We have had a rollercoaster few weeks here at the farm! High: All the paths South of the farm are accessible for everyone! Low: The ferrets were stolen last week and we have not heard anything about them since. High: Getting over £300 from the Chronicle Wish Campaign- massive thank you to everyone who collected and helped stick! Low: People getting upset and mean with each other on FaceBook over meat production. Bill Quay Farm has always been a working farm and strives to educate on where food comes from. Whilst we fully understand that everyone has their own opinions, there is no reason for people to be mean to each other! If anyone has any questions on meat production at the farm please scroll down to 'Thoughts on Meat Production'- an earlier blog post.
Some piggies playing in the snow:
Not the best photo, but here is top circle whilst the paths are being re-surfaced!
As of today the Castlemilk Moorit sheep (the beige ones) and the female goats will be inside the barn in preparation for lambing and kidding. Their due date is 14th March so it is important to get them in beforehand to get them settled into their new accommodation. We often get questions about bottle feeding and cuddling the lambs, as much as possible we DO NOT want to do this, this would only happen if a mother had died or a lamb was rejected, so please, understand that we are a working farm and do not allow members of the public to do this! The lambs will be in the main farm building from around late March and out in Front Field from April.
Before coming in the ewes have all been wormed, to avoid intestinal parasites and walked through a foot bath, to try and stop foot rot spreading while they are inside.
And finally, here is a picture of a cracking sunset from last week!
Our Level 1 and 2 students, BQF staff (and a board member) and Durham Wildlife Trust have been working exceptionally hard in the woodlands at nearly the furthest point in the farm- just past Club Field on the right walking from the farm. The hedge is being laid, Hazel trees are being copiced, paths are being laid and woodchips are lining the paths! Thanks for your hard work and well done, it looks brilliant!
Welcome to the first blog post of 2016! It is already shaping up to be a very exciting year for Bill Quay Farm. There is a new events calendar out, we will be hosting events at the farm every weekend, the school holidays will be jam packed with something for everyone and of course our annual events will be bigger than ever. In fact this years May Day Event coincides with the Farms 30th Birthday, so we will be throwing a huge Birthday Party! I know some of you have a long history with the farm and I would be very interested to hear from you...
Our meat is now available through The Paddock Box Scheme; you can have locally grown sustainable produce delivered to your doorstep, dont forget to add some Bill Quay Bangers to your order!
Additionally, we are starting work on a new farm shop and visitor hub at the main entrance to the building to sell our produce and provide visitors with information about the site. There have been new leaflets made for the farm showing the main farm trails and the new art around the site:
Unfortunately the farm has been swamped by all the rain! Most of our animals have been moved inside and our little goats have gone on holiday to Pets Corner in Jesmond Dene. But these lucky piglets got to go outside and play in the new pig area in the bottom woods (Jonadab wood);
The farm has been looking rather spooky in the evenings with the mist rising around the city. We thought that St James Park looked a bit like a UFO in the distance...
Perhaps Bill Quay Farm is important to you because you grew up coming here, maybe you bring your children here now, maybe you bring your grandchildren to the farm. Maybe you are new to the area and have found enjoyment visiting, maybe it is somewhere for you to meet friends and have a cuppa. Maybe the farm has been/is a safety net for you, it's more than a free visitor attraction, the open space so close to the city promotes the outdoors and enhances mental welfare, it is an educational facility, you can learn about and see animals that you dont see in everyday life.
As you know the farm nearly closed this past year due to a lack of funds, this would have had a massive impact on the community and people would no longer have access to what they have come to treasure. Due to a tonne of hard work and generosity the farm is able to stay open for now,but we are not yet self-sustaining. There are ways that you can help! By becoming a Friend of the Farm and donating to the farm monthly you are helping keep it open! By doing this we can put a number on the people that are invested in keeping the farm open, this looks impressive to ALL funders, it shows that people believe in the farm and that it is something worth funding, so even if you can donate 20p a month PLEASE do! Maybe if you know someone who loves the farm, make them a Friend for a year as a Christmas present! For more information click Friends or to sign up click Donate and make sure you select to share your details with Bill Quay Farm!
A massive thank you to Laurence Hill Court for donating £130 this week for participating in a sponsored diet! Amazing effort!
Meanwhile on the soggy farm life must continue...! Level 2 students making sure the pigs have enough bedding!
And the dark evening seem a little spooky!
This week I would like to chat to you about raising animals for meat production. Bill Quay Farm is a working farm, this means that the land and buildings are used to rear livestock. We are also a rare breeds survival trust (RBST) farm park, this means that all our different species and breeds are rare and/or indigenous. An important question asked on FB the other day was 'if we are supporting rare breeds why are we raising animals for meat?' The answer; for the breed to expand and progress only the best, healthiest females are selected to breed from, this means that the vast majority of males and some females can go into the food chain. (At breeding time there is roughly one male sheep to 10-30 female sheep, so do not need lots of males!) The same is also true for our pigs, we will identify the strongest and fittest piglets to rear and breed from and the rest we will grow on and then they will enter the food chain.
Another common question we get asked is 'how can we bear to send them for meat?' in fact there has been a few instances on social media when people have got very upset that you can come and visit the animals and pet them and then they get turned into meat. I understand why people can get upset. Howerver, here at the farm we have exceptionally high welfare standards, the lambs live on grass their entire lives; with their Mums (for 16 weeks) then they go for conservation grazing at Wardley Park. Our piglets stay with their Mums for 8 weeks and then are usually put in one of our outside pens to run about, eat and grow! We look after our animals to the best of our ability and provide everything they need to thrive from preventative medical treatments (such as vaccinations and wormer) to large areas for them to roam and dig about in- exhibiting their natural behaviour. We know the abattoir personally and know how high their welfare standards are. The person that generally transports the livestock is a board member at the farm and has equally high standards. I know exactly what every animal at the farm has eaten, I know exactly where they have been and I know exactly how they have been cared for. I know exactly where I would like to get my meat from.
We understand that people have varying opinions on raising animals for meat but we want everyone to know that we take farming and welfare very seriously and would like others to know and understand this!
In other news:
We recieved some fantastic news from Barbour who granted us £5000 to implement some of the new ways for us to generate income and keep the farm open. YAY!!
It is getting cold outside! So, the goats have been moved inside and are now nice and cozy in an indoor pen. The lovely Flo gave birth to 10 very cute little piglets...
The site has been looking quite litter filled, so the lovely Level 2 students spent some time yesterday clearing the site up! Thanks!
That's all for now, next blog post in two weeks time!
Sorry it has been a couple of weeks sine my last post, it has been a busy couple of weeks and I have lots to tell you about...
During half term we had a jam packed schedule of ScareyCrow Making, Small Animal Experience and Farm Club, luckily the weather held for us all week and we topped it off with our annual Halloween event.
During the ScareyCrow Making families/groups worked together to create a ScareCrow,
The final products looked fantastic!
We then had 2 mornings of farm club where young people over 10yo got to experience the farm before it opens, we fed the livestock, mucked out, had some animal cuddles and fed the small animals, here are two members of the club weighing out chinchilla feed.
We then ended the week with a daytime Halloween Event. The event has previously been an evening event, but we though that as Halloween fell on a Saturday it would be nice to have something on during the day instead. The afternoon started off slow, but it soon picked up and we sold out of pumpkins, spooky masks and the pizza oven was continuously churning out pizzas!
Here we have Rob and his family after some Pumpkin Carving!
And below we have Amelia cooking up a storm of pizzas. (Thanks for all your hard work!)
The event went very smoothly thanks to a set of fantastic volunteers that were on fire for set up in the morning and helped running the various areas during the afternoon! The event raised nearly £700, so thank you to everyone who made the event possible and to everyone who showed up and had a good time :)
In other news we have a few of our breeding males up at Burdon Moor, here Wolgang looks particularly majestic:
We also still have this years lambs up at Wardley Park, last week the lamb that got attacked by a dog was taken back up to join its friends. We have had a few calls recently about lambs getting stuck in thistles, thank you to everyone who has been keeping an eye on our lambs and letting us know quickly when something is up. We do check them everyday but obviously they can get stuck at any time! Here they are happily grazing.
Lastly, we had an absolutely cracking sunset last night:
This week coming we are expecting the arrival of a new boar, Flo will hopefully give birth to lots of little piggies and more...
This has been an exciting week for everyone who loves pizza! We had a clay oven installed around a year ago but due to adverse weather, money and timing issues it has taken a while to get it fully ready. So it has spent a lot of the year hidden under a tarp! This week, Nigel and Ken have worked very hard to get a roof over the oven to prevent it from weather (and human) damage. If the oven is kept dry and clean, when a fire is started inside it, it will heat up faster and will produce less black smoke.
Initially posts were concreted into the ground surrounding the oven:
The structure was then made secure by cross beams:
After a long day some corrugated metal sheets were nailed on top, making a sturdy weather proof roof! Nigel then kindly offered to run a training course in using the clay oven later in the week. So on Friday Amelia, Skye and I took part in the training, we learnt how best to avoid black smoke, the temperatures that need to be reached to cook pizzas and bread and some great baking skills- much to the delight of the students and cafe staff! Hopefully we will now be able to have pizza available at our events and might even have some weekend pizzas...
In other news, the smallies have been getting their cages updated! Thanks to some creative thinking from Ken and some words of encouragement from Kelly the Degu's have a cool looking play den and so do the chinchillas's.
This is the week before breeding begins for the sheep. We have been making sure that our tups (breeding males) are fit, healthy and raring to go!
At the farm we have 3 main breeds of sheep that we raise to support the rare breed ethos that is engrained within Bill Quay Farm and to produce meat to be sold from the farm. We have Jacobs- the brown and white ones, CastleMilk Moorits- the beigy ones and Hebrideans- the little black ones. However, this year we have decided to put the Hebridean sheep to an Oxford Down tup. This is Idol and he is CUTE, he is very affectionate and friendly. This will create some faster growing lambs for 2016- I will explain more about this in a later post!
Here is Idol with his new friend Benji- a Jacob tup.
The last week has had its ups and downs weather wise, but Autumn is most definitely here!
Here are the Hebrideans soaking up some Autum sun...
And Martha wondering what on earth I'm doing!
And finally, Nelly's piglets explored the outdoor world for the first time...
Bill Quay Farm is a working farm, this means that our land and buildings are used to raise livestock (in our case pigs and sheep). Sheep are seasonal breeders which means that they only release eggs during the autumn, as the day length shorterns. I hear you ask, how does this all work? I will have a go explaining:
1. Decide the date that you want your lambs to be born. We have decided to shoot for 14th March 2016. We didnt have much grass when the lambs were born this year so we have decided to go a week later.
2. Sheep are pregnant for 152 days, this means that we want the tups (males) to go in with the ewes (females) on 19th October 2015. I will discuss this further in a couple of weeks.
3. As we are not a very large staff team we want all of our sheep to give birth at roughly the same time, so we use hormonal sponges to synchronise all the sheep... This is how I spent my Sunday afternoon!
a. Wear gloves! Put some lubricant on your fingers, pull the draw string on the sponge so that it shrinks;
b. Insert the sponge and make sure that it goes in far enough that it will not fall out! The sponge effectively prevents the sheep from releasing an egg, when the sponge is removed in 2 weeks time the sheep will realease an egg and 'come into season' within 24 hours. Thus, they all come into season together, hopefully. The tups then have a very busy couple of days!
4. We then wormed all of our ewes so that in 2 weeks time when the sponge is removed we know that they are fit and well!
Whilst we were busy working with the sheep Mrs Brown was sun bathing...
Well, I have managed it, blog post 2! So, what's been going on, I hear you asking? We have just been getting into the routine of the new accademic year, we have Level 1 and 2 Animal Care Courses running at the farm everyday, it is exciting to get to know a new group of people. I teach a large portion of the Level 2 course, we spent some time last week making a video explaining what has been going on with fundraising, it should be ready for next weeks post, so stay tuned!
This years lambs have now been moved up to Wardley Park where they will spend the winter. There is a large 10ha field that is used by the council for conservation grazing, our sheep spend the winter nibbling down the summer growth to make way for flowers over the spring and summer. Either Skye or I will visit them everyday to make sure that they are all there and healthy. Here they are living the dream in grassy, spacious paradise:
I thought now would be a good time to introduce you all to my main man Patch. Sadly his Mum died a few weeks ago (she got a nasty infection) so we brought in another Mum (Belle) and kid (Doris) to keep him company. He is now outside in the paddock with the other kids.
He was castrated at a couple of days old so that we can keep him as a companion animal for any goats that are on their own in the future. Seeing as he will be spending his life at the farm I thought it was very important to get him used to humans from an early age, he now gives very cute snuggles! If you visit the farm you will be able to identify him by the brown patch in the middle of his back.