Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Post lambing and calving comedown

The intensity of lambing is something which is hard to describe, the highs and lows of it all sends us all into a void of just existing day to day.  But we love it!  Now we are the other side, looking slightly battered and having got a little more sleep, its suddenly May and all the sheep and lambs are outside and a different level of checking begins.

This year has been more challenging than others mainly because of the weather conditions.  It has been so wet.  Lambs seem to not mind the cold but combined with wet it is not good.  We were particularly vigilant and brought them in quickly once they had lambed outside.  Cold followed the wet weather so there was not much grass about until now when it has really started to grow.  This has meant more regular moving around of the different groups so fields have had a chance to rest and we can keep up with the ewes needing to produce milk for their growing lambs.

Meanwhile 'Holly' was born,  Our gorgeous little heifer calf.  The photo above shows her with Roly and Freddie after we had put her ear tag in and released her back to her mum who was busy calling for her.  The cows look amazing at this time of year.  Their coats shine is the sun and look like a deep, rich red colour and against the freshness of the green grass and if we're lucky a blue sky its so wonderful.  The photo goes a little way to capture this.  Talking of grass, Freddie watched our neighbour Michael Lee arrive with his tractor and drill and plant our grass mix ready for the autumn.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Guest blog from our amazing 'Night Manager'

My name is Jenni and I have been so incredibly fortunate to be let loose on Camilla and Roly’s farm as a helping hand. If memory serves me right, I first started helping on the farm in late 2014. So this is my second experience at lambing time.

We are all looking forward to the farm opening up to the public again this weekend to share lambing time with you all. It really is a beautiful farm with a rich history and an opportunity to see lambing up close and maybe even see a birth!

This year, I have taken on the role of night duty and as guest blogger thought I could share my experience with you so far! So in a nutshell, lambing time is all about conducting a routine and repeating it over and over. Once you get the basics you find yourself wandering off all over the place knowing what needs doing and time just disappears!

The first few nights I worked alone when things were fairly quiet on the lambing front. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do much in the dark fields but after a couple of nights I found myself tuning in to the subtle signs that a mother may be ready to give birth. Torch in one hand and the other on the quad bike throttle, I slowly patrol the fields checking each one, often shining the torch at endless bottoms going a little cross eyes and just get stared at by their glowing eyes! I then see one looking upwards as if she is pushing, a mild panic occurs, to then realise she is just having a long yawn! I had realised, up until this point I had never seen a sheep asleep as I had only worked with them in the daytime. I often drive past a few completely flat on their side snoring away, having a giggle to myself but also with a slight feeling of relief that it isn’t giving birth just yet and my hands are not full!

But then…. you spot in the distance a few tiny legs and a birth has occurred! They key with any new born lamb and it's survival is warmth and then food. So I get the lambs onto the trailer first and mum either comes easily or she doesn’t. When she doesn’t, you can spend a lot of time running around and falling down rabbit holes but generally if they are experienced mothers, they walk straight into the trailer. The plan is to then whizz them back to one of the barns where we have plenty of lovely pens waiting for them but if it’s a busy night you will generally spot another giving birth. I would make sure they all are birthed and okay before I head off with the ones in the trailer, to come back as soon as possible to collect the next lot.

Once I get lambs back to the barn, I check they have iodine on their belly to prevent infection and check for any signs of hypothermia. If they seem very cold and struggling, the key is to warm them up and later on make sure they have some milk in their tummies. Sometimes you have to tube feed a lamb with milk and when you have quite a few to feed, including any orphans that need bottle feeding, as well as finding the time to check everyone in the barn and do hourly field checks, I find I end the shift with milk in my hair, birthing fluid all over me and with a few more grey hairs on my head!

So going back briefly to checks, I check the fields every hour, that way no lambs are left out in the colder nights for too long and risk of hypothermia is lower. I then do the rounds in the barns, what I like to call the the maternity wards, checking everyone is happy, lambs are milking from mum and everyone has food and water. This is repeated and repeated until I go to bed or the music on the radio becomes a little too eclectic for my ears which it can do in the early hours! I can often be found singing or having a chat to a few of them when I pass midnight and I am working on my own!

A few things I have learnt with lambing, one being not to wear bracelets… these can come off when you are assisting a birth and have your hand up a ewe’s backside! Birthing fluid…. this just goes everywhere, I have had every item of clothing just covered including my face but there comes a point where you just don’t care! Hands…. they are scrubbed clean so frequently they feel like sandpaper! If you speak to shepherd Emma she can recommend fabulous hand creams as per her blog!

Lastly, straw. Emma has touched on this about finding straw everywhere. It really is an essential part of lambing but when I wake up in my bed at home after a busy night shift to find some straw in my bed (oh and some baler twine a few days ago!)… I realise that I have fully embraced lambing time and have almost become one of them!

I feel so privileged to work on the farm and to learn so much about sheep and lambing in particular. I will be at one of the lambing open days this weekend on the 9th/10th of April, so please come along.


Thank you also to Roly, Camilla, Molly, Freddie and Belle.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Straw, hand cream and other lambing inside knowledge

Hello. I’m Emma and I'm very honoured to be Camilla and Roly’s first guest blogger. I’ve been helping out at the farm for two and a half years now, learning so much and feeling very lucky to be part of such a wonderful team.

We’re really looking forward to the Lambing Open Weekends. They’re a wonderful opportunity to share beautiful Saddlescombe Farm and to provide a bit of insight into the farming life.

In that spirit of sharing, here are some things we might forget to mention.

We have straw everywhere. Clean beds are amazingly effective against all sorts of diseases. “Bedding up” is when you spread straw to create that cosy, clean environment that’s essential for ewes and lambs to flourish, and we do it twice a day for everyone. But when I say we have straw everywhere I actually mean… well, something a bit more personal, directly linked to all that bedding up. It’s up our noses. In our belly buttons. Providing a ring round the bath. Carpeting our homes. Think of us as we itch.

We have strong opinions on hand cream. As in any hospital, we spend all day washing our hands. Covered with afterbirth, stained with the iodine we use to disinfect the newborns’ umbilical cords, then scrubbed with antibacterial soap, the skin on our hands gradually takes on the softness of coarse sandpaper. Enter the hand cream. Feel free to ask us for a recommendation. I can guarantee we’ll have one.

That’s not thousand yard stare, that’s thousand bum stare. We have spent weeks on end looking at sheeps’ bottoms. As soon as they get ‘crutched’ – their pre-lambing backside tidy-up – the season of the sheep butt begins. As we patrol the fields of expectant mums, we’re searching out prolapses, water sacs, difficult presentations – all only visible to the keen student of the ovine rump. Catch us looking into the distance, and it’s more than likely there’s a fleecy rear end involved.

And finally, I might forget to mention my own little secret. When a newborn lamb covered in birth fluid disgustedly shakes itself, its ears make a wet slapping against its head. That’s my favourite sound of lambing. It means the lamb is ok, that it’s going to try to make it, that it has fire in its belly. It’s a tiny noise with huge implications.

There, now you’ve got the inside track on the lambing team. Come along to the open weekends to meet us and the amazing ewes and lambs who make it all possible.

Emma, with thanks to Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Lambing and calving 2016

And we're off! I remember last year feeling like we were waiting for our first lambs to appear and everything felt a bit twitchy as we almost felt too ready! Not the case this time! Our lovely vet student Sylvie arrived and already about 30 ewes had lambed and the mothering pens were busy filling up.

Everything and everyone slots into lambing mode as pens get built, water pipes connecte, passageways get swept and straw and hay appear in places you never knew existed.

Henry our first orphan lamb from when we farmed in Oxfordshire, had a beautiful set of twins yesterday, well done her. The girls who are expecting triplets really are beginning to struggle to walk but seem happy to when they know its supper time!

Our Lambing Open Days are this weekend and next (2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th April), please come and join us and enjoy a day out on the farm with our amazing sheep and in our beautiful surroundings.

Finally, I couldn't resist including a picture of one of our beautiful calves.

More soon and perhaps from some guest bloggers!

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle

Monday, 8 February 2016


Our pregnancy scanning results for this year and we are really pleased. The percentage figure is an average across the whole flock so nearly all of them are having twins. 6 ewes are empty which always brings the result down but we have 2 marked up as having quads! The result reflects the ewes being in good condition when they met the boys back in November.

Now we know how many lambs each ewe is carrying we are able to split the flock up into different groups and match the food they get accordingly. We have just started to give the triplets (and the quad girls) their food as they need to get the additional nutritional support as the lambs growing inside them require more of their energy to grow. The girls having twins will start their food soon and those girls only having one will get very little! Otherwise their one lamb grows too big inside them and they can have problems during labour.

The ground is drying up a little, as I write 'storm Imogen' is blowing a gale which has postponed my plan to do our count for the Big Farmland Bird Count which takes place this week. We hosted a farmland bird identification day here, organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and despite wind and rain on that day we were lucky and saw some birds including a buzzard, chaffinch and up on our wildbird seed mix a flock of linnets, meadow pipits and skylarks.

Roly has just come back for lunch and one of our cows is looking like she isn't far off having her calf. We will keep you posted!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Big Chill, finally

Belated Happy New Year!  We have been so relieved and grateful to see some dry weather and some sunshine this week.  Whilst we have not in any way struggled as much as some of our farming friends in the north, the relentless rain and mud is tiring to work with.  The animals do not like it either!  Some hard frosts and even a little snow yesterday morning has really lifted our spirits and put the spring back in our step.

Our cows are beginning to look significantly bigger and calving is now not far away.  We moved them recently due to the wet ground and they had to pass the General (our wonderful bull), who plumped out his chest as they trotted past.  Once he has lost a bit more weight he will be able to join them but he remains on rather a strict diet!  The cows are enjoying their hay and last years calves and the steers and heifers (born February 2014) are very content on their silage (grass which was cut last summer and wrapped, smells delicious!).

The sheep will be pregnancy scanned in the next couple of weeks and I always think that marks the beginning of turning our thoughts to lambing.  They will be split into their groups of triplets, twins and singles and then given the correct amount of food according to how many lambs they are carrying.  Freddie loves our 'snacker feeder' which attaches to the back of the quad bike and releases the sheep nuts in piles on the ground which the sheep race to nibble.  The feed is stored in a 'hopper' which is a huge wooden bin in the yard and releases the food directly into the snacker.

We are hosting a 'farmland bird identification day' here on the 26th January for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, ahead of the Big Farmland Bird Count taking place between the 6th and 14th February. This will be the 3rd time we are taking part and I've written a guest blog for the GWCT here   It is an excellent opportunity to take time to look and reflect on the farm and share sightings with visitors and in our news.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle

Thursday, 26 November 2015

My first butchery masterclass

From our last blog you will remember that we are just entering the world of selling and tasting our very first traditional Sussex grass fed beef.  As part of this process we think it is really important that our involvement doesn't just end in loading our special animals for the abattoir but our respect continues all the way to how they are butchered and sold.  This is why we are so chuffed that head butcher Will (pictured top) from Barfields Butchers has taken half of our first animal, (the other half has gone to chef Charlie from the Chimney House, see previous blog).  We have been regularly supplying lamb to Will for a while now so we know what a great business he runs.

I had asked if I could spend a couple of hours one morning to watch our beef being broken down (note butcher language), so I spent Tuesday morning with Matthew watching and learning the incredible skill and art butchery is.  The second photo shows the chuck end of the rib which would be trimmed down further and tied to make rib of beef, perhaps the ultimate roast?  The last 2 photos are Matthew trimming out the feather bone and as you can see he looks pretty pleased!  It was a privilege to watch, thank you for having me guys!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie and Belle