Friday 28 June 2013

Breakfast Time On The Smallholding.

  That's the cattle and Shetland pony walking up to the trough for their beef nuts this morning.  I just shout:

"Sug, sug, sug. "

Po, po, po"

Also works.  Don't know why but the cattle always moo and respond to it.  Perhaps I am like Dr Doolittle? I can talk to the animals.  They also like it when I bang on the metal bucket like a drum.

'Bracken' shouldn't be eating the beef nuts but he always pushes in and helps his self to them.  We have four continental heifers and 4 dairy cross bullocks and a bull calf.  The bull calf lives in a paddock up at the farm.

I have also had to have to spread 'bag manure' (fertilizer) for the first time in 7 years.  A combination  of greedy cattle and lack of growth and ("don't say it") RAIN!  Means that yonder cattle need fertilizer to make the grass grow.

We also paddocked off a couple of acres to grow more silage.  It's supposed to be mad dear this year.  Cattle prices are very poor at the moment.  I heard of a farmer getting 2 Euros at mart for a Jersey cross dropped calf.  And (never start a sentence with and) he would have had to pay the mart commission to sell it.  Dairy cross cattle are only making a Euro a kilogram at the moment.   That's about forty pence a pound in Sterling.  I have decided I will keep my bullocks until they are really big.  It's the only way we will get anything for them.

We also set a field of fodder Kale this week.  Never grown it before.  Have you?


  1. Cattle looking well, looks like some good beef there, but expensive beef fed on nuts, even more so when they get to share with a Shetland. Yes, they soon get to recognise feeding time.

    Your grass does look a bit thin, strange ours is looking very green and lush, despite all the rain. Drove back from Newcastle on Thursday, that side of the country seem to be a bit in front of us, there's a lot of fields had a cut.

    Bull calf? Are you starting a breeding programme?

    Beef cattle making £1.70 up to £2.20 per kg this week, seems to be a good demand for them locally. I know Jersey cross aren't particularly valuable, but 2 euros does seem ridiculous, less auctioneers commission less transport, it probably cost him to sell it. Our old guru JS would have loved to get some of those, really cheap home-killed meat.

    Best of luck with the kale, it used to grow well here (heavy clay soil) but I haven't seen any for years, decades even. Cold and usually wet and muddy work to cut and lead it in to them, could they be folded on it?

    Still raining here, cool, overcast and breezy.
    Raggy cat spending more time in front of fire, it's been cool enough to put it on, brought me a dead mouse and a sparrow this week.

  2. Hi Cumbrian, I just started feeding the cattle on 'Bull Beef' last week to give them some condition and any minerals they may be lacking. The shine in their coats and the general appearance/condition is incredible.

    It's been a fabulous summer here and we actually need RAIN! Ireland needing rain. That's a good one isn't it? Most farmers have made their silage or making it and now it's slurry time again for a second cut, maybe even a third?

    Bull calf is the one calf that lived out of the four. He's flying it.

    Even the Jersey cow is worthless when she stops producing milk. My Jersey crosses are doing well. The British Friesian bullock is the best though. Every body seems to go for the continental breeds like the Charolais (got an heifer) and the Simmental (we have a heifer)and the Limousin (lean meat but often mad) they actually have a heavier bone weight, so they weigh more. Everything is based on quick maturity and weight.

    I like the Aberdeen Angus and the Hereford. A good whitehead (Hereford/Friesian cross) is always a good animal and thrives on our peninsula, a place where you can get every season in a day or hour sometimes.

    JS would have loved to get some of Jersey cross calves. But it costs 200 Euros to kill them and you can't slaughter them at home anymore.

    Believe you can bale kale. But most silage contractors won't do it because the stalks are very hard on the baler. Probably strip graze it with electric fence and throw in a round bale of straw to aid digestion. Barley is doing really well.

    Gorgeous here again today. Could do with some rain at night to make the grass grow.

    Good old Raggy cat.


  3. Yeah, that's got to be a first, a resident of the Emerald Isle praying for rain. Still too wet here, silage making hasn't started yet but the grass is looking well. Never seen a third cut of silage, two is a year to remember here.
    An old farmer (he'd be 60+ when I was about 14) told he remembered one year getting two crops of hay, but I've never heard of that happening.

    Pleased to hear the surviving bull is thriving, got anything special in mind for him?

    Yes, the continental type beef cattle seem to be the latest thing, I remember mainly Freisans for milk and Herefords for beef, with a few of the red Ayrshires, Belted Galways, and strangely perhaps, a few Highland with their fearsome-looking horns, although they always looked fairly docile beasts maybe this or was just an illusion? Our weather is similar, 4 seasons in a day is not unusual.
    Love to see the little Jersey cows, sad that the best milk producer is the worst beef carcase, but there's none about here. I'd really love to have one for the rich milk.

    I doubt if our old sage would have paid 200 Euros to drop a beast. I wonder how he'd have reacted to all the modern rules and regulations, he seemed to show a fine disregard for any sort of authority or regulation at the time he was writing.

    Never seen kale baled, I can believe it would not be beneficial to the internal workings of a baler, some of the stems were as thick as your wrist.
    Pleased to hear the barley's doing well, what you got in mind for it?

    Raggy cat gone out, it's had a good feed of the remnants of the ox-tails from our dinner stew, so probably not in the mood for hunting.

  4. Never heard of getting 2 hay crops in a year. I have known hay to be cut in September and silage in October.

    Somebody told me not to clamp the bull to make him a bullock. Bull beef is worth a lot more and they grow quicker.

    JS was his own person and talked more sense than anybody. A great man with a love and respect for the peasant farmer and smallholder.

    The barley will (hopefully) be made into silage. We sowed it with grass in a ley mix. When can you sow winter barley?

    Perhaps we should feed Domino early so he hunts more at night?


  5. Don't think I've heard that bull beef being better and growing faster, I thought the idea of nipping them was to divert the energy they used to grow into sexual maturity could be used to fatten into beef? And usually to make them a bit more docile?
    But since he's the only survivor, maybe seem a shame if you didn't let him keep his wedding tackle and hope he's got a mild manner?

    Yes, I agree JS talked more sense than all the politicians put together, I'm just re-reading "The Fat of The Land", I can re-read a book and pick up things I missed first time round. Sadly though, his preached (and practiced) lifestyle doesn't fit in with todays mercenary fast-track way of living, politically-correct attitudes and H & S regulated business.
    I believe a lot of people would love to return to his way of living, but society has made it so very difficult, you need to be extremely rich to live such a simple life. Which some would say defeats the object.

    Just tasted a dj of blueberry wine, very nice too, a lilac colour, ready for bottling, should be just perfect for Christmas. About due to put another brew on as well, the current keg's about empty, a very nice stout, and I forgot to make a batch for the other keg.

    Don't know about winter barley, it's not a big crop locally, can't see why it shouldn't be drilled in any time after you've taken the silage cut?

    Been dry today, but a stiff South breeze and cloudy, my grass is looking green and lush again, I wish I could think of something edible that grew as fast. Maybe a couple of goslings to eat it and fatten for Christmas? Do they need housing?

    Might be a good idea feeding Domino early, but I think if the hunting instinct's there, he'll be catching the vermin anyway. Raggy cat doesn't seem to keep any particular hours, eats at any time, always goes out at night and waiting to come in next morning. I've never seen a live mouse (or a rat) so maybe it keeps them at their distance.

  6. They reckon a bull can be finished in 16 months and a bullock takes between twenty four and thirty two months. I suppose it also depends on the breed and what intensive feeding it gets.

    I often read books over and over again and always find something new. Especially John Seymour books. Think you could still live a self sufficient kind of life in Portugal or Spain. Places that don't rip off and have fantastic weather.

    Think fattening rabbits might be worth while again. The geese would need some kind of vermin and weatherproof shelter. I once new an old man who fattened one hundred ducks in a derelict house he had on his land. Then he sold them to the butcher at Christmas.

    Thanks for Domino's feeding advice. He seems to sleep most of the day. Must be busy hunting at night.


  7. Be interesting to see if the bull grows faster than the bullocks and makes better beef, or at least the same price in 16 months not 24, look forward to a few pics of him.

    Portugal or Spain would be good places to try the self-sufficient way of life, a bigger variety of crops to grow. Nicest place I've seen is the S.E corner of France we visit regularly, a low-lying area in the rain-shadow of the mountains that form the border between Spain and France. Mediterranean climate but very green and lush, good area for wine and cheese, and part of the Catalan region, specialty is chorizo, many local varieties. But the bureaucracy in France is probably similar to UK and you don't understand the language. There is a guy, sells bits and pieces of produce from a fieldside hut, lives in the hut I think, it's got TV, gas ring and fridge, table and a couple of chairs. He seems to be very content sitting in the sun drinking wine and serving the occasional customer, I've never seen it busy. There's an old motor home parked behind the hut, he probably sleeps in it.

    Cheapest place I think at the present time is Bulgaria, but they have some terrible winters. And the language is even worse than French or Spanish, even the writing's different.

    Rabbits are probably the most efficient meat producers in the world, I tried a few New Zealand Whites years ago, no problems, but no sale for then either. I wasn't allowed to top them at home, so had to take a batch to my parents, my dad was still alive then, he used to hover with his tin plate (army issue from God knows when) for all the hearts, livers and kidneys. Much as I'm tempted to get a few, they need daily attention.

    Miserable day here, overcast, breezy, cool and raining but not heavy.

    Raggy cat been in and out again despite the rain. Like Domino it usually tends to sleep most of the day, asks to go out at night and waiting at front door every morning.

  8. Hello Northsider Dave,
    I don't know what "rip off" exactly minds, but I'm not agree with that you say about "fantastic weather" here in Spain (I live in Zamora just near of Portugal border). Today we have 33ºC and rising, we expect 38ºC for weekend. This is a hell if you don't have water near.
    How's going your fight against rush? I'm very intrigued to know if your invention has worked, I hope so.

  9. Hi Cumbrian, There's a great site called Diggers and Dreamers. It offers lots of smallholding opportunities for people rich or poor. You don't even need to buy some of the places to live on one.

    I was knocked out with Portugal when I visited it in April. Fantastic weather, lovely people and so cheap. So different to the British Isles with its silly governments, expensive living and ever disappointing weather. If I didn't live here I would head off to Spain or Portugal and give it a go. The profound thought of new earthquakes also puts me off a bit. Suppose if you worried about everything you would never do anything, would you?

    Your French wine seller sounds a character. Think I would like to put the world to rights sampling his wine and talking about vegetable growing.

    I like Bulgarian wine. I believe you can buy an house for less than 10 thousand Euros. Would love to visit it some time. I would also like to visit Ukraine to see the peasant farmers working the land together and with horse and carts.

    I suppose you could start off with a couple of rabbits. But yes animals take up a lot of your time and its difficult to go on holiday or away for a few days.

    Been reading about Barley. You can grow it in the same place every year. Winter barley can be sown in October and harvested in August. Think I might grow some and make some more silage next year.

    Raining here today. Transplanted some swede thinnings into vacant land made by lifting new potatoes. Midges bit me to death. But swedes all seem to have took.

    Domino looks through the window. Terrier seems to have taken a liking to Domino's cat food and milk. Such characters.


  10. Hi Honorio,

    Ireland is 62 percent more expensive for alcohol. In Portugal you get a large glass of beer for two Euros Fifty and food is very cheap. Beer in Ireland is around the 4.50 price.

    I can't comprehend what 33 degrees Celsius is like. I noticed recently in Portugal all the brilliant irrigation channels and water wheels. We don't realise over here how lucky we are to have so much water.

    The weed wiper/licker worked very well. It think we got rid of seventy percent of the rushes in one field. Still wish there was an organic weedkiller on the market. Thanks for your comment Honorio!

    1. Northsider,
      I was inquiring how gliphosate works against perennial weeds, and I think that the best time to apply it is when the plants are take down its reserves from aereal parts to roots. The best moment, here in the south, is in late September.
      The beer price difference may be related to the difference in quality...

  11. May or June seems a good month here if it's dry and not windy. I wish somebody would invent a natural weedkiller spray. I believe you can use vinegar. I wouldn't use man made chemicals on my vegetables but I would on perennial weeds in the fields. So I suppose I am an organic vegetable grower and a chemical smallholder.

    The 'Super Bock'lager in Portugal was very enjoyable and very reasonably priced.



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