Autumn is very definitely with us. The hedgerows are heaving under their heavy load of delicious blackberries, and the leaves of the chestnut trees are changing colour, and not just because of the leaf miner which these trees suffer from so badly, and some are even starting to fall. The grass however is still growing and with the currently good daytime temperatures the nutritional value should be reasonable.
A major debate for us this week has been centred on the health of our stock – which is on the face of it pretty good – but which might be even better if we could find ways of reducing the negative influence caused by the high levels of molybdenum and iron in our soil.
Obviously this is not a new problem: periodically we have had to resort to selenium injections, multi trace element boluses and last year cobalt and vitamin 12 injections. But how to find a longer term solution is the critical matter. Jonathan Guy who I wrote about last week, of JG Animal Health, who was recommended to us both by our vet and one of the leading Lleyn breeders in this part of the world, following up on analysis of fresh grass and the appearance of the coats of both sheep and cattle, recommended using a drench which in addition to trace elements contains vitamin supplements. Such supplements are essentially not favoured by the Soil Association but after much correspondence we now have agreement to use them for one year.
At the same time, we have been worried about the possibility of husk – lung worms – in our cattle because of coughing. Given that the carcass of one older sheep showed evidence of this problem we were advised to drench against this parasite as the faecal samples were inconclusive. All this means that there is going to be a lot of work to have to be done with stock in the next ten days or so not least since the cattle are due their annual clostridial vaccination (for the record we do not vaccinate the sheep).
Dates have now been booked for the follow up TB test on our three cows who were Inconclusive Reactors. I have arranged this for late November so we can put worries about that ‘on the shelf’ for a few weeks. Two more calves arrived safely this week and all is well with them. Jupiter went to his end like the true gentleman he has always been – many on the business park as we did, felt very upset about having to say goodbye to him.
A triumph of the week was getting the farm sprayed with preparation 501 (horn silica) and dates have been set for further spraying of 500 (horn manure) in early October. Another small triumph, for me at least, was getting down on hard copy the sheep and cattle movements over the year, together with field use. On the face of it, a simple task – in reality an annual nightmare despite our various daily and weekly recording systems.
One outcome of the Biodynamic Associations’ Conference ‘Revitalising our Earth One Garden at a Time’ held at Ryton Organic Gardens last weekend was that we had a very interesting visitor, whose family are currently farming quite close to us who had clearly been inspired by what she had experienced at the conference and wanted to see BD in action. We hope to develop that relationship.
Sebastien has, in between a host of other tasks, being working out how best to gate and fence our barn extension. This has involved much discussion between Tim, Chris, Sebastien and myself (largely in these discussions my role was to think about cost) and I think we are close to ordering the necessary ‘furniture’ based on Sebastien’s model. He, incidentally, will be joined towards the end of the week by a new woofer from Italy.
Earth Energy have been on site all week and two vast blue containers now sit on their concrete pads – not things of beauty but… Walking over Field 2 during the week – the field in which 10 kilometres of pipe was buried – made abundantly clear to me that discing and re-seeding in the spring is inevitable. We shall go for an old fashioned seed mix of fescues and herbs rather than the usual rye grass one.
The ending of the proms has not of course meant an end to listening to Radio 3. A highlight of the week for me was listening to Kathleen Ferrier – as one listener tweeted it was hard to stop tears coming. What a voice and what a loss she died so young. Appropriately the rain has started so will end now!