It’s been a week since our last blog update and we’ve actually managed to sit down and write another one!
This week marks the end of the cows and sheep being in the sheds over the winter. Our plan over the next couple of years is to keep our livestock out for as long as possible, if not all year round; only bringing animals in that need a bit of extra TLC. This winter gone, the Hebridean sheep and the Highland cows spent all winter outside – they are hardy animals that far prefer being outside. The commercial sheep and Dexter cows spent the winter inside the sheds and this week they were turned out to pasture as the events season is about to kick off and we need to get the lambing barn mucked out in time. I’m sure we’ll talk about this more over the forthcoming year but this year will mark the first grazing season where we rotationally graze our farm; moving the cows every 12-24 hours and the sheep every 24-48 hours. We tested it last year after haymaking and decided it was the route we wanted to go down in order to keep our animals outside for longer, improve the grass by not over grazing, cutting down on hard feed as well as a whole other variety of benefits. But it will take time and money to undo several decades of conventional grazing; we do like a challenge though!
Turnout time also means that we can now offer our latest farming experiences for those who want to get behind the scenes and get up close to our livestock. We have our Diddy Coo experience which entails a ride on our tractor trailer up into where the Highland Cows are grazing and meet them up close from the safety of our passenger trailer whilst learning all about our fold and the breed. We are constantly being asked if people can come see the cows, take photos of the cows etc so this is the perfect opportunity to do exactly that.The second is aimed at folk who are looking at taking the plunge into the world of farming either as a career, a hobby or just want to learn a bit more. The plan is to follow the farm team around for a half day session getting hands on and involved with moving stock, feeding, any husbandry jobs taking place such as shearing or foot trimming etc – we’ll even treat you to lunch in the onsite cafe.
On Thursday Strawberry, one of the red Dexters, gave birth to a red heifer – Chestnut, outside in the fields. She’s a second time mum but this time the little one was coming backwards which meant Mr Farmer had to get involved to deliver the calf safely. We’re very pleased to say mum and baby are doing absolutely fine (despite the awful weather since), Mr Farmer just needed a very good wash afterwards! This is the first ‘problematic’ birth we’ve had for 2 years which is pretty good going, we are used to sheep after all! We’ve got 30 calves due this year, a leap from last years’ 7 and we’ve had 9 born so far with the majority due to come between now and June.
In other news, we’ve been learning how to tan skins. This week a couple of hebridean hoggets were sent for some meat box orders and they had really nice fleeces on them but it’s too early for shearing so we had the skins back from the abattoir and decided to give tanning a crack. Now, we are cheating a little bit – we bought a tanning kit with all the appropriate chemicals etc you need to do it. We’re not in a position to organically tan using brains or anything like that but it’s been interesting to see how it works and how we can do better next time. In true Malia style we’ve failed to document our first attempt as we go along so we’ll have to save the step by step for skin number 2. But we’ve made it to the drying stage so this time next week we should have our very own homemade hebridean sheep skin. We find this very exciting as five years ago we were buying skins from IKEA and now we’re able to do them ourselves, from a sheep we bred ourselves and have spent every day with for the last 2 years.