February – March 2017 Meetings

Wednesday 8th  February 8pm. Monthly Meetings at Carmarthen Veterinary Centre.
DSA AGM Your only chance to attend a DSA AGM this year. Please come and support your association.
Meeting Report
At the AGM two committee members stood down and the committee is pleased to welcome two new members. All other officers and members remain in post.Members expressed a wish to again be at the St. Clears Show. So now is the time to think about and start preparation of items you may wish to put on display or offer for sale. First aid kits are present at all meetings and events held by DSA. We have at least two qualified first aiders. Anyone willing to use their first aid qualification please inform any committee member.

Wednesday 8th March 8pm. Monthly Meetings at Carmarthen Veterinary Centre.
The Hand Made sausage company will talk on making your own sausages and bacon.

 

 

Report on Farm walk at Matthew & Debbie Kieboom’s holding

A breezy but dry day saw some 15 of us gather for a farm walk at Bwythyn Y Rhosyn, the home of Debbie and Matthew Kieboon. North of Cardigan and not far from the coast at Aberporth, their 5 acre holding is tucked away down a narrow lane. The first thing we saw as we came through the garden gate was the amazing straw-build round house. This is a work in progress with on-going work to the interior. The idea is to use the space to supplement the accommodation in the main house, this will be useful as they often have wwooffers to help on the holding. If anyone is interested in this building technique then contact Debbie or Matthew as they do hold working party days.

The holding carries a wide range of poultry from quail to geese and Debbie sells eggs from her “shopette” at the garden gate. At this time of year some of the ducks and geese were busy incubating clutches of eggs and we saw several family groups free ranging around the lawns. The main field is some two acres and the plan is to divide this into smaller paddocks to allow for more efficient management of the grazing. Most of the goats were happily grazing and browsing here apart from the billy who, in true goat fashion, had decided that the grass is always greener on the other side and had hopped over the fence! We were joined on our meander by the wethergoat “Baby Satan” who you may remember form Debbie’s talk earlier in the year – he was very gentle and curious and not at all satanical! Her herd is now closed and she has registered her stock to add value to any offspring sold; male kids are raised for meat and the milk produced is used in the house and processed into cheese and kefir. The animals are fed on an organic multi-species pellet bought in bulk from High Peak, Debbie has chosen this because the protein element is provided by peas and field beans rather than soya which she feels can pose a health risk to both the animal and ultimately yourselves as the end consumer. Sharing the paddock were several groups of breeding hens in their “hen tractors” these mobile house and run combinations allow for easy moving onto fresh grass the houses have slatted floors so the manure self-spreads and fertilises the ground. The houses were ingeniously constructed using a wide variety of reclaimed materials. Debbie keeps several breeds of chickens and rates Copper Marans very highly as well as the Bresse Gauloises, a dual purpose French breed with the hens laying a good number of buff eggs and the cockerels maturing at 20 weeks to give a 4 kg bird.

The field is bordered by an area of ancient woodland now in the process of being re-juvenated with plans to coppice. Sometime after they had moved in, Debbie’s father hacked through years of neglect only to discover a good sized pond which is now being enjoyed by the geese and ducks. They keep the auto-sexing Pilgrim and American Buff geese, as well as Muscovy and Welsh Magpie ducks. There were more poultry enclosures on the edge of the woodland with various hens including a rehabilitated s Silkie hen, nursed back to health after surviving a fox attack and Raymond Blanc another Bresse Gauloises cockerel. We wandered back up to the house through the vegetable patch; this had been raised beds but is now being converted to a no dig system as the paths between the original beds took too much maintenance. Cane fruit is grown along fences which support the plants and in turn the plants act as wind breaks. Debbie grows lots of herbs including lemon balm and mint which she cuts and dries to feed to her goats during the winter. The heavily laden fig tree was admired and envied in equal measure!

Matthew did a sterling job providing tea and coffee when we retired to the round house for our picnic lunch, and yet again I came away inspired and with some good ideas to try at home – not to mention a dozen guinea fowl eggs that are now in the incubator!

By Claire Wadley

Report on October meeting

October’s talk came from Judy Lewis and Peat Gleed of the Dexter Cattle Society. Judy spoke first, and described how she and her husband Rhidian bought their first Dexter cow in calf in 1975, and within a few years had increased their herd to 4 cows and a bull. At this point the breed was at serious risk of dying out, as there were only 79 registered cows, and 17 bulls. The good news is that since then numbers have increased markedly; in 2013 there were 2001 registered cows and 111 bulls.
Dexters are a small, hardy breed and seem to be as equally at home on 1300 foot hills as they are on lowland pasture. The price of animals can vary between £300-£1000, and in large part depends on whether or not the animal is registered. This brought Judy on to the point that if you are interested in starting with Dexters, you must think long and hard about what you want/need, and pick the animal that is right for you and your farm. As an example, Dexters come in both short and long-legged varieties. If your land is very wet and boggy, then probably the longer-legged cows will be better. Judy stated that it’s important to avoid breeding a short-legged cow with a short-legged bull as it leads to increased chance of ‘bull dog calves’ – a form of chondrodysplasia which is a fatal genetic mutation. This is thought to have come about due to the breed’s previously very small gene pool in the 1970s, however a blood test for carrier cows is available.
If you decide to take the plunge with Dexters, as with any other animal, take care when choosing. It can often be better to buy straight from a farmer rather than a market. This gives you chance to see them on their home territory, and get an idea of farm standards.
Despite the initial cost for a pedigree animal, Judy said that her cows have always earned their own living. They’ll happily live outside all year round, so long as they have a good hedge or a field shelter, so feed costs are low. Judy & Rhidian’s beef is sold purely through word of mouth and the cows are good milk converters, 4-5 gallons a day is not unknown.
Peat Gleed, then gave us a whistle-stop tour of the use of Dexters for conservation grazing. Due to their hardy nature, they’re ideally suited for poor quality grazing, such as heaths, and moorland. Similarly because of their small size, they work well on ground which needs to be managed sensitively.
All in all, this was a really interesting talk from both Judy and Peat, which raised a great deal of interest and discussion from all of the members present. Many thanks to both of you.

 

By Liz Phillips

Report on September’s talk by Kate Mayne of Carmarthenshire Vets

Septembers excellent talk was given to us by Kate Mayne from Carmarthenshire Vets. We all know that vets provide a 24/7 emergency service or treatment when something goes wrong. Kate was keen to impress on us that they can also provide telephone advice, do farmyard visits, preventative treatment including vaccinations, treatments and/or surgery (including hospitalising calves!) They can offer animal husbandry advice, helping out with flock planning or teaching skills, such as foot trimming or caring for the neonatal lamb. In Carmarthenshire they are able to do blood analysis, and have a small laboratory within the practise (although specialist blood screen still need to be sent away), they can assist with de-budding, fertility issues, castration/vasectomy, and skin scrapes.

Kate felt that prevention was better than cure, so use your vet as a resource of information. They are keen to be involved in flock/herd planning -a requirement for farm assurance schemes, but helpful to smallholders. She explained they do not need to be complex -even a calender with regular tasks planned in (such as worming/vaccinations) laminated and kept to hand can improve general management.

Parasite control was a much discussed issue on the night. With general agreement that a helpful strategies include;

  • effective quarantine, to prevent importation of parasites to your stock,

  • testing for worm resistance (in sheep & cattle)

  • administering wormer effectively, selecting the correct wormer for the job, getting the dose correct, making sure the animal receives the entire dose (under dosing being the worst thing you can do -as this enables wormer resistance to develop),

  • rotational grazing, to prevent a build up of parasites, and adopting strategies to preserve susceptible worms (to prevent resistance – which you can do by dosing 90% of the flock or turning a completely dosed flock onto dirty pasture for 48 hours following worming)

  • reducing reliance on wormers (through genetics -picking breeds with more natural resistance)

  • field mapping -knowing which fields are prone to parasites

  • symbiotic grazing -grazing geese/ducks on fields affected by fluke to eat up snails who form part of the flukes life cycle

Kate highlighted (to the delight of some listeners) that alpacas and goats have very different needs. Alpacas are very sensitive to worms and wormers -so will need individualised plans to control parasites. Goats should not be treated as sheep; they have a higher metabolic rate which causes them to tolerate vaccinations differently, and may need more frequent or stronger doses of medication. She also informed us that WAG (Welsh Assembly Government) can now insist on TB testing of goats, alpacas and deer.

Her over-riding message to us was -if in doubt call the vet!

Report on August’s talk by Martin Dickenson of Dyfed Powys Police

August’s talk came from Martin Dickenson of Dyfed Police, and was on the subject of rural crime. Martin comes from a farming family, and has owned his own farm for the last 10 years, but like so many of us has to work in order to be able to afford to farm!

Martin’s primary focus was on increasing our awareness of crime. A lot of rural crime can be prevented by our actions and observation. As we often live in isolated areas, we’re not always particularly security conscious. We’re not always good at making sure that high value items such as chainsaws or strimmers are securely locked away when not in use, or that vehicles and workshops are closed up for the night.

Martin felt that we need to take more of a pre-emptive approach to crime, and one of the ways that we could all do this is by creating a support network, where individuals are assisting the police, which will in turn allow the police to spot local patterns in crime, and spread the word among the community. To do this, Martin is championing a Farm Watch scheme which we can easily sign up to, and will provide a central point to gather data and pass on concerns.

The kind of things we should be passing on to the police are things like uninvited guests coming on to your premises who don’t have a good reason to be there. There’s a chance they’re seeing if there’s anything worth taking. Another might be stock being moved during the hours of darkness. Theft of animals is on the increase, and it’s something we all need to be aware of. A trailer full of sheep being driven off at 2:30 in the morning isn’t something most farmers tend to do. The police want to know about these kind of occurrences that for some reason or another just don’t seem quite right.

So what can you do to prevent being a victim of crime?

  • Lock things up! If it’s something somebody might want to steal, lock it away
  • Check your oil tank every couple of months. If you’ve filled your tank in May, and you don’t realise your oil’s been stolen until you turn your central heating on in October, there’s no chance the police are going to be able to do anything about it.
  • Be alert. if you see something suspicious then report it to your local police by calling 101. This lets them keep an eye on patterns of crime.
  • Put locks on your gates.
  • Mark your tools with Ultraviolet Pens. It’s much easier to prove it’s yours.
  • Keep an eye on your neighbours’ properties. If there’s a suspicious vehicle, then note down the registration number
  • Get CCTV, it’s a great deterrent
  • Put up a Farm Watch poster

In the countryside, we tend to be a bit more trusting than people living in towns, and that’s part of the attraction of our lifestyle, but let’s make sure we don’t become easy targets!

If you’re interested in joining Farm Watch, or you just want to find our more, please contact Martin Dickenson by email at martin.dickenson@Dyfed-Powys.pnn.police.uk , or alternatively call 101, to speak to your local Police Station

Report on June meeting

June’s talk came from Terry Harrison and was on the subject of small farm equipment. Born in Whitland on a small farm he never wanted to go to school but was fascinated by machinery and now runs his own business supplying small farm , wood processing and ground maintenance kit. We were shown video clips of alpine tractors suitable for smallholdings. These machines are perfectly suited for operation on steep and rough land and can have 4 wheel drive and bi-directional steering where the seat and steering column may be faced forward or reverse to suit direction of travel. Available from 23 to 90 HP.

Suromer tractors come as flat packs with better instructions than Ikea. Available as 20 HP with switchable 4WD and capable of lifting big bale hay on its bespoke front loader and a new 35HP ready assembled model is now available. Priced at £6k and £8K. These machines are simple design so no need for a laptop to service them. Terry also supplies mini round balers and corresponding electric/petrol powered
wrappers. Back acters which mount on the three point linkage to make a mini digger and various small tractor toppers.

For firewood production there is a range of log-splitters driven by either electric,petrol or PTO. These are more sophisticated than British made splitters with features such as fast return rams. If you want to process tree trunks Terry has a range of timber processing machines.For ground maintenance we were shown a range of mowers from sit on brush cutters to posh mowers for bowling greens and golf greens. Also now coming on the market are rechargeable machines with the capacity for a days work

Report on May meeting

The wild landscapes of West Wales, by Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of South & West Wales Wildlife Trust.

May’s talk came from Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of the South & West Wales Wildlife Trust. Wales has an incredibly varied mosaic of habitats, all of which the Wildlife Trust are involved in the care of. The Wildlife Trusts are a national network of independent charities whose function is the conservation and protection of the local environment flora and fauna. Local Trusts both fund raise and spend locally, meaning they are more able to respond to local need and the unique habitats they support.

Whilst it may seem that Wales has plenty of forests and Woodlands, this is not the case. Late in the 19th Century, Wales only had 3% of woodland cover. Since then, this has risen gradually to 14%, in part at least to the Welsh government’s recovery plan, but this is still a low figure; as a comparison, 70% of Scandinavia is covered by forest. Many of our trees were felled during the world wars to provide for the mines, they were replanted as their importance was recognised, however this has resulted in woodland with trees all of a similar age., rather than a natural range to support a greater diversity of wildlife.

Whilst Wales doesn’t have a great deal of woodland, the woodland it does have is very important. 31% of all Wales’ woods are ancient woodland. This means that the area has been continuously wooded for at least 400 years. Dinefwr is home to trees over 600 years old! Other woodlands particularly important in Wales are upland Oak woodland, and upland Ash woodland. Many of our scarce wildlife species depend on ancient woodland, they have poor mobility, so face a special threat through deforestation. Even if woodlands are re-planted such species will be lost from that area, and are slow to return. There is a different value for new vs ancient woodland.

The plants and trees tell a story of the landscape, not only the rock formation, mineral quantity or soil quality, but also the history of agriculture and land use. Ash is often found where the soil is rich In iron. Undergrowth of bilberry or heather reflect a history of sheep grazing in the area. Steep land typically has think, poor soil meaning it is not useful as farming land, so Upland Oak woodland is often found in these areas.

Although the percentage of woodland in Wales is increasing there are serious threats to our trees. As well as diseases which have been around for many years such as Dutch Elm Disease, newer diseases have been making the news recently, such as Ash die-back, and Sudden Oak Death. These diseases show the importance of maintaining the biodiversity in our woods. Lizzie explained that they are not encouraging people to clear out ash trees, as it is recognised that Ash die-back is present in the UK, and removing them may prevent the development of natural resistance. There is a restriction on moving ash trees or wood. An increased genetic diversity will increase a species resilience to disease.

Castle Wood a reserve owned by the Trust was badly affected by Dutch Elm disease, however 30 years on there is regeneration. Sycamore has grown up in many of the elm’s place, many species dependant on elm have switched to live on the sycamore as the bark chemistry is similar. We were all please to hear that sycamore has its uses! Whilst sycamore doesn’t host the greatest number of species (oak does) it does host the highest biomass; it’s great for aphids, which is a favourite of the dormouse (one of our favourites!) Coniferous woodland have an important role for protecting red squirrels who find it easier to not be out-competed in such woodland. The Red Squirrel Project was started in 2002, and a Red Squirrel Officer has recently been appointed to support landowners to improve the chances of this pretty native mammal.

Grassland is probably our most abundant habitat, but unfortunately in many cases the green fields that surround us are not the most diverse. Animals need good grass to grow successfully, and these dominant grasses tend to out-compete other species. Similar spraying to remove pest or invasive weeds will tend to cause significant damage to wildlife.

There are other grassland habitats which are very valuable to wildlife such as marshy grassland, and upland calcareous grassland. Unfortunately these are under-threat due to our ever-increasing demand for grazing. The Wildlife Trust supports a number of unique sites with lowland acidic soil, or calcareous (limestone) soil which host a range of rare species including bee orchids, and marsh fritillary butterflies. The Wildlife Trust are using highland cattle to graze for marsh orchids.

The pressures on our countryside to be productive are huge, this makes the work of the wildlife even more important.

She encouraged us to visit the sites, or find out more on www.welshwildlife.org

Report on April Meeting

April’s talk on Cottage gardens by Carrie Thomas was obviously of great interest to many of our members. The talk covered a wide variety of subjects, starting with the design of the garden which is often dictating by its purpose.Carrie looked at the common elements of many cottage gardens. These include structural elements such as trellis, arches, stone walls, paths etc. Carrie gave a huge amount of advice about the sort of plants found in many cottage gardens, particularly focusing on aquilegia, as she currently holds both of the Welsh National collections of these plants. Many thanks to Carrie for a very detailed talk.

Report on March Meeting

March’s talk came from Kristian Lloyd Davies & Tony Salini of Thermal Earth. Thermal Earth is a Heating and Electrical Engineering company established in 2006, based in Ammanford, which specialises in renewable energy.

In Wales wood boilers are the most popular option as there is more standing wood in the country now than at any time in the last 100years. The choice is between log biomass or pellet boilers. Log biomass boilers obviously require logs to burn which maybe either soft or hardwood which has been seasoned, i.e. split and stored bark side down, to a moisture value of less than 20%, moisture meter supplied with boiler. These boilers come in a range of sizes, 25kW to 95kw and run at 95% efficiency and are connected to a large,1500L to 5000L, accumulator tank from which heating and DHW are derived.

Pellet boilers burn preformed wooden pellets and are auto lighting and cleaning with automatic temperature control. The pellets are usually stored in a large hopper but may be supplied in small bags. They will burn approximately 1 tonne /month. The majority of the pellets produced are exported due to insufficient domestic demand. Both these types of boiler are usually installed in a separate building with ducted supplies to the home.

Other options include heat pumps which extract a small percentage of heat from a large thermal mass such as the earth, a large volume of water e.g. lake or river or from the air into a piped water supply to the heat pump. This energy is then transferred by the heat pump to the domestic heating and hot water system. This process uses electricity but in a well designed system can give a fourfold return. The Renewable Heat Initiative is a Government Scheme, (so expect red tape!) that enables people to move away from fossil fuels and use sustainable resources. It is part of the Green Deal so the property will require an energy assessment. Payments are then made over 28 quarters, 7 years, so that the costs of installation will be recovered. The tariff paid varies with the circumstances of the installation but Tony and his team excel at this. Rather crazily the RHI also applies to business but in this case payment is made over 20 years and the more you burn the more you get??!! Farms can be classified as businesses if they fit a fairly broad template. Unfortunately wood burners and multi-fuel stoves are not covered by the scheme.

Many thanks to Thermal Earth for this very informative talk.

 

Report on January Meeting

Our January meeting featured a talk by Mark Barber of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The ARC Trust exists to champion the cause of amphibians and reptiles across the UK through education programmes, species recording, and habitat creation. Mark and his colleague Peter started a major project in 2012, which covers all of Wales, and aims to encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility for welsh biodiversity and provide opportunities for people to engage with amphibians and reptiles as part of the shared natural heritage in Wales.

West Wales has a variety of native amphibians and reptiles, including the common frog, common toad, palmate newt, smooth newt, common lizard, slow worm, grass snake, and adders. The decrease in numbers of many of these previously fairly common animals is causing concern to conservationists. This is, unfortunately, largely due to human activity. The construction of housing, draining of ponds, and road building programmes have all led to a fragmented landscape which these animals are not well equipped to deal with, or travel through.

This then, is where we as smallholders, may be well-qualified to help out. We tend to live in rural areas which aren’t heavily developed, and we tend to have the odd bit of space that could be put to good use for the sort of specialist habitats that our amphibians and reptiles so desperately need. So what can we do?

Firstly we need to record our sightings! Mark has been putting together a map of amphibian and reptile sightings across Wales and there is very, very little data for West Wales. So, if you’ve seen any amphibians and reptiles then the ARC trust want to know. To do this, go to arc.cofnod.org.uk, or http://www.recordpool.org.uk/ and fill in the online card. Alternatively, because some of our members don’t have great internet access, we’ve decided to print out some sighting recording cards and bring them along to meetings, you can fill in your sighting, and the committee will make sure they get passed along to the ARC Trust.

You’ll need the following information:

1. What species you’ve seen, ideally it would be good to know: age, (adult, juvenile, spawn/egg, dead), sex, number of specimens at any one time. If you’re not sure what you’ve seen then the ARC trust have put together identification guides which can be downloaded.

The Amphibian guide is available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/amphibians

The Reptile guides are available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/reptiles

2. Where you saw it, this doesn’t need to be accurate to within half an inch, but a postcode or grid reference is useful.

3. When you saw it (Again, this doesn’t need to be exact, if you saw a palmate newt in 1964, then that’s great, as the ARC Trust can report this as an historic sighting.

Perhaps more important is the management and creation of habitats for amphibians and reptiles
Because this is so important, the ARC Trust has put together a handbook for anyone interested. You can either buy a hard copy from their online shop, or download a free copy from

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/habitat-management/for-amphibians/AHMH.htm

Specialist advice about pond creation can be found at the Freshwater Habitats Trust, their website can be found here: http://www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk

If this is a subject you’re interested in, you might also want to go ahead and join the South West Wales Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group, their website can be found here:

http://groups.arguk.org/SWWARG/ or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/SWWARG