Ffos Yr Ewig Blog

What to do with that lane?

The smallholding at Ffos Yr Ewig was originally a much larger farm but as often occurs the surrounding land was sold off to neighbouring farmers and the house with a smaller piece of land sold as a smallholding. This consequent sale meant the flat level lane into the farm could no longer be used and a steep twisty track put in to the south - great fun in the snow.

Anyway what to do with this ‘dead end lane’ – well the addition of 300 tons of soil & shale dug out from beside the cow yard had raised the level sufficiently to provide a dry level surface. Either side of the lane are fields so I had a brainwave, why not build pig arcs down the length of the lane, making feeding and watering easier (as all on concrete!) with access gates out to the fields so the piggies get to play in all the muddy bits!

So work commenced :

First the concrete base was laid (under the watchful eye of Kez!)  then the walls built up using 9″ concrete blocks – this was the sows & boars house! thought I’d build it strong!

The addition of a couple of coats of render, an angled timber roof, a concrete path, an extra yard area for feeding and fencing and its nearly done!

A place for all the muck!!!

Once the cow barn & yard was finished the cows came in a did what they do best : eat and poo!! Lacking any form of front loader or bobcat the job of clearing cow muck was left to the trusty fork & wheelbarrow. The yard and the strip of concrete at the front of the barn was cleared weekly and a layer of new straw added inside the barn where they sleep. The realisation soon dawned that there was not enough space beside the cow yard to store the winters silage bales and the ever increasing ‘muck pile’

So outside contractors where brought in to dig out the bank and increase the storage area.

The use of the ‘track machine’ & dumper truck quickly dug out the top soil and shale subsoil, leaving a large level area. The soil that was dug out was ‘dumped’ into the adjacent ‘sunken lane’ that was waterlogged all year round. The extent of the soil dug out raised the level in the lane by 4-5 feet, and after a bit of levelling from the track machine and repeated times up and down with the roller & tractor (improved my reversing skills no end!!) the end result was a dry level compact surface.

The addition of £1200 of hardcore & scalpings (its so expensive!!) spread very efficiently with the track machine then repeatly rolled by my trusty Fergy & roller, made a compact surface (ideally to be concreted at some point in the future) leaving plenty of room for silage bales, that 20 ton load of fodder beet at Christmas and last but not least the muck!!

Happy New year

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2011.

December 30th saw the birth of ‘Alfie’ a British White bull calf. The calving went well and Alfie was healthy and up on his feet quickly. Pansy is an excellent mother but despite her best efforts & moo’s Alfie wouldn’t suckle. The first milk is full of colustrum and is vital for the calf’s long term health & immune system. After a few hours of trying unsuccessfully to suckle,  a few tricks were employed to help Alfie. A bit of golden syrup dabbed on the end of my finger then dip in sugar encouraged Alfie to suckle my finger so I could ‘lure’ him closer to the teat and hopefully ‘swap’.

Think the phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink is very apt (obviously for cows as well!) as it didn’t work.  It got to 10pm, eight hours after Alfie was born and still hadn’t suckled so I made the decision to place his mum, Pansy in the crush and hand milk her, then bottle feed Alfie. At the start milking was interspered with attempted kicks (as best can be done in the crush) but soon she settled down and I’m sure was a bit relieved. Six bottles later and Alfie looked very contented with a full tummy of milk so left them for the night.

I returned in the morning hoping to find him suckling but no such joy so repeated the process in the morning and evening. I did reduce the quantity of milk given each time for want that Alfie would realise he was on to a good thing and just lay there waiting for his milk to arrive!!!!  Finally this morning, New Years Day gave him one bottle, he got up and attempted to suckle and I gave him a ‘sturdy’ push, getting his head down and managed to feed the teat into his mouth. Success he was suckling and I was relieved of my milking duties.  With this new found independance Alfie was up an about exploring the yard.

Pedigree British White Pansy & calf 'Alfie'

Cow Barn & Yard

The conversion of the barn at Ffos Yr Ewig into suitable winter accomodation for my small herd of British White was a relatively simple job in comparion to the construction of the cow yard. The main priority with the cow barn was to get a concrete floor layed with a good gradient running down to the left front corner to allow excess liquid to drain off. A small amount of hardcore (scalpings) was spread on the compacted base to build up the necessary gradient, then the shuttering set up ready for the ready mix concrete lorry. Two post sleeves were cemented in so to accept hanging posts so the option of gates could be added.

Open barn 'before'

The construction of the cow yard was a little more involved needing a 3′ deep trench being dug around the edge so the post sleeves could be set in place with reinforcing rods linking them together before the whole trench was filled with concrete. The post were then inserted into these sleeves & the cattle hurdles attached. Getting the crush in place (with no tractor with a front loader) was a tough job but slotted in becoming part of the fence line. The whole area within the yard was then concreted over.

The cow yard 'before'

Barn - nice and clean before the cows come in!

Cow yard finished

Cows in barn

May 2010 – drainage

After the last couple of years of wet summers & winters the long dry spell was a welcome change. It also provided the ideal opportunity to drain the main field. The lower half of the field (next to the stream) has been waterlogged for long periods and the old clay drainage pipes  (visible from the banks of the stream) have become blocked or collapsed.

A mini digger was hired, 5 x 50m of 150mm perforated drainage pipes were purchased. A catchment ditch was cut across the top of the field, breaking through the old clay pipes (releasing large amounts of water!) this was then angled across the field to the stream. The soil/clay that was dug out was spread thinly over the field, trying to fill in the dips in the field that collect water. The pipe was laid in the ditch and infilled with 40mm clean gravel and the final 18″ filled with top soil. Sounds simple but with over 130 tonnes of gravel and top soil needed was a big job. This was made significantly easier by the hire of a bobcat, ideal for scooping up gravel and top soil, an amazing machine (not the greatest off roader but coped with the dry field, although did get it stuck once!)

Amazing amount of water once you start digging!

Once the gravel and the top soil was filled in, the mini digger was used to do the mucky job of spreading the clay/topsoil that had been dug out of the ditches. This didn’t take long but in the process spread an enormous amount of small stones contained in the clay over the field!! The next few weekends were spent picking up stones! Eventually the field was ready to reseed, so was harrowed hard (bring more stones to the surface – argh!!!) over-seeded and  rolled. All that was left to do was wait for some rain, watch the grass seed grow and hope the drainage pipes work!

A good application of  ‘muck’ over the field in the new year, will help the clay to break down (as well as a hard frost!) and allow the roots of the new grass to penetrate more easily. Ideally next year will get a contractor in to ‘mole plough’ perpendicular to the drainage pipes to achieve a well drain fertile field. A soil test to determine the acidity (hopefully reduced now the soil isn’t waterlogged) a top dressing of lime – perfect field!!

Last bit of gravel!

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