The not so calm after the Great Yorkshire Storm

Farm Life

So it’s been a week since we came home from the great Yorkshire show! Which in itself was an experience, even though it was a wet week we all managed to get a bit of sunburn! It was a good week for the north of England highland cattle club and it was nice to catch up with various people from the highland cattle world.

Friday, the last day, was a military operation of getting up before the rain started to pack down camp so we could at least have our tents packed dry and in trailer waiting for the word to be able to load up and come home (we take animals for another breeder).

Once we got home it’s all about itching to get round and see your own stock after a week away.

A few days after getting home our cattle decided to give us one of those weeks that makes you question why you work with livestock!

Charlie our highland bull decided that (as his nofence collar is off for repair), he would use his new found freedom to push through two fences and a hedgerow to get to the fattening dexters and some jersey heifers after which once he’d had his wicked way decided that a quicker route back to his own girls was through two wooden gates that had the audacity to be locked, no worries for a large highland who can just lean on said wooden gates til they make this strange cracking noise then magically open up in the middle ! Got to love cattle.

Midweek, no fence collar back on to Charlie; had a look over to the dexters and we had little Bluebelle, a heifer calf who had decided out of nowhere to become lame! A trip to the vet and a couple of X-rays later no real obvious sign as to why. After viewing her X-rays, myself and the vet seem to think she is starting to use the leg a little better; so back home with a dose of pain killers and anti-inflammatories…..Friday morning lame again! Another trip to vet and it seems a swelling has started to form in the hock; so Bluebelle is now sporting a lovely bright pink pot for the next six weeks with a suspected damaged growth plate in her hock!

Saturday morning we hoped to be in for better news as our last Dexter to calf, Lilli, gave us a lovely little heifer calf!! Alas! Lilli was not as impressed with the little heifer as we were! Queue Mr farmer spending all day popping in and haltering up Lilli to allow little one to drink! What a week!

Sunday morning, phone call sheep are out all over, one of foot path fields gate has been left open, quick out and about to find a few sheep in various places – luckily all our own fields! (Mondays job to gather them all back to one place).

Quick check if highlands Charlie’s collar is broken AGAIN! (We will boss this)…. Feeling a little deflated and ready for more bad news we sneak into shed to see Lilli stood allowing calf to drink on her own! SUCCESS !

All is right with the world!

We do love cattle.

Here’s to next week!

“Lilli” with her little heifer Calf “Lillibet”

Turnout Time!

Farm Life

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.

It’s been a while…

Farm Life

We’re not the best at keeping our blog up to date, sorry!

Since January we have been lambing. First off we lambed our ten Shropshire sheep, from 10 mums we ended up with 10 lambs; not the 12 we had at scanning time but you have to make provision for death rates unfortunately. Batch two lambed throughout February into March, this time 38 mules producing 61 lambs. Our mules like to produce triplets so we had 10 cade lambs to look after which enables us to run our bottle feeding sessions as an activity for visitors to the farm to get involved with. The third and final batch of lambs are now down to single digits with a week left to go and then its all over for another year…well September when the process begins again!

So, the plan going forwards is to try and write a blog once a week (optimistic we know!) and give a bit of a round up of what’s been going on in our little corner of the world.

This week we’ve welcomed a few thousand visitors onto the farm as part of the lambing open days the fundraising team hold to generate funds for the education team and their alternate provision work. Day 1 was glorious sunshine, Day 2 quite the opposite. Both days saw Mr Farmer on a microphone chatting to the visitors about sheep facts and a bit about what he does as a shepherd. No lambs were born during this time; they don’t like to perform for the masses haha. This week also marks the end of our one-to-one sessions focusing on lambing jobs and bottle feeding the cade lambs. We have been truly overwhelmed with the amount of interest and uptake in these experiences and have loved getting to share our lives with so many of you. We’re currently putting together an offering for over the summer months so there will be more on that soon.

On Wednesday we welcomed a pair of Rheas on to the farm. A friend of our is moving and needed a new home for them so that’s something exciting for the kiddos to get involved with.

We’ve also visited North Yorkshire twice this week, schedules couldn’t be aligned to tick both boxes at the same time which is how it goes sometimes. Mr Farmer was recently appointed treasurer for the North of England Highland Cattle Club so we went to handover from the previous treasurer and then we went to collect some Dexter steers to fill a gap in the farm shop supply coming up in a couple of months. With the cattle we breed, any used for beef production take 2 and half years to be fit to go and whilst we’ve certainly got enough cattle to be self sufficient to supply the farm shop, it’s two years away before the calves born over the last season will be ready to go! It really is a long game with beef but absolutely worth the wait. We’re really fortunate to have a decent network of other farmers with the same ethos as us and breeds!

Meet your meat !


We are excited and extremely pleased to announce that as well as being able to order from us direct you can now purchase our rare and native breed meat from Whirlow Hall Farm Shop & Butchery. The lovely Mrs Farmer has produced some handy little “guides to meat” and our breeds that are also available free of charge either from the shop or with every order we send out !

This week is our 14 day matured Wensleydale mutton, as you can see from the picture of this rack of mutton, the meat is very well marbled and will be full of flavour.

So please come on down and give us a visit, chat to our friendly butcher or ask to speak to someone from the HuRuCo Team, we are always around and happy to chat about rare and native breeds of animals and their place in the modern market all day!


Farm Life

Well what a rollercoaster that was! Usually we split both our rare breeds and our commercials over 2 lambing’s evenly, this year we decided to lamb the majority of everything in the spring as part of our move back towards a more traditional lambing and way of farming (more on that in the next couple of months)!

This year we lambed 20 commercials and 10 rare breeds in February. 

All seemed to go quite smoothly with the rare breeds, the commercials on the other hand decided to take their sweet time, obviously the teasers (vasectomised males used to bring females into a closer heat cycle) hadn’t done as good a job as i had hoped, taking best part of 3 weeks to lamb 20 sheep, very drawn out but with 54 lambs out of the 30 ewes (giving us a lambing percentage of 180%) I can’t really complain as the rare breeds can bring down the lambing percentage a tad.

April 1st hit and we are into the 140 commercials and 32 rare breeds, the ewes hit the ground running lambing really well and putting on a good show lambing for visitors on our lambing open days held by Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, which i may add is the first lambing open days done since lockdown 2019! And that was strange welcoming 100s of people into our lambing shed after 2 years without anyone in our lambing shed but us!

Although I only attended the first lambing day in person as the dreaded C19 virus struck our household, after avoiding it for all this time it swept through all six of us, the baby and myself being the worse affected closely followed by Mrs farmer and the boys.

This was not our idea of lambing fun, I was lucky enough that my farm apprentice and some very capable vet placement students covered most of the day times for us (and even a couple of night shifts!) but even so it was rather rough. Myself and Mrs farmer wandering around the lambing shed until 3 am, looking like death warmed up, anyone looking in would have thought we were on some sort of illicit substance.

But as I write this we are onto the very dregs of the last couple of stubborn ewes (3 Hebridean, 1 Scottish black face, 1 Whiteface woodland and 5 commercial mules) and at last count in this batch we have about 271 lambs from 162 sheep (168%) the percentage is brought down a little by the Hebrideans and Scottish Blackfaces having mainly singles, but we are happy with it.

We have a good number of ewe lambs this year so looking forward to getting out to a few sales this year and getting our bloodlines out and about in the world!

One last thing is a shout out to Nairn Wyllie of NJW AGRI SERVICES, who scanned our sheep for the first time this year and everyone ewe performed exactly as he said! And a very friendly chatty nature to boot!!

All made possible by the TEAM!