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MyFarm: Our best bits

December 14, 2012

As MyFarm finally draws to a close we wanted to remember the good times and all that we’ve achieved, together.

So here’s our MyFarm highlights (and out-takes!) reel.  Enjoy:

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Goodbye MyFarm

December 13, 2012

Farmer Morris signs off from the MyFarm Project.  After more than 18 months of sharing food, farming and the everyday life of a real, working farm MyFarm comes to an end:

MyFarmers: How did you do?

December 4, 2012

One morning recently, Farmer Morris and I sat down and went through every single voting decision that you MyFarmers have made since the launch of the project back in May 2011.

The intention was to reflect on those decisions; what the results were; how Farmer Morris might have done things differently (were it solely down to him) etc.

What we did find was that you, collectively, have achieved an awful lot in a shade over 18 months so well done!  We also found some interesting results which, in typical MyFarm style, we want to share with you in as colourful and palatable a way as possible.

The table below shows the 15 votes MyFarmers decided upon; whether the result was a success or a failure; What Would Farmer Morris Do? (WWFMD) if it had been down to him; some notes; and a ‘Cow Rank’ to give each decision a mark out of five (1 being ‘udderly rubbish’ whereas 5 is ‘cream of the crop!’):

Vote Success/
Failure
WWFMD? Notes Cow Rank
#1 Sow or No?
MyFarmers voted to grow clover to help boost the fertility in Chalk Pits
Success Would have done the same Fertility was greatly boosted in Chalk Pits field helping boost the wheat yield in what was otherwise a difficult year
#2 Sow what?
MyFarmers opted to sow wheat over barley or oats
Success Would have done the same Another good call.  MyFarm’s wheat yeilds bucked the downwards national trend bringing in much needed revenue
#3 Rare breed or commercial?
MyFarmers choose rare breed sheep over a more commercial breed
Success Would have chosen commercial Score one for the MyFarmers!  The rare breeds we ended up getting in (see next vote) have thrived providing quality meat, wool and enhancing visitor’s experience on the farm.
#4 Which breed to breed?
MyFarmers plumped for Oxford Downs over Hill Randors or Norfolks
Success Favoured Norfolks and Oxfords The Oxford Downs have done so well at MyFarm that Stockman Mark has brought in more… the ultimate accolade!
#5 Which wheat?
MyFarmers chose Magister wheat over Panorama
Failure Would have done the same MyFarmers gambled but it didn’t come off.  Magister struggled in 2011/12 whereas Panorama planted did well.  Weather and luck were against it — but Farmer Morris would have done the same.
#6 Sow how?
MyFarmers chose 220kg per hectare over 180kg
Success Would have done the same Though the Magister struggled the higher sowing rate helped boost a yield that may otherwise have crashed.
#7 Which sausage?
MyFarmers chose a ‘Cambridge’ recipe over others
Failure Would have done the same Despite numerous attempts we couldn’t find a blend that enough people liked (that also held together!) to make it a commercial possibility.
#8 Life on the hedge?
MyFarmers opted for Wildlife hedges over bio-fuel or stock
Success Would have done the same The wildlife hedges have fitted in perfectly as part of the Estate’s HLS application (see vote #10) and bird numbers have increased.
#9 How wood you?
MyFarmers chose to lay a hedge rather than mow or coppice it
Success Would have done the same The laid hedge fits perfectly with the look, feel and heritage of the estate.  Bird numbers in the South Avenue are up and wood cut off is being dried for fuel.
#10 More or less ELS?
MyFarmers chose ELS ‘as is’ over ‘less’ or ‘more’ for Cambridge Road Farm (CRF)
Success Wanted to do more ELS and ended up that way too! As part of the wider Estate CRF is now part of an HLS application (an even higher level of environmental stewardship).  Without the ELS foundations this wouldn’t have been possible.
#11 Moo who?
MyFarmers chose an Irish Moiled bull over a Gloucester or Shetland
Success Would have done the same The bull we were able to bring in has worked really well and is helping further Stockman Mark’s work with the rare Irish Moiled breed.
#12 Castrate or segregate?
MyFarmers voted to segregate and not castrate this year’s lambs
Success Would have done the same Some ram lambs, who are entire thanks to the vote, are now ready to sell on.  As yet the ram lamb meat has not been tested to see if it has affected the flavour.
#13 Fallow, Feed or Fertility?
MyFarmers chose to boost the fertility in Front Meadow at CRF
Success Would have done the same The field was in a sorry state but thanks to the fertility work to following wheat crop has done very well.
#14 Should we grow oilseed rape?
MyFarmers voted ‘yes’
Success Would have done the same Sadly the crop failed due to adverse weather conditions.  It was a good decision but poor luck.
#15 Dairy to be Different?
MyFarmers chose the make-up of a planned dairy herd
??? Would have preferred more Ayrshires Plans for the dairy herd are still that — plans, so hard to judge the success or failure of this one yet! ???

All in all it’s fair to say you did rather well!  Most decisions you made turned out well and in most instances, where they did not it was down to poor luck or weather (or both!).  Furthermore, even on those decisions that didn’t turn out as well as hoped Farmer Morris would have done the same thing himself.

Of course we’ll never know how well the alternatives may have worked:  Would Randor sheep have thrived here?  Would a Shetland bull have fitted in so smoothly to the herd?  There’s just no way of knowing.   And with the last vote, on the dairy herd, only time will tell!

But to have got so many big decisions so right — you can all give yourselves a well-earned pat on the back!

Pig football!

November 27, 2012

We certainly had a lot of fun during MyFarm — we hope you did too.  Here’s something we’ve been keeping under our hats that we hope you’ll enjoy.

Some months ago the farm staff decided to introduce a feed ball to the pigs’.  It was one of a number of things we tried to keep the pigs mentally stimulated as part of our commitment to Freedom Foods animal welfare standards.  Keeping them entertained not only makes them use their brains but it also helps stop them from bullying or biting one another.

As with many things MyFarm it’s a fun way to show the amount of work and thought that goes into the welfare of all our animals.

What is crop rotation?

November 20, 2012

Even though MyFarm’s coming to a close we still have lots we want to share with you about farming and how it works.

Some weeks ago back (you can tell how long by Farmer Andrew’s sunglasses!) we spoke to our soil expert (and Farm Guide!) Ian ‘The Soil’ Bradley.  He helped explain crop rotation, why farmers do it and why it’s important:

#LoveMyFarm Wall

November 13, 2012

With MyFarm drawing to a close we’ve been collating lots of the comments you MyFarmers have made (both positive and negative).  One of the ideas we had was to build a virtual ‘Love MyFarm’ wall, where we could share all the positive messages we’ve had.

So we built one

It’s a little garish but we love it.  We’ve loved sharing the farm with you and, it seems, lots of you have enjoyed it too.

Today is my penultimate day working on MyFarm.  I want to sign off with a simple thank you.  The passion, enthusiasm, kindness and interest you’ve all shown me and the project were on of the things I loved most about this job.  I shall miss it — and you.

Goodbye Gerty

November 5, 2012

There’s rather a ‘circle of life’ feeling around the farm at the moment — and not just in relation to our Wellywood win!

The nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back, winter is coming and the farm is moving through the seasonal work too — like the Tup ahead of the next lambing season etc.

Gerty the Fresian cow

Gerty, our milking demonstration cow

Fresh from the announcing the results of our ‘Dairy to be Different?’ vote where you chose the make-up of our planned dairy herd, we’ve some news regarding Gerty our incumbent milking demonstration cow.

You may remember, back in July, Gerty spent some ‘quality time’ with Juggernaut our Long Horn bull with the expectation she’d be in calf (pregnant) shortly afterwards.  Juggernaut’s a ‘proven’ bull (he’s definitely fertile and produces good calves) so Farmer Morris and Stockman Mark were confident Gerty would be a calving and therefore milking again for next season.

Recently a vet came out to the farm to check on Gerty.  As a Father of three myself it was strikingly similar to the baby scans I attended as an excited Dad-to-be.  The ‘patient’ was obviously rather different (best get that in for Mrs. Farmer Andrew!) but the scanning machine and screen — with grainy two-tone colour image — was very familiar.

Primrose, a newborn calf

Primrose, back when she was a newborn calf

 

The sad news was Gerty is not pregnant.

As a result Gerty won’t be ‘put to the bull’ again.  She is rather mature, in cow years, and put bluntly if she’s not getting pregnant, producing calves and milk she’s not doing her job.  Farms cannot afford to carry passengers.  Every animal (just as with every member of staff) has to contribute.  If not, they have to go.

It probably won’t be until the New Year but Gerty’s card is marked.  It’s another reminder of the serious, business side of farming.  Even for animals the staff are attached to (those that have had the pleasure enjoyed working with Gerty) there can be no exceptions.  Gerty’s had a long, healthy, happy life at MyFarm and her legacy will live on.  Her most recent calf, Primrose who was born last winter, may well be producing calves and milk herself in the next few years.

I suspect even the most ‘battle hardened’ of the farm staff will have a little lump in their throat when Gerty has to go though.

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