October’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!
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!
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
It 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 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th
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
For more info please email or phone Jules Wagstaff Mob 07964530436 Email email@example.com Website www.ruralskillstrust.org
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.
“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.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been making hay whilst the sun shines, and in need of a rest. Well never fear, it’s time for our annual barbecue which this year is being held at John & Penny Hooton’s holding on the 9th of July. This is a great chance to meet and chat with other members and enjoy a hotdog or two. Details and directions are in your newsletter. Remember there is no meeting at the Gremlin Club this month!
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
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
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.
This month’s talk comes from Carrie Thomas, who will be telling us about the construction, planting, and growing of typical cottage garden plants.
Carrie is a keen plantswoman, particularly interested in sowing seeds of unusual, gardenworthy plants, sowing several hundred types each year. Her seed company supplies seeds of cottage garden favourites as well as rarely offered items. A gardener since a young child, her passion for plants really took off when she had her first house and garden. Carrie is a qualified teacher, and has an honours degree in Botany and Zoology from Swansea University.
The talk will take place at the normal time & place, The Gremlin Club, Carmarthen 8pm on Wed 9th of April. See you there.