Autumn 2016 at Abbrook

Autumn at the school farm seems to start out with plenty to do and just get more so.

Our attempt to deal with ‘white fly’ failed abysmally – the tiny parasitic wasps appeared to have no effect at all! So, while in most autumns we have products from the poly tunnels available well into November, this year the plants were so damaged that there was very little. Next year the wasps are going to be introduced much earlier in the hope they will establish better…

ramThe sheep were brought back from their summer holiday a few miles away early in September. After some routine sheep maintenance (feet trims, general health checks, worming, applying fly deterrent) they were ready to be put with the ram for ‘tupping’. We collected the ram we hire during October and put him with the ewes, this year he is wearing a harness ewemarked(visible in the pictures) that hold a marker block – which we change to a different colour each week. When an ewe is mated she gets marked with that week’s chosen colour. Last year the ram was in poor condition and failed to get several of the ewes into lamb, this year he was in tip top condition and all the ewes seem to be in lamb. You can see various coloured marks on the ewes in the picture, we used light colours first (because they would overprint better if the ewes don’t get pregnant straight away). It’s clear that they came into season steadily, and that each one is in lamb first time (no mixed colour marks), so lambing should be spread over a few weeks rather than it being more haphazard as it can be if ewes don’t ‘catch’ first time.

Thankfully its not been one of those autumn when it rains incessantly so we’ve been able to get on with plenty of those outdoor maintenance jobs wet weather can hold up. Our ELBS students have been busy helping us repair our vegetable beds, repair fences and keep a close check on the lambs health and growth rate.

turkeys1Latterly we’ve been preoccupied with keeping our Christmas turkey2turkeys happy and growing well. They seem to have done well this year, perhaps because the weather has been kind, perhaps because we wormed them, or perhaps because our decision to bed them on straw rather than just sawdust is more to their liking.

And the pigs? The last pigs of the litter from earlier in the yearcr31216 are now gone. We sent two of them to market and they fetched a good price. It turns out pigs are in short supply at the moment – when that happens selling pigs can be relatively easy as stock market demand and prices respond quickly to too few or too many animals for sale. Crackle the sow has been to meet the boar and, hopefully, will produce piglets in March – though it is too early to tell if she is pregnant and we wont be sure until the new year. All you can say from the picture is she isn’t obviously not pregnant…