Monday, 22 October 2012

To Trim or Not To Trim? That is The Question!

On Thursday the 18th October we hosted a Sainsburys Lamb Development Group, flock health planning session on lameness in sheep.  The UK sheep flock has an estimated 10% lameness in it, which costs the industry over £24 million/year!  This is a huge amount of lost income to sheep farmers so we wanted to know where this money is being lost and what we can do to increase the welfare of our flocks.  A healthy sheep is a happy one that will be be more productive, cost less to run and be more efficient, this will also help our carbon footprint!  So how do lame sheep loose so much money?  A lame sheep is a source of infection that can very quickly spread the bacteria around the rest of the sheep, multiplying the problem especially at housing or any type of gathering.  The ewe is less likely to keep body condition and therefore unlikely to have so many lambs, (there's some of our cash).  Her lambs are likely to be smaller and weaker at birth, as mum can't get so much food due to competition from the other "fitter and healthier" ewes and is also unlikely to have so much and poorer quality colostrum.  Things aren't looking good!  These lambs are less likely to survive (due to poorer quality milk and lower birth weights) and therefore we have less lambs to sell.  The ewe will also cost more in bought in feeds in order to keep her going.

There is lots we can do to reduce some of these problems and make the ewes and lambs more productive.  Catching the ewes at the first sign of lameness is the key.  In a very short space of time a limp can become footrot and with 5 days the hoof can be lifting off, making it painful for the ewe to walk about on and spread the bacteria far and wide for others to pick up especially during wet weather.  Once caught, we should be giving an antibiotic containing penicillin, as this cures the problem, and not trimming the feet!  The overgrown nails (hoof) would have been whipped off by every-one except Phillipa, Dan and Fiona (the vets) who said NO to trimming.  The idea is that trimming risks passing the infection from hoof to hoof and a physical risk of cutting the soft flesh resulting in more discomfort and a longer recovery period.  We're going to get them back in shortly to see whether the NO trim policy has worked.  The sheep should in theory get back on their feet (no pun intended) and by walking on it the excess hoof will fall away, we shall see.
After treatment the details were logged on the scanner so that we can check up on their recovery and if they are repeat offenders then I'm afraid they will have to be culled out.  It really was a great day and a huge thanks to Fiona and Dan from the Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy who really showed us what we should all be doing.  I think everyone in the room learned something!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Overbury Farms - Now a LEAF Demonstration Farm

Well, what a day and what a week!  We are very proud the be the latest - LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Demonstration Farm.  The day went almost to plan, (the first rule of Integrated Farm Management IFM - Organisation and Planning) with the only thing not quite towing the party line was the weather, but this year, what else could be expected!  We all met up in the village hall at 2.30 for tea and coffee before heading out to plant our commemorative tree, an English Oak in the Oaken Wood field.  After some very kind words by Mark Tufnell, who officially launched us, on the enthusiastic approach that we have to farming, conservation and community engagement Caroline Drummond (LEAF-CEO) continued.  Caroline spoke about how LEAF works together with farmers integrating the many aspects of their business together to promote a sustainable farming future; how we need to balance food and the environment and how we engage with our local and wider communities.  Then I gave a quick introduction into the farm before heading off to the first stop.
In total about 80 visitors loaded up into the trailers to be give a tour of a part of the farm.  Here I was able to talk about our sheep enterprise and how we are managing the grassland to try and make them more productive.  How we are are using selective herbicides and forks to remove weeds from the pasture. Other topics covered included the electronic identification of the sheep and where the lambs go when they are fit for sale.  I forgot to mention about water sustainability as well, with rain water harvesting being used to water the sheep in the winter when they are housed, a slight oversight but I corrected that at the following stop off!

I was able to thank all of our sponsors at his stop were I spoke about the crops that we grow and how we cultivate and look after the soil.  Soil management and fertility is so important and this year is proving very difficult to get right (thanks to the weather). The event could not have happened without the generous support from Chris Tallis  Frontier Ag Molson Coors and Smiths Gore a big thanks all round!  Here we also spoke about precision farming techniques and how we are using them to reduce costs and establish our crops faster, more efficiently and cheaper whilst keeping our soil in a better structure and state of health.
At the final stop we spoke about the conservation projects on the farm and some of the options we're deploying to enhance and encourage habitat and wildlife.  We looked at the beetle bank sided with a pollen and nectar strip on one side and a winter bird food strip on the other.  Caroline finished of by thanking everyone for coming along and braving the drizzle which was never too far away on the day!  Back at the village hall Billy had prepared some pumpkin and spice soup which together with a local selection of cheese rounded the day off perfectly.