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My Farming Week - Andy Walter, Kent

Andy Walter is a first generation shepherd who runs 30 ewes and three rams in Ightham, Kent.


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Andy Walter
Andy Walter

Sheep: Our flock is a mixture of breeds, from Herdwicks to Romneys; Dorsets to Texels. We are fortunate to be able to graze our sheep on an obsolete sand quarry, where the soil is improving every year and this is reflected in the excellent condition of the sheep.

 

We lamb outside in April, keeping every aspect as natural as possible. Of our 30 ewes, only one needed help this year. Its single lamb was too large for the ewe to give birth independently but it managed to deliver a healthy lamb with minimal intervention.

 

Flock health: We do not use any sprays on the land and with our low sheep-to-acreage ratio, we have a minimal worm burden, so virtually no worming is required.

 

Another benefit from this low stocking level approach is there is no sign of coccidiosis on the land, so we do not need to use vaccines such as Heptavac P Plus.

 

Lameness with footrot has been eradicated; occasional incidences of scold are treated with Terramycin spray and hoofs are only trimmed when required. We do have to spray the flock regularly to protect from blowflies and prevent flystrike.

 

Maintaining the land without sprays and with lighter grazing has resulted in conservation-type grazing. The flora, forna and wildlife has flourished and the sheep enjoy the variety of plants which in turn, adds flavour to the meat. Flocks of goldfinches feed off masses of thistle seeds and buzzards soar overhead. We have even discovered pyramidal orchids growing on the banks.

 

Lambs: We keep a Herdwick ram so we can breed and sell some pure-bred Herdwicks to help conserve the breed, and a Texel ram which produces the meat lambs.

 

We have also crossed some Herdwicks with Romneys, which will hopefully produce a super-hardy breeding ewe.

 

The meat lambs are weaned in August and taken to graze on a flower meadow. Our lambs are usually grass-fed only but this year, in order to maintain their condition, we have had to feed some creep, due to the cold and wet August/September.

 

We use a local butcher and sell direct to friends and foodies who enjoy great tasting lamb.

 

Over the past seven years, I have bred all my own stock. Watching each ewe lamb growing daily through to motherhood and knowing their individual personalities, is a precious and rewarding experience.

 

Social media: I love photography and most days I snap away, catching the flock in different lights and angles, often uploading directly to my Twitter @ighthamlamb.

 

This gives me a great photographic diary and guards against the sad possibility someday it might all disappear forever.

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