January Meeting

Our monthly meeting will be an auction conducted by professional auctioneer Nigel Hodson. This is your opportunity to sell on all those Christmas presents you don’t want, or any items you no longer need. If small enough then bring them along. For larger items and livestock leave them at home but bring along a good picture and description of the item. You may also bring along a promise to auction. The DSA will charge you 10% commission, minimum £1, of the selling price of the item with the option to give more if you wish. So get into those barns and sheds and start looking for those potential money spinners.

The auction will take place on Wednesday, 14th. January, 2015, 8:00pm at the Gremlin Club Carmarthen. See you there.

Christmas Social

This month there is no formal meeting, instead we are having a social evening. There is no door fee so you will save yourself £1 by coming. Instead of buying a raffle ticket if you bring a present for the “pot” then you will receive a drawer ticket. Please bring something for the communal food table and be prepared to join in with the beetle drive and quiz for which I believe there is an alcoholic prize (that is a bottle, not a person!)

Our social takes place  on Wednesday, 10th December, 8:00pm, at the Gremlin club Carmarthen. See you there.

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

November Meeting

32834This Wednesday, 12th November, there will be a talk by the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service on the topic of fire safety.  As many of us live in fairly remote locations some distance from the nearest fire station, it is a subject that has relevance to many members.  So come along and learn what you can do to protect yourselves! Normal time, normal place, Gremlin Club Carmarthen @ 8:00PM. See you there.

Important! Schmallenberg virus research request

Dear Dyfed Smallholders
My name is Chloe Graham and I am a veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, London. As part of my final year research project, I am undertaking a questionnaire based research study about the Schmallenberg virus. Schmallenberg virus had a lot of attention in the media last year, however little has been heard about it since.My family and I own a small flock of sheep (and are members of the Somerset Smallholders Association). Our flock was fortunate enough to escape the virus, but we know several people whose livestock was affected by the disease. Therefore, I have decided to investigate the Schmallenberg virus to see if it still has to be considered a relevant threat to the livestock community, and also the success uptake of available preventative options. My study results will hopefully provide an indication if further research into Schmallenberg is necessary required justified. I would very much appreciate if you could forward the link below out to your members of Dyfed Smallholders.  It is on surveymonkey and should only take 5 minutes to complete.  Any information provided will remain confidential, and only anonymised information will be shared with the Royal Veterinary College in the final report.  There is the option at the end of the for respondents to leave their email address so I can send them the final report. Link to Schmallenberg Virus Livestock Owner Questionnaire https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8X3TTZ7If you have any questions, please do contact me, either by email or phone, 07964 085344.  I look forward to hearing from you and am grateful for your time. Kind regards, Chloe Graham

October Meeting

index_11_286526301October’s talk comes from Judy Lewis of the Dexter Cattle Society, (http://www.dextercattle.co.uk).  According to their website, “The Dexter breed are the smallest native breed of cattle in the British Isles, they are hardy, dual-purpose cattle, producing excellent beef and milk, an ideal suckler cow for conservation grazing.” Sounds ideal for smallholders! To find out more, come along to our monthly meeting at the Gremlin Club Carmarthen, on the 8th of October, at 8 PM. See you there!

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

Hedgelaying & Coppicing courses available

hedgelayingIt is a delight to see a newly laid hedge ready for the new growth to spring up from the ground. It is an unmistakable pattern in the landscape. But it is not just the beauty but the benefits it gives to the whole farming environment. A maintained laid hedge is stock proof as one farmer said ‘what the shep sees through they go through’ another trait of an animal prone to misadventure. The black thorn is the best for this, although it takes a litle longer to establish it can be left longer betwen laying and can even be restored easily if neglected. The windbreak hedges provide is invaluable for stock and crops, it is worth having especially with the winter storms we have ben experiencing. The laid hedge also creates shade and shelter for stock. The natural wodland coridor is extended through the farmland along the hedges; this is a habitat for flowers, insects, birds and other wildlife. Many of the insects being
controls for aphids and other pests. The standard tres present in the hedges can be maintained to provide a sustainable source of firewod and timber.

The loss of hedgerows is a sorry tale but neglect has been almost as bad an enemy as hedgerow removal. The convenience and economics of flail cutting has meant that many hedgerows have been given an annual cut and not allowed to grow up, thicken and develop. Frequent and heavy trimming result in hedgerows being reduced to an intermittent line of shrubs, bare at the bottom and the so-called birds nest on top. However if hedges are looked after properly, maintenance costs are not high. It is the restoration of neglected hedges and bringing them back into a proper cycle of maintenance that is more expensive.
Let’s start by asking ourselves what we can do about it? In fact if we want more laid hedges we need more hedge layers. As small landowners even if we lay or renovate a small proportion of our hedges each year we are doing something to buck the trend or if we pay a local farm worker we are supporting our local economy and employment. This autumn the Rural Skills Trust is offering Hedgelaying courses on a local small farm in Newcastle Emlyn. Why not come along to learn with other local people with an accomplished teacher. This will give you the confidence to tackle your own hedge. The Rural Skills Trust has been set up to train people in the skills that can encourage and sustain a useful rural economy and livelihoods. We are promoting rural skills to build our community and tackle climate change. We are based in West Wales

Hedgelaying Course dates

Oct 6th-9th
Oct 13th-16th

Saturdays
Oct 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th

Cost £120

We will also be running Coppice Practice courses in November; this is an introductory 3 day
course on a Newcastle Emlyn smallholding.

Coppice Practice Course dates
November 3rd-5th
November 24th-26th
Cost £90

For more info please email or phone Jules Wagstaff Mob 07964530436 Email deassart@btinternet.com Website www.ruralskillstrust.org

Farm Walk Sunday 20th July

Visit to Ruth Watkins’ holding at Llanddeusant. The walk will start at 11am. Please bring a packed lunch and a chair or something
to sit on. Ruth has kindly offered to provide tea/coffee. Part of the walk is over uneven, marshy ground so wear suitable footwear. Sorry, no dogs.

Ruth says:

“Pengraig goch is a traditional 70 acre farm in the western half of the Brecon Beacons National Park. I have maps going back to mid 19thC and most of the traditional pasture fields still exist, now SSSI. Though it does have some dry parts I affectionately call it “the bog on the hill”. Most of the land is marshy grassland, fen or wet heath. lt is interesting that soft rush and agricultural weeds are not problematic on the ancient swards. Molinia, sharp-flowered rush and even compact rush seem to limit the growth of soft-flowered rush; I can show you how they interact (though I have not discovered any explanation for this). There will be lots of flowers to see and if the weather is nice views of the Black Mountain. There is also a ravine with ancient woodland. I farm Welsh Black cattle and sheep, Herdwicks and Brecknock- hill Cheviots. Though I am not now organic, I do not use mineral fertiliser and the plants on the farm are natives of the area.”

 

Should be interesting, see you there.