended up cutting the grass with his old lawnmower that he has to push along, it definitely made him appreciate his sit on one!