Summer on The Farm
With the arrival of autumn and the changing colours, it a good time to look back and reflect on a busy season and year to date.
Summer has been an active and vital time across our various source farms. It’s a beautiful time, with grass and crops growing, livestock grazing and lazing in the sun, and also being able to carry out work and tasks during the longer hours of daylight and warmer weather.
As grass yields grow and the crop becomes abundant, we look to harness and store this energy for the winter months, when the plants slow down and hibernate over the freezing frosty weather found early in the year. Harvesting the pasture is a vital food source for our cattle and allows them to stay on a grass diet during the colder winter months when they prefer to be housed indoors. It is a well rehearsed process, waiting for the forecast of fine dry weather, mowing, spreading, rowing up before our forage harvester chops and throws it into the towing trailers, or being bailed and wrapped.
The warm weather is felt by our livestock. The upland and lowland flocks of sheep have dense thick fleeces to protect them from the cold winter and frosty spring mornings. Shearing takes place early in July, and is a much awaited time for the sheep, as well as being a key area of care into their hygiene and welfare. They seemingly enjoy the process and happily wait their turn in the pen, before the highly skilled and speedy shearers shave off their fleece into one full piece. It’s a really impressive and elegant procedure of numerous moves, twists and holds. Wales and New Zealand currently possess the top shearers in the World, each capable of trimming nearly 200 sheep per day, with the shearers often working seasonally between the two hemispheres
Despite popular belief wool in the UK is currently a very low value commodity, with farmers subsidising the expense of shearing in the animas best interest.
On much of the flatter and lower lands across our range of farms, crops are grown on rotation to bring in additional revenue and meet the UK demand, and also for cereals as higher energy inputs to feed our chickens and to finish off beef production. The methods used at Rhug Estate are an example of how arable methods can significantly enhance the the farms production system and operations, also benefiting the natural ecosystem and environment. The oats, barley and grains are grown on site, with no added water apart from natural rainfall, are fully organic with no pesticide or artificial fertiliser. To avoid ploughing or tilling, the seeds are direct drilled, and during planting, adopt large hedgerows and crop breaks to promote insect life and biodiversity. Growing the crop on site removes the need to purchase from elsewhere in the world, where they can be sure of the highest standards of production and ensuring they are not depleting soils elsewhere, removing the need for transport and additional mileage. The crops are essential for the winter months and for finishing our highest quality organic produce.
PREPARING FOR WINTER
As autumn arrives there is plenty of work to be done, the ewes are approaching tupping where we turn in the ram and look to get them in lamb. The upland flock will remain on the hillsides until December and the cold harsh winter arrives. We love being on the farm and hope that insights into natural and traditional methods can expose the real qualities of the meat produced, and how it is a vast contrast and viable alternative to the factory methods seen in many parts of the world today.
Choosing a regenerative low intensive system removes many of the unethical animal welfare concerns we have and share, as well as embracing and improving the natural landscape, sequestering carbon and operating responsibly, as close to net zero carbon emissions as physically possible. As conscious consumers, we hope you can look to understand where your food is coming from and how it is being produced to make the micro decisions and changes necessary to bring about and inflict larger scale change.