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Guest Blog: Lynsey's Christmas Farm Update

winter sheep farming update

Im Lynsey. Mum to Noah 8 yrs and William 2 yrs, living in Shropshire with my partner Bill and our dogs. We live down the lane from my wonderful parents in laws family farm where we all spend the majority of our time pig wrangling and taking part in countryside pursuits.pigs sheltering from the snow

Here in Shropshire you can certainly feel the change in the weather as we head into the winter months. This year feels as though its gone so fast with Christmas fast approaching on the horizon bringing with it lots of rain, rare spells of winter sunshine, cold winds and surprisingly for us in the midlands, snow. sheep in the snowThis was the first time William had seen snow along with a good few of animals and it was great to see them enjoying a new experience. At first the pigs didn't seem to impressed until they discovered the joys of rooting around in snow but for the majority they nestled down in big straw duvets. The sheep were fun to watch and enjoyed bouncing around in the fresh snow and more so at the sight of extra hay however I did notice that a lovely white backdrop does point out that sheep are not as white and clean as you first thought! Probably the most enthusiast snow lovers were the ones who had seen it all before. The dogs and Bud, the horse. All of which spent a lot of time excitedly bounding around and im not ashamed to say myself included. (thank you thermals!)

On the farm the pigs are pedigree welsh and large white. Learning from my expert mother and father in law is that both of these breeds make wonderful mothers, friendly characters and of course produce excellent home raised pork. Pig in the snowThe pigs are mainly raised outdoors and benefit from different climates all year round... Its true what they say... ‘as happy as a pig in mud’ and this herd is no exception with wallowing being their forte. This time of year when the boar and his ladies aren't rooting around enjoying the rare winter sun on their backs, all the arks are filled with large straw bedding and doorways kept out of the winds direction preventing drafts. With that being said during bitter cold periods or when we experience boggy ground we tend to bring sows indoors when they are close to farrowing. This provides them with heat lamps, deep bedding and we are close at hand for both sow and piglets. Exciting new additions to the herd this year are our three lovely pedigree welsh gilts. Fingers crossed these gorgeous girls and their offspring will become part of the show team for the season to come which we are all extremely keen for.

This year our local livestock market, Market Drayton had re opened the selling of pigs which has proved to be fantastic since the closure of Chelford it left a few people a bit stuck. pigs at the marketMarket Drayton is now attracting many enthusiastic buyers and sellers, us included with all the hard work certainly paying off to top the market on many occasions. The last date of the year was a wonderful Christmas show and sale which saw many entries, the Clemson family placed an incredibly respectable second with a gorgeous pen of weaners giving us the cherry on top of a very successful year. The market itself is a brilliant place to sell pigs and i urge everyone to show support even if you just come for a look it is the perfect opportunity to have a chat and of course, a breakfast.

Having now finished shooting as home till after Christmas game birds can relax slightly till after the big day (not that they have been overly worried at all by my shooting so far!..) The shoot itself consists of neighboring farms and friends that gives a wonderful informal vibe which i love so much when rough shooting. This year the pheasants have been such beautiful birds that not a bit has been wasted with ‘shot to pot’ roasted pheasant breast in damson sauce and an array of feather crafted wreaths and burbles for the tree. Its also been a pleasure to watch the dogs work so far this season which has given me such aspirations for my own gundog although my heart does lie with naughty terriers, i will keep my finger crossed for a little barking present under the Christmas tree...

For equestrian nothing says winter like muddy gate ways and thermal jodhpurs! horse in the snowAs a horse owner who for years has kept horses on a routine livery, the last three years have been a big change with keeping bud out all year round to which he has thrived. Alamo bud, to give him his full title, is my 14.3hh Irish/rhino bred hunting cob. I have had bud since he was 3yrs and we have done everything together. From pristine show cob to eventing, he just loves life. I completed my last hunter trials event when i was 7 weeks pregnant unbeknownst to myself and bill and a summer championship later on where i had to admit defeat and take time off in contrast to my first pregnancy with Noah and rest. Since then apart from the odd hack out bud has been turned away to enjoy life temporarily as lawn mower and beautiful field ornament till i am fully committed to get back into the saddle with goals of being hunt ready again by this time next year.

A few key husbandry points I tend to looking out for are plants and vegetation that need to be removed. For example. Our old enemy ragwort and the deadly sycamore seeds, acorns and yews. If like me you have natural boundaries around your fields its a good idea to keep an eye on gaps in hedges which can appear quite suddenly with bushes and leaves giving into Autumn and winter snow causing them to collapse This can be very inviting for any professional escape artist who believes the grass is always greener on the other side.Talking of grass, Its also a good time to think if field rotation is required depending on how you manage your grazing. Although bud does very well heading into the winter periods I always like to add more roughage into his diet as the grass can be variable which means feeding in the field which can easily turn into fun and games if you have a few turned out together. Bud (greedy) loves to be star of the hay party and becomes possessive when he is out with others so out of safe habit with any horses its always good to make sure there are plenty of piles with adequate distance in between them if you have a horse like mine who thinks he is king of the hay!

At home I have been thinking a lot about resolutions and starting to look forward to the new goals within the new year. Along with typical weight watchers and promises of joining the gym (which is already flawed for most of us with so many left overs and the Aldi cheese aisle) this year Im setting a personal goal to pursue my love of rural photography.pheasant's I adore photography in general and love capturing scenes from around the farm and in the field. In Noah's own words ‘why do you just take pictures of me and William, pigs and pheasants?’ which is true! As funny as that is it must have made an impression on him as a fancy camera for ‘pheasant hunting pictures’ is on his Christmas list giving another meaning to young shots!

Id like to thank you so much for reading and to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a extremely happy new year. Weather you are stock feeding on Christmas morning or mucking out stables id like to wish everyone in involved in the rural industry the best this time of year thank you for being continually passionate about our countryside, You are absolutely inspiring. Here is to an amazing 2018! Merry Christmas!

Lynsey xx

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Thanks for reading our latest guest blog from Lynsey. She will be writing another blog for us in February, be sure to check back then!

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