Report on faecal egg count workshop

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This was held on Saturday 23rd November at Doug and Wendy,s holding in Henllan Amgoed. Peat Gleed held the workshop, bringing along microscopes and everything else necessary for us to examine the poo samples we had all brought. We looked at calf, sheep, goat, horse and even chicken poo samples. Nobody had a cause for concern with an overwhelming worm burden. The most common eggs to be seen were Strongyles, but none of us, it seemed needed to reach for the wormer on getting home.

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It is important when doing these faecal egg counts that the samples are as fresh as possible ie. they are picked up as soon as excreted. Those that attended found it extremely interesting and big thanks go out to Peat for giving his time, expertise and equipment, and also to Doug and Wendy for providing us with a venue.

By Claire Beddoes

Report On Christmas Social

The meeting in December was our Christmas Social. Attendance was down which was a little disappointing, (for those that didn’t turn up), as the communal table was overflowing with a scrumptious selection of quality food and much fun was had by all. Jon Bayley compiled a quiz for the evening which had us all digging deep into our brains for the answers, and the winner of the bottle of wine was Madge Pratt. Then the real excitement started…the Horse Racing!! Doug had made a fantastic racecourse and horses especially for the night, so big thanks to Doug, as this provided alot of fun for us all. Here are the results:-
RACE 1 Novices…… 1st Jim Mulvaney, 2nd Joan Allcock, 3rd Joan Hinds.
RACE 2 Hurdles……..1st Madge Pratt, 2nd Claire Beddoe, 3rd Joan Hinds.
RACE 3 Gremlin Club Steeplechase…….1st Amanda Bailey, 2nd Stephen Kirkwood, 3rd Liz Phillips.hr1

Report On November Meeting

November’s speaker was Rita Jones. Rita is the Welsh Government’s Farm Liaison Officer, and she came to tell us about the kind of ‘official’ issues that smallholders have to deal with. Rita covered a number of payment schemes updating us on what is changing, how it might change and when we should expect any alterations to the system. There were also many tips and suggestions to assist all smallholders and farmers at inspection time.

There was good news for the Single Payment scheme, processing rates in 2013 are 89%. Don’t forget, the sooner you apply, the sooner your claim will be processed. In 2014 the Trading scheme will remain unchanged, however they are expecting that the 2015 Trading entitlement will be completely different.

Rita talked in some details about Cross Compliance, reminding us that any failure to comply will result in penalties. Cross Compliance applies to all current schemes – so we need to make sure we all understand the requirements. On the subject of Farm Inspections, it was surprising to hear that failure rates were so high for cattle inspection. Common failure points were not recording movements, death, and missing tags.

Tips to ensure you pass included;
– Obtaining regular printouts of animals on holding (the office are happy to print these for
you)
– Maintain up to date records
– Check passport details, add barcode, and sign to comply with tagging requirements
– Check missing tags

Whilst failure rates for sheep and goats were much lower, they were usually linked to:
– No stock – take figures
– Not recording births/id/deaths/replacement tags
– Not keeping records up to date,
– Incomplete flock book/ inventory.

Tips for passing your inspection included;
– Have a supply of tags
– Use the correct tag and tag within time limits
– Make sure your records are up to date
– Make sure copies of movement licences are available
– Provide supporting evidence available for any deaths
– Number of sheep on holding (belonging to business)

In 2014 there will be additional information required in the inventory. You do not need to use the Welsh Government flock book, but make sure all the information is available. In future when you submit your inventory you will be given a receipt. Keep this! All the information for the inventory is on the licences so keep copies; this information is important for your inspection, but insufficient on its own, so make sure your inventory is up to date. So far the inspections have taken a ‘softly -softly’ approach to electronic tagging, but this will change as increased use of electronic tags are seen in flocks. England is currently having a consultation on the possibility of a national Sheep Database. The outcome of this is likely to have an influence on the Welsh Government’s thinking about a sheep database here.

Pesticide use record-keeping is causing problems for a lot of farmers at the moment. Rita informed us that even small areas sprayed with a knapsack sprayer need to be included in your records, and come 2014/15, ALL users of pesticides and herbicides will need to have received training (Like Lantra’s course) in application. The caveat here is Grandfather rights; If you were born before 1964 you should be OK, but watch this space…

Rita said that record keeping and information would inevitably be moving towards more hi-tech solutions, such as the phone and the internet. As some of you will know, all pig records are now on-line; there is no paper format available, and it is likely that this template will be used for ALL required records. She was hopeful that using up-to-date technology may make compliance easier. Glastir will be reviewed in 2014. Currently there are three levels; Entry, Advance and Efficiency.

To be in Glastir you must have a minimum of three hectares, have full management of all eligible land for five years (this can include tenancy) and meet the points threshold for the business/farm. Points are gained for; landscape features, habitats, arable, crop management for arable, and historical features. You need to be in Entry level in order to be considered for Advanced level. Being selected for this scheme can depend on Welsh Government priorities at that time, but may include soil carbon management, water quality, water quality management, biodiversity, historic environments, and improving access. Efficiency grants are open to all on Glastir Entry Level, for heat generation, energy efficiency, water efficiency and manure/slurry efficiency. The 2015 packs are currently being put together, so if you’re interested, register with the Divisional Office. Under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) changes were due to be implemented on 01.01.14 but this has been delayed, so no changes for 2014. It is looking like there will be a new system in 2015 with the basic payment making up 70% and Greening payment 30%. You will no longer need to be in Glastir to qualify for this. Rita thought most Welsh farmers will qualify for this under the category of 75% permanent pasture, or if using an organic system. The document is currently under consultation (looking at topics such as transition time, definition of an Active farmer, rates, and trading of entitlements), and this is due to end on 30.11.13. The draft document is available on their website so make sure you get your comments in.

Further moves to online services are coming from Rural Payments Wales (RPW). Everybody needs to be online by 2016, but the system will be available from 2014. Everyone in receipt of Single Payments is being encouraged to get an Activation Code so they can take advantage of RPW online. In 2014 a hard copy will be made available, but if you submit online you will no longer be offered the paper copy. Feedback from farmers is that it’s simple to use. Advantages include being able to liaise with the Divisional office online for validation, and reducing the likelihood of incomplete forms being submitted.

Whilst the Gwlad magazine is now only published bimonthly, have a look at Gwladonline.org. This has all the information from the print version, and much, much more. It’s a helpful, easy-to-read way to stay up to date for all smallholders.

Rita ending by telling us that help is available – don’t be afraid to talk to the team or drop into the office, whether you want advice, or think you might have a problem – seek help sooner rather than later. The team are there to share concerns, to help and to guide. The number for the Carmarthen team is 01267 225300.

 

By Amanda Bayley

Report on October meeting

brompton_hedgelayingThe meeting in October was a talk by Mr Tom Duxbury from the Tywi Centre at Dinefwr Farm, on hedges and hedglaying.

Hedges are vitally important. They are an important habitat and provide food, shelter and breeding sites for a wide range of wildlife including nationally scarce species such as the Dormouse and the brown hairstreak butterfly. They also provide corridors which link different habitats, along which wildlife can travel. However, hedges need looking after: hedge-laying is the traditional method of stopping hedges from becoming a row of trees and providing a stock-proof barrier around fields. Hdege-laying involves cutting through the base of the stem, until only the cambium layer remains attached. At this point the stem is ‘laid’ (lent over). The effect of this is that the plant stays alive, but according to the rules of gravity, starts putting shoots out from the now nearly horizontal main stem.

So, when is the best time to undertake hedge-laying? When you need to, is the answer, but there are a couple of provisos. If a hedge has been layed, it will probably need re-doing in about 5-7 years depending on the weather, and the species. If you’re under a grant scheme, hedge laying can only be carried out between the 1st of September and the end of February. If you don’t claim these payments you can undertake hedge work 365 days a year so long as you don’t disturb nesting birds which is against the law.

In the interest of biodiversity, only cut back any bramble, or other climbing growth where this impedes laying operations. Hedges should be left for 2/3 yrs so fr its are produced as they are seasonal and don’t necessarily fruit every year. Tools normally used for laying hedges are the chainsaw, a billhook, axe, hatchet, and saw.

Sometimes, hedges are too big or too gappy to consider laying, so you’ll need to look at some other options. Coppicing is an ancient system of tree management that makes use of the ability of many broad-leaved trees and shrubs to produce new shoots from a cut stem or trunk. Coppicing is often done when the stems are too big to lay. This involves cutting the stem off cleanly, 6/8 inches off floor. This will produce a large amount of new growth, and at the same time, the hedge can be replanted to improve its growtth. Certain species such as blackthorn can produce suckers that will naturally fill these areas. In such circumstances, it may be worth waiting for the results of any re-growth before planting up gaps between coppice stools. Where gaps require re-planting they should be thoroughly cleared of vegetation. This will allow the new plants sufficient light to establish. Holly is a suitable species for gapping up below hedgerow trees where light levels may be low. Gapping up and new planting can be carried out in the winter months from November to March.

Where a new hedge is to be planted it is advisable to cultivate the soil the previous summer and in poorer soils, some well-rotted manure may be incorporated. Local common trees and shrubs should be used in a mix of at least five hedging species, with no one component of mix comprising more than 75% of the local native species that reflect the character of your area. New hedge plants can be grown from seed or cuttings (these are specialist techniques) or purchased as transplants from a nursery. Plants should be 45-60 cms high with a well-developed root system and a strong leader shoot. Planting stock derived from locally collected seed or cuttings is preferable as this is likely to survive better and support more species of native wildlife. During planting, it is essential that all roots are kept damp. Gaps and new hedgerows should be planted at a density of 5-8 plants per metre in a staggered double row with 45cm between each row. To encourage new growth the transplants should be trimmed back. Subsequent management should ensure that the plants are kept clear of weeds and watered liberally in dry spells until established. Any dead plants must be replaced. Mulching retains soil moisture, reduces weed growth and reduces competition for water and nutrients. Grant funding is unfortunately short term and doesn’t continue for the life of things done, so can be more detrimental than helpful.

The Tywi Centre provides education/training courses and these will run up to March 2014.

By Liz Phillips.

Report on Harvest Lunch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHelen and Peat Gleed were our welcoming hosts at their very unique holding. In order to get there we had to negotiate a muddy churned up length of farm track until we came to a gate whereupon we entered, and, like Narnia, were at once transported into another world of low gorse bushes, heathers and many interesting plants, including the bog asphodel. The clean and tidy track took us over the 33 acres of common land upon which Helen and Peat have grazing rights for their two horses and small herd of mainly red Dexter cattle.

We passed through another gate to enter their holding and were greeted by our hosts and their tidy holding and a beautiful garden to be proud of. Our hosts had prepared a gazebo in front of the garage for our benefit. Doug and I arrived early with the barbecue and got it fired up ready for the event. Amanda arrived with some tasty onion soup she had made with onions left over from the previous BBQ and very tasty it was too.

Joan H and Amanda went to town on baking for the table. The strawberry and cream meringues and the courgette and lemon curd cup cakes looked most inviting. I could only admire, but Joan very kindly made a gluten free cake with me in mind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter we had satisfied our hunger, we were invited on tour around the holding. We were introduced to the two Welsh Cobs who were sharing a field with the sheep. Peat had intended to give us an equine timber hauling demonstration, but the horse became ill with a viral infection. Now recovered but convalescing.

The holding has benefited from Tir Gofal funding which has helped with some capital costs. The farm building was purpose built with the stables at the top end, the cattle in middle portion, with a generous hay loft. Instead of expensive “Galebreaker” curtains, Peat came up with the idea of using scaffold mesh netting which he threaded onto narrow ratchet straps using the ready-made perforations on the sides, which then became top and bottom. Tensioned up they minimise rain ingress and wind adding greatly to animal comfort. The pigs, no longer kept, were housed at the lower end and could come and go to the adjacent woodland. The sheep now use it at lambing time.

Peat is a dab hand at engineering and fabricating his own equipment, including a Dexter sized crush and a perfect scaled down side flinging muck spreader. Near the shed is a small plantation of various varieties of willow that Helen’s brother grows and harvests for his basket making business.

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The fields are in very good heart and Peat finds it easier to manage them now that he doesn’t have to adhere to Tir Gofal rules.

The holding gives me the impression of being a well kept secret in an idyllic spot. Thank you Helen and Peat. Some of us came away with some of your good ideas in mind; I know it has given me food for thought on my new planting projects.

By Wendy Rowland.

Report on September meeting, Talk by Andy Kurzfeld

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This month Andy Kurzfeld gave a very interesting talk on the Pembrokeshire Islands of Skomer and Skokholm. These islands have been inhabited since long before the Vikings, with early records telling us that rabbits provided an income before more conventional farming with sheep and goats. Since 1950, when the last inhabitants left, several changes of ownership have resulted in the wildlife thriving, but the buildings suffering from years of neglect.

Now a nature reserve, and equally importantly, a marine nature reserve, the islands are managed by the Wildlife Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales. With a £3 million lottery grant, they have repaired the derelict buildings to provide self catering accommodation. This enables staff, volunteers and researchers to stay on the island to carry out vital work. Up to 300 visitors arrive by boat every day at peak times, some of them now able to stay. The income from this enables the island to be self supporting.

Skomer and Skokholm may be small but are certainly not lacking in interest. They are famous for their birdlife, most notably the huge colonies of Puffin and Manx Shearwater, and they are also an important breeding ground for many other species including Storm Petrels, Guillemots, Fulmers, Razorbills and even Peregrine Falcons and Owls who feed on the Skomer Vole which is unique to the island. Rabbits play an important role as lawnmowers, as the grassland is undermined with burrows, nest sites to the Puffin and Shearwaters. Thankfully, there are no rats on the island to steal eggs or young birds and records show that bird numbers are up for most species. I am sure that Andy’s fascinating talk will inspire our members to visit the islands, or even volunteer or perhaps stay.

By Pam Willey

October Meeting

tywi centre logo As you all know, as well as providing shelter and boundaries, our hedges are a vitally important habitat for the wildlife on our holdings. But how good are YOUR hedges? What can you do to make them better? When should you cut them? What are the laws around hedges? If you don’t know the answer to some or all of these questions then fear not! This month’s talk on hedges and hedge-laying comes courtesy of Tom Duxbury, a Heritage Training Officer at the Tywi Centre in Llandeilo. According to their website: “The Tywi Centre is a heritage training and information centre based in Carmarthenshire. We provide traditional skills training, information and grants relevant to the built, natural and cultural heritage of Wales.” If you haven’t heard of the Tywi centre, or had a chance to look at their website, then you really should, they offer a great selection of training courses and events which are pretty well all of interest to smallholders, at very reasonable prices. the address is: www.tywicentre.org.uk The talk is at the normal time and place; The Gremlin Club, Carmarthen, at 8:00 PM on Wednesday the 9th of october. See you there!

Report on Somerton Farm Walk

Once again it was a treat to visit Holly and David Harries on their ecologically managed farm. Some of us, who have visited the farm over recent years, were able to see the changes that have taken place to promote plant and insect life and biodiversity in general.
We began by eating our packed lunches together with Holly’s generous offers of tea and cakes. We then set out to see the species rich meadows where the Dexter cattle are confined by electric fences to limit their grazing area. Dexters were chosen as they live out year round and their size limits any damage to the sward. I have to confess to not paying full attention to our hosts as I found myself hunting in the undergrowth for the rich array of plants and insects present. They even have the endangered Marsh Fritillery butterfly whose caterpillars feed on the Devil’s Bit Scabious plentifully present. The Shrill Carder Bee also found on the Castlemartin ranges is thriving at Somerton Farm. The lower sheltered sunny banks are popular with lizards while Damsel flies and Dragon flies enjoy basking in the long vegetation. It was good to see an abundance of white, blue and brown butterflies including the Wall Brown which I have not seen for years. We then walked round the five acre wood that was planted in 1990 by agreement with the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Authority Woodland Grant Scheme. The trees, like children, have certainly shot up since our first visit. A very expensive bat hostel has been installed on one of the tree trunks. It is made of a highly insulated composite material.

The Welsh Government’s Tir Gofal scheme has facilitated many of the initiatives over the past ten years. Glastir the new environmental scheme is only interested in taking improved land out of production. Holly and David have added an adjoining improved field to their farm. As this qualifies they are taking advantage of funding for bank creation and tree planting.

We returned to the house for more tea and cakes, Some of us then left and the rest of us were shown around the large pond or is it a small lake? This was constructed in 1990 taking advantage of a thick water impermeable seam of clay. The pool has two islands to add interest and possibly create a safer nesting area, Otters permitting. There are plenty of interesting marginal plants and water lilies. It altogether presents a beautiful and tranquil scene. I wish I had heard of Branched Bur Reed which is lining the margins as I put Reedmace in our pond and it has turned out to be a serious menace.

David has a particular interest in waxcap toadstools since finding that Somerton has some very interesting species. Through his interest, he has become involved in The Pembrokeshire Fungi Recording Network to raise awareness of the conservation needs of these colourful fungi.

Some of the Glastir initiatives are intended to allow wildlife and floral corridors to connect. Connecting up with Somerton would be very worthwhile.

Thank you Holly and David for an interesting day, oh and the yummy Dexter beef we bought for our freezer.

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By Wendy Rowlands

Report on August meeting, Talk by Doug Rowlands

Last month’s meeting didn’t go quite as planned… Due to unforeseen circumstances, our booked speaker, William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy, was unable to attend. Thankfully, our chairman, Doug Rowlands stepped into the breach with only six hours to spare!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, Doug spent the majority of his working life at sea; 36 years in total, and the talk he gave was a fascinating insight into what being a mariner in the 20th Century is all about. After learning the basics of his trade at Warsash Maritime Academy, Doug worked for Port Line, running cargo such as butter, cheese, apples, and lamb from Australia and New Zealand back to the UK. Doug referred to Sydney as his second home due to the amount of time he spent there!

After many years running cargo all over the world for Port Line, container ships became the norm, and the way ships were run changed dramatically. As an example, the ships Doug worked on might have a crew of 60-80 people, with all cargo being loaded by hand. Today, as a comparison, the Emma Maersk which is the one of the largest container ships in the world, only has a crew of 13. This was the signal for Doug to change jobs and he moved into cross-channel ferries.

Doug’s sea-faring career was interrupted for two years when he went into business with his brother in Oxfordshire as an agricultural contractor, but the call of the sea was too strong, and he returned to Southampton, first working for the harbour-master, and then moved into cable-laying ships where he stayed until the end of his career. These vessels were responsible for laying the transatlantic telephone cables which have had such a dramatic impact on the world today. So next time you’re on the internet, or on the phone to someone in a different country, just think, it might be all thanks to Doug!

I’m sure we’d all like to say thanks to Doug for stepping in at such short notice, and for giving us such an interesting talk.

Report on Dyfed Permaculture Trust Farm Walk, July 14th

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A View of the Farm vegetable garden

Permaculture, has been something of a closed book to me in the past, and I suspect the same applies for some of you. As such, I was very pleased to have the opportunity of attending this month’s farm walk at the Dyfed Permaculture Trust’s Farm in Penboyr. The Trust exists to demonstrate how permaculture can work, to gather research on the effectiveness of this style of land management, and to provide education for those interested in the subject.

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The farm’s small herd of shetland and hebridean sheep

For those in much the same boat as me, my understanding is that permaculture design uses nature, and mimics natural systems to help us achieve our goals.A simple example might be: compost heaps produce heat. Germinating seeds need heat. Therefore, put germinating seeds on top of the compost heap to keep them warm. This might already be perfectly obvious to you, but it’s this kind of thought process that seems to be the crux of permaculture design.

Phil Teaching us about the basics of permaculture
Phil Teaching us about the basics of permaculture

Unfortunately, the turnout on the day wasn’t great, but our hosts Phil & Michelle, made us all very welcome with tea and cake, and were only too happy to answer a wide variety of questions on their methodology.

All in all, the walk was a fascinating insight into a different way of looking at farming. The emphasis on thinking and designing systems to gain the most from the land with the minimum amount of input has really made me think, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will affect my own land management in the future.IMG_0228

If you want to find out more about Dyfed permaculture Farm Trust, or permaculture in general, then click on the links below

http://dyfedpermaculturefarmtrust.org.uk/

http://www.permaculture.org.uk/wales