smallholder

Oct 162013
 

The strange things that smallholders find!

I came across some star snot tonight whilst closing up the pigs.  What is it I hear you say?

“Suggestions include that the substance is a type of mould, an animal excretion or even ‘star snot’ from meteorites.”

There are many theories about what this stuff is, and more qualified people than I can tell you about it.  (Although being a self-confessed Trekie you can guess what one I like to think is the answer. )

 Click here for the link to one of my favourite radio programmes BBC Scotland  ‘Out Of Doors’ debating the subject.

Live Long And Prosper :0)

 

star snot

Oct 292012
 
fungi

Wild mushroom, what and how to collect?

woodland fungi

woodland fungi

It’s a very good year for fungi, and we have quite a range of mushrooms in our wood that I like to look at but am too cautious to try to eat.  But for those of you who are more adventurous than I am here is some useful information:

What fungi to collect

  • Wildlife, especially insects, need mushrooms too, so only pick what you will use.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous and others rare and should not be collected – only collect what you know and take a field guide with you to identify mushrooms where you find them.
  • Some species are vulnerable, so please consider whether there is an alternative species that is more common that might suit your purpose.

How to collect mushrooms

  • Allow mushrooms to release spores, do not pick mushrooms until the cap has opened out and leave those that are past their best.
  • The main part of the mushroom is below the surface; take care not to damage or trample it and not to disturb its surroundings.
  • Scatter trimmings discreetly in the same area as the mushroom came from.

Check out these links if you want to know more

      

Oct 192012
 
PLS-00008663-001

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores

To a mouse – Robert Burns

“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.”

Winter time is likely to be the time when you start to suspect you have rats or mice (also known as rodents or vermin).   It is cold and food supplies are less plentiful outside – this is often the time when rodents move into the house or buildings around the smallholding. As a nature lover I am happy to live and let live – so what is the big issue about mice and rats?

What is the risk from rats and mice?

Rats and mice spread germs that can cause severe illnesses and disease in humans, some of which can be fatal to humans, although this is very rare.  They can carry  Salmonella and Weils Disease through their droppings and urine.   Campylobacter (Campylobacter infections, can cause diarrhoea and fever. This bacteria is spread via rodents to poultry and thus enter the human food chain  and Leptospira.  The pathogens of this potentially fatal febrile disease are transmitted via rodent urine and can enter the human blood stream through small cuts, for instance.  Mice may also carry tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a fungal skin disease) in humans.

Rats and mice can also cause fires by gnawing on cables. Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that half of all agricultural fires in Great Britain can be traced back to rodents.

Signs of rodent infestation:

  • Sounds. Gnawing, climbing noises in walls, squeaks.
  • Droppings. Found along walls, behind objects and near food supplies.
  • Burrows. Rat burrows are indicated by fresh diggings along foundations, through floorboards into wall spaces.
  • Runs. Look for dust-free areas along walls and behind storage material. A tracking patch made of flour, rolled smooth with a cylindrical object, can be placed in pathways overnight to determine if rodents are present.
  • Gnawing may be visible on doors, ledges, in corners, in wall material, on stored materials, or on other surfaces wherever mice are present. Fresh accumulations of wood shavings, insulation, and other gnawed material indicate active infestations. Fresh gnawing marks will be pale in colour.
  • Rodent odours. Persistent musky odours are a positive sign of infestation.
  • Visual sighting. Daylight sighting of mice is common. Rats are seen in daylight only if populations are high. Quietly enter your barn at night, wait in silence for five minutes and listen for the sound of rodent activity. Look around with a powerful torch; rat eyes will reflect the light.
  • Smudge (rub) marks. These may be found on pipes or rafters where dirt and oil from their fur leave a greasy film.
  • Urine, both wet and dry, will fluoresce under ultraviolet light, although so will some other materials. Urine stains may occur along travel-ways or in feeding areas.

“It is a generally accepted rule of thumb that there are approximately 25 mice or rats for every one that is seen.”

Why Control Rodents?

Damage from rodents comes in many forms:

  • Damage to buildings. Mice and rats will damage wood and electrical wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Destruction of insulation. Many livestock and poultry facilities show serious deterioration within five years. Associated with this damage are costs for re-insulation, increased energy costs and poorer feed conversions by animals.
  • Feed consumed. A colony of 100 rats will consume over 1 tonne of feed in 1 year.
  • Feed contaminated. A rat can contaminate 10 times the amount of feed it eats with its droppings, urine and hair. A rat produces 25,000 droppings per year, a mouse 17,000.
  • Biosecurity. Rodents are recognized as carriers of approximately 45 diseases, including salmonellosis, pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, swine dysentery, trichinosis, and toxoplasmosis. Mice and rats can carry disease-causing organisms on their feet, increasing the spread of disease.

Is It A Rat Or Mouse Problem?

Since rats and mice require different control strategies, you should determine which vermin you have. The simplest way to differentiate between the types of infestation is by examining the droppings.

Rodent or Vermin Droppings

Mouse droppings are black and rice-kernel size, whereas rat droppings are black and bean-sized.

Breeding

Mice and rats have tremendous breeding potential. Under ideal situations, a pair of rats and their offspring can produce 20,000,000 young in 3 years. Mice reproduce even faster.

Life expectancy of a rat is around one year, during which female rats will typically breed five times and produce an average of 8 offspring. A mouse life expectancy is around one year, during which a female may breed up to six times and produce about six offspring.

Mice prefer to nest in dark secluded areas with little chance of disturbance. They may burrow into the ground in fields or around structures when other shelter is not readily available. Nests are constructed of shredded fibrous materials such as paper, and generally have the appearance of a “ball” of material loosely woven together. They are usually 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in diameter.  Foraging territories are no more than 6 metres away. If there is abundant food nearby they can nest within 1.2-1.6 metres of the source.

Litters of 5 or 6 young mice are born 19 to 21 days after mating, although females that conceive while still nursing may have a slightly longer gestation period. Mice are born hairless and with their eyes closed. They grow rapidly, and after 2 weeks they are covered with hair and their eyes and ears are open. They begin to make short excursions from the nest and eat solid food at 3 weeks. Weaning soon follows, and mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age.

Mice may breed year-round, but when living outdoors, they breed mostly in spring and autumn. A female may have 5 to 10 litters per year. Mouse populations can therefore grow rapidly under good conditions, although breeding and survival of young decline markedly when population densities become high.

Senses

Rats and mice have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing. They do not like open areas and prefer contact with walls and other objects.

Mice are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odour.

Habits

Rats and mice move rapidly and are excellent climbers and have no problem climbing vertical brick walls. They are also active burrowers and like to build nests in compost heaps or underneath hedges, sheds and decking. In the house they will nest in wall cavities and beneath floorboards. They are mainly active at night feeding on a range of commodities, particularly cereals and cereal products. They will eat about 10% of their own body weight of food daily. Rats require a regular supply of water, whereas mice do not as there is normally enough to survive on in their food. Rats are also good swimmers and are often found in sewers where there is food, water and shelter.

The front teeth of rats grow continuously and to keep the teeth to a useful length the rat needs to gnaw on hard objects all the time; objects can include lead water pipes, brickwork, electric cables, wood and anything else available. They usually have well worn runs between their living area and their food and water sources.

Mice will easily enter gaps of 5mm wide and they are very good climbers.

If a pencil fits in a gap, then a mouse can get in!

Mice eat many types of food but prefer seeds and grain. They are not hesitant to eat new foods and are considered “nibblers,” sampling many kinds of items that may exist in their environment. Foods high in fat, protein, or sugar may be preferred even when grain and seed are present. Such items include bacon, chocolate sweets, and butter (a little melted chocolate is a favourite in our mouse traps).

They do not range far from the nest. The maximum range for rats is 45 m (148 ft), for mice 9 m (30 ft). Rats are extremely apprehensive about new objects and will avoid them for several days. Leaving a trap out for about 5 days is necessary to ensure acceptance. Mice quickly accept new objects. This becomes very important when designing baiting or trapping programs.

Rodent Damage

Rats and mice will invade buildings in search of food and shelter. In doing so they may be involved in the transmission of disease, soiling and destroying belongings, damaging equipment and can cause serious structural damage by gnawing through cables, waterpipes and woodwork etc. They also eat and destroy food stores.

Did you know?

  • mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age?
  • worldwide, rats transmit roughly 40 diseases?
  • unlike mice, rats avoid anything new? They only take tiny amounts of freshly laid-out bait and often avoid new traps completely.
  • rats do not just eat food leftovers, but also soap and paper, dead mice, birds and fowl
  • a rat produces 25000 droppings per year, a mouse 17000.
  • rats and mice are highly adaptable creatures. Some of them have even developed resistance to rodenticides

Controlling and reducing vermin 

The next step in controlling a rodent problem is to reduce the population with a combination of baits, traps, and cats.  It is best to ensure that you set up a programme of activity that is overseen by you – some of the work can be undertaken by other people such as private pest control companies, or your local authority pest control officer.  However, this will be an ongoing matter that will require you to be vigilant and pro-active.

Prevention – Reducing rodent infestations

Eliminating Hiding Places and Nesting Sites

Rodents do not like to be exposed. Maintain sound housekeeping, eliminate loosely piled building materials, old feed bags or anything else that a rodent can hide in or under.

“Best practice says that when cleaning you should let it air for 30 to 60 minutes, and if you find mice droppings or you find nesting material, you should spray it with a 10% bleach solution or disinfectant, and let it soak in for a while.  Ideally you should never sweep or vacum the droppings because this puts infectious matter into the air, where it can be inhaled.  The best bet is to clean with something disposable whilst wearing rubber gloves.”

Remove Food and Water

Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, open water troughs, sweating pipes and open drains. Keep all feeds in rodent-proof bins (we use metal dustbins with lids or old wheelie bins), covered cans or metal hoppers. Reduce feed spillage and immediately dispose of dead animals. Without readily available food and water, populations cannot build.

Mice and Rat Predators

vermin control

Some dogs  and cats will catch and kill mice and rats.  Cats may limit low-level mouse or rat populations.  However, if conditions are ideal for rodents, cats cannot eliminate a problem because they are not able to catch mice as quickly as they multiply. Cats may also introduce disease into a facility by bringing in rodents caught in fields.

Around most structures, mice can find many places to hide and rear their young out of the reach of such predators. Cats probably cannot eliminate existing mouse populations, but in some situations they may be able to prevent reinfestations once mice have been controlled. Farm cats, if sufficient in number, may serve this function.

Noise

Mice are somewhat wary animals and can be frightened by unfamiliar sounds or sounds coming from new locations. Most rodents, however, can quickly become accustomed to new sounds heard repeatedly.  There is little evidence to suggest that rodents’ responses to no-specific, high-frequency sound (ultrasonic sound) is any different from their response to sound within the range of human hearing.  Tests of commercial ultrasonic devices have indicated that rodents may be repelled from the immediate area of the ultrasound for a few days, but then will return and resume normal activities.

Repellents

Rodents find some types of tastes and odors objectionable, but chemical repellents are seldom a practical solution to mouse infestations. Substances such as moth balls (naphthalene) or household ammonia, in sufficient concentration, may have at least temporary effects in keeping mice out of certain enclosed areas.

Other solutions to rodent problems, including rodent-proof construction and methods of population reduction, are usually more permanent and cost-effective than the use of repellents.

Toxicants

Anticoagulants (slow-acting, chronic toxicants). Mice are susceptible to all of the various anticoagulant rodenticides , but they are generally less sensitive (often far less sensitive) to the active ingredients than rats.  Anticoagulants have the same effect on nearly all warm-blooded animals, but the sensitivity to these toxicants varies among species. Additionally, residues of anticoagulants which are present in the bodies of dead or dying rodents can cause toxic effects to scavengers and predators.

Anticoagulant Resistance

Within any population of  mice, some individuals are less sensitive to anticoagulants than others. Where anticoagulants have been used over long periods of time at a particular location, there is an increased potential for the existence of a population that is somewhat resistant to the lethal effects of the baits.

Anticoagulant Bait Failure

Resistance is only one (and perhaps the least likely) reason for failure in the control of mice with anticoagulant baits. Control with baits that are highly accepted may fail for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Too short a period of bait exposure. —Insufficient bait and insufficient replenishment of bait (none remains from one baiting to the next).
  • Too few bait stations and/or too far apart. For mice, stations should be within 6 feet (2 m) of one another in areas where mice are active. —Too small a control area, permitting mice to move in from untreated adjacent areas. —Genetic resistance to the anticoagulant. Although this is unlikely, it should be suspected if about the same amount of bait is taken daily for several weeks.

Reasons for failure to achieve control with anticoagulant baits :

  • Poor bait choice, or bait formulated improperly. Other foods are more attractive to the mice.
  • Improperly placed bait stations. Other foods are more convenient to the mice.
  • Abundance of other food choices.
  • Tainted bait: the bait has become mouldy, rancid, insect-infested, or contaminated with other material that reduces acceptance. Discard old bait periodically, and replace it with fresh.
  • Occasionally, mice accept bait well and an initial population reduction is successful. Then bait acceptance appears to stop although some mice remain. In such instances, it is likely that the remaining mice never accepted the bait, either because of its formulation or placement. The best strategy is to switch to a different bait formulation, place baits at different locations, and/ or use other control methods such as traps.

“Never place bait stations where livestock, pets, or other animals can knock them over. Spilled bait may be a potential hazard, particularly to smaller animals.”

 If misused, anticoagulant rodenticides can be lethal to non-target animals such as dogs, pigs, and cats.

Rodent droppings and pigs

The causative organism of Erysipelas in pigs is the ubiquitous bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, formally known as Erysipelas insidiosa. The bacterium can survive in soil or dung for 6 months or more but probably more significantly is carried by a wide range of wild birds as well as rodents, especially mice. Pigs are particularly susceptible to disease with this organism and the classical manifestations are the acute, septicaemic form producing sudden deaths or in milder cases “diamonds”. These forms of the disease can be controlled by a combination of hygiene, medication and vaccination.

Mice have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, such as swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called “bloody scours.”

Rodents and poultry

It has been estimated that rodents can increase poultry feed ussage by as much as 2% especially in the cold weather. Rats and mice are likely to find poultry houses a great place to live. Rodents spread diseases to poultry flocks by contaminating feed and bird living area with urine or droppings. Rats and mice are linked to poultry diseases such as salmonellosis, colibacillosis, coryza, pasteurellosis, mycoplasmosis, hemorrhagic enteritis,hymenolepiasis, capilariasis, and ascaridiasis. Because of their ability to harbor pathogens, rodents also can carry over disease organisms from one flock to another even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected.  Rodents also carry parasites such as lice, fleas, and mites.

All types of rodents eat poultry feed and they waste and contaminate more than they eat. It has been suggested by some authorities that one rat eats approximately 25 pounds of feed per year.   In addition to damage and feed loss rodents can cause high mortality rates and production losses. Rats have been known to kill baby chicks and break and eat eggs, and they may frighten birds by their movements or by noises they create.  Research has shown that by reducing the rodent population in poultry houses the bird mortality rate can also be lowered.

Rodent proofing a building

• Concrete: Concrete should be 2 inches thick if made of precast reinforced concrete plates fastened together, or at least 3¾ inches thick if not reinforced.
• Galvanized Sheet Metal: 24 Gauge or heavier; perforated sheet metal or grills should be 14 gauge.
Brick: Regular size, 3¾ inches thick with joints filled with mortar.
• Hardware Cloth: 19 Gauge ½ by ½ inch mesh to exclude rats, 24 gauge, ¼ by ¼ to exclude both rats and mice.

Any openings that are needed for ventilation should be screened or rodent proofed to prevent rodent access. With elimination of entry points, any potential hiding places outside the house should also be eliminated. Obvious food sources such as spilled feed should also be eliminated, use hanging feeders and remove any uneaten food before nightfall.

In some instances, a strip of heavy gravel placed adjacent to building foundations or other structures will reduce rodent burrowing at these locations. In any event, keep the perimeter of buildings and other structures clean of weeds and debris (including stacked lumber, firewood, and other stored materials) to discourage rodent activity and to allow easier detection of rodent sign.

However, any drastic change to their habitat may cause rodents to abandon their habitat. However they will only move to the next building or into the woods to wait until the coast is clear to return. Therefore the best plan is to elimate the rodents before undertaking a major clear-up.

Livestock food storage – making it vermin proof

Where possible, store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers or rooms. Stack sacked or boxed foods in orderly rows on pallets or tables in a way that allows for thorough inspection for evidence of mice. In such storage areas, keep stored materials away from walls.  Sweep floors frequently to permit ready detection of fresh droppings.

When storing foods or feed on pallets, keep in mind that mice can jump up more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) from a flat surface. They are also good climbers and can walk up surfaces such as wood or concrete (unless the surfaces have a slick finish). Mice can live for considerable periods of time within a pallet of feed without coming down to the floor.

Useful links

Oct 102012
 
scotland flag

You’ve got the land and now want some animals – Who do I need to contact? What are the rules? Where do I get the paperwork? What if something goes wrong?

If you are not interested in keeping animals on your land or smallholding then you probably won’t want to go any further than registering (if at all) your smallholding.

Keeping Livestock

If you are planning to keep animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, hens, and cattle then read on. Different rules apply to different animals. It is complicated – but not insurmountable! 

Is there a difference between a pet animal and livestock?

Do not assume that because your animal (e.g. sheep, micro-pig, goat, alpaca) is to be kept as a pet that these rules do not necessarily apply to you.  Ignorance is not a defence – if in doubt ask your local authority animal welfare officer.

Bureaucracy surrounding the smallholding

The bureaucracy surrounding agriculture and smallholding is a challenge, don’t let it get on top of you, but don’t ignore it either. You are treated by the authorities just the same as the big guys, and will therefore have to comply with all the regulations. It’s not what you came into smallholding for I know, but the good thing is that you are not alone! Local smallholder associations are there to provide support and advice.

 Things to do before you buy animals for your smallholding

‘Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.’

  • It is important that you read and understand the welfare guides/codes of recommendation relating to the animals you intend to keep.  Read more here.
  • You must register your land or ‘holding’ and get a CPH number (a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept). You need this number before you purchase/acquire/move any animal onto your smallholding.
  • You must get a flock or herdmark number for your livestock (e.g. sheep and pigs)
  • Get the relevant movement documentation for your animal (from the previous owner) and be aware of the regulations around transporting animals. You may need a licence for moving certain agricultural animals (e.g. pigs see below).

Once you have your animals – other things you need to do

  • Your animals must be properly identifiable, with the correct flock or herdmark numbers. Different animals have different tagging rules and some even require electronic identification (e.g. sheep).
  • Poultry and other fowl may require to be registered (see below).
  • You need to keep a register and medications book. Return an annual inventory where requested, and notify a range of agencies depending on the animal and it’s movements (more details below).

Feeding your animals/livestock

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of animal feed direct from an agricultural supplier which is pre-mixed, however rules do apply about how that feed is stored (and your premises may be inspected to make sure you comply), as well as what different animals can be fed (e.g. pigs cannot be fed anything that has had contact with your kitchen).

You must be registered with your local authority if you;
  • manufacture animal feed,
  • market animal feed,
  • import animal feed,
  • store animal feed,
  • transport animal feed,
  • sell co-products of food industry as animal feed,
  • carry out on-farm mixing,
  • feed food producing animals,
  • grow crops to be used as animal feed.
 Contact your local authority Animal Health Officer for details.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed as well as improving food safety throughout the food chain. This includes improving hygiene on farms and making sure that public health is not put at risk through what is fed to animals.  Food hygiene legislation applies to farmers, growers and other producers, in many cases for the first time as part of the ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety. There is a question and answer section available on the Food Standards Agency FSA website.

Smallholder paperwork

If you are the owner or occupier of a smallholding, you also need to keep records of animal stock on your premises. This is called a register of the animals on your holding; you should keep a separate register for each holding you use. This register will hold information about your animals, the holding and any movements of animals on or off your holding. You can keep your own records, in any format you wish however, it must contain all the necessary information as set out in the Scottish Government website you can download one from here .

Registering your smallholding

You must register your holding within 30 days from the date you first keep animals.  If you are a new sheep/goat/pig/cattle keeper you must register your holding with your local Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID) Office.  They will give you a CPH number which is a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept. The CPH code is used when reporting and recording animal movements.

Where do I get a Flock/herdmark number from?

You must get flockmark/herdmark number for your animals.  This is done by contacting your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).
They will give you a flockmark (sheep) or herdmark (goats/pigs) for your holding. The flockmark or herdmark is allocated to the holding and must be used to identify all animals born on the holding. Keepers who use the same holding must use the same flockmark or herdmark. You require the flockmark or herdmark to buy identification tags and electronic identifiers (from agricultural shops/suppliers).  You must also inform your local AHDO within 30 days of ceasing to keep animals on a holding.

Movement of animals

What is samu?

You must notify movements of animals on to your holding to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU).
SAMU, Government Buildings, 161 Brooms Road, Dumfries, DG1 3ES
Phone: 0845 601 7597, Fax: 01387 274 457
samu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
When an animal moves, its movement must be recorded in the triplicate movement document (sheep and goats – different rules apply for pigs) and then reported to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) within 3 days of arrival at the holding by the receiving keeper; moves that take place via a Market in Scotland will be notified to SAMU by the Market. The movement document forms the basis of the notification to SAMU. The white copy of the triplicate movement document can be either posted or faxed to SAMU. You can also complete electronic notification of the movement details.

You get your triplicate movement document (sheep and goats) from the RPID office.  All movements from a holding in Scotland (except those for emergency veterinary treatment) must be accompanied by a movement document and sent to SAMU .

Annual inventory of sheep and goats

You must return the annual inventory of sheep and goats sent to you directly by the Scottish Government. They will only know to do this if you have registered your smallholding.

REGISTRATION OF PIG HOLDINGS

Keepers of pigs are required to register holdings where pigs are kept and must maintain records of all pig movements.  Any owner or person in charge of pigs is required to notify the Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) at local AHDO office giving details of :
i. name and address of the owner or occupier of the holding
ii. identification number (CPH) of the holding
iii. species of livestock kept, and
iv. to notify the DVM within one month, of any changes to these details

Moving pigs

When pigs are moved a self declaration movement document or a licence issued by the local authority or Divisional Veterinary Manager must accompany the animals on their journey. Where a self declaration movement document is used a copy must be forwarded to the local authority within 3 days. The local authority will in turn notify the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) of the details of the movement.
In the event of disease outbreak, the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measure to control and eradicate highly contagious diseases.
Self declaration movement documents are therefore used to record the details of a movement in instances where keepers move pigs from a farm. The type of declaration to be used (Schedule 2, Schedule 3, or Schedule 4) will depend on the purposes for which the pigs are being moved and the destination to which the pigs are being moved to.
  • Schedule 2: Movement of pigs from a farm form of declaration
  • Schedule 3: Movement of pigs from a farm for breeding, exhibition, artificial insemination, or veterinary treatment form of declaration
  • Schedule 4: Movement of pigs on return to farm after movement from farm for breeding purposes form of declaration
Keepers need to be aware of the requirements being placed upon them when using self declaration movement documents.  No fees are payable. This is simply a notification process with the requirement being to forward a copy of the relevant self declaration to the local authority within 3 days. Tacit consent applies. This is only a notification process so this means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted if you have not heard from the local authority by the end of the target completion period.
Examples of forms can be downloaded from websites below:
Downlodad animal transportation advice and get info on pig movement licences etc from this web page

Do I need to register my chicken?

If you own or keep 50 or more poultry birds then you must register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). This is due to the avian influenza (preventative measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.  The poultry register remains open to allow for the continual voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 poultry. Bird species that must registered:
  •      Chickens 
  •      Turkeys 
  •       Ducks     
  •       Geese
  •       Quail     
  •       Emus  
  •       Rheas    
  •       Kiwis
  •      Pheasants  
  •      Partridge  
  •      Guinea fowl 
  •      Cassowaries
You can register with DEFRA by calling free on 0800 634 1112.

Disease in your livestock

Reporting Notifiable Diseases

Many animal diseases are highly contagious and must be reported as soon as an outbreak is suspected. Such notifiable disease include:
  •   Foot and Mouth Disease         
  • Swine Fever        
  •  Anthrax            
  • Rabies
If you suspect signs of notifiable disease, or have a case confirmed, you must report it immediately to: DEFRA Divisional Veterinary Manager, Local Authority Animal Health Officer and Police.  A comprehensive list of notifiable disease can be obtained from the DEFRA website

LOCAL AUTHORITY CONTACT DETAILS

You can find out your local authority animal health officer here.

Animals going to slaughter

Animals going to slaughter require a range of documentation

  • transfer of ownership through your triplicate book (see above)
  • movement licence for pigs (see above)
  • food chain document (see below)
  • you must also abide by the correct transport regulations and use a method of transport that is acceptable (e.g. you may find that an abbattoir might refuse to accept the delivery of sheep or pigs on a horse trailer because there is insufficient side gates which increases the risk of escape).

Food chain information

From 1 January 2010 EU food hygiene legislation required slaughterhouse operators to ‘request, receive, check and act upon’ food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, sheep and goats sent for slaughter for human consumption. 
Read more here.

The ‘five freedoms’.

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. By access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vision.
  • Freedom from discomfort. By provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and rest area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease. By preventing or rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment including humane slaughter.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. By ensuring that conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering
Sep 212012
 
green hazel nut

The hazel – a good smallholder tree that also produces the hazelnut

Hazel trees are part of the genus Corylus which includes nearly 20 different specimens, and most types also yield delicious nuts that can be eaten raw or cooked (more of that later).  The tree’s smooth, reddish-brown wood is also prized for its durability and elasticity.

Hazelnut Tree

Hazel is fast growing and easy to shape and therefore has a long history of use in hedging. The leaves stay with the tree much longer than most other trees, sometimes well into December.  The tree/shrub also provides habitat to numerous animals and birds, as well as serving as a source of food for animals, butterflies and insects.

 Why are hazels a good smallholder tree?

It is a good smallholder tree because it offers so many uses, as well as fitting comfortably on a smallholding. Those not familiar with forest gardening or agroforestry might not know that hazels like willows can also be used as animal fodder.
“In pastures, cows nibble on the leaves which increases the butterfat content in the milk. Sheep will readily eat the leaves, and pigs get excited if given hazel branches because they search for the crunchy nuts to eat.”
Growing hazels is also an opportunity to grow and harvest nuts at home without having to plant trees that will grow huge, and take years before they produce. Hazels grow in fertile, well drained soil. Once established, they can produce heavily and consistently.

Things to make with hazel

  • hurdles – read more here on how to make them.
  • bean poles
  • pea sticks
  • hedge stakes
  • walking sticks
  • fishing rods
  • baskets
  • tool handles
  • shepherds’ crooks
  • charcoal

 Growing or propogating hazels

Hazels can be acquired in three ways:

  • You can start new plants from hazel nuts. They tend to take some time to germinate (use a file to rub a small notch through the shell of the nut before planting), and do best when planted in pots. When germinated, let them grow to at least 6 – 12 inches before you transplant them in their final position.
  •  An easier way to propagate is by digging runners from established bushes.  Hazels spread by underground runners that develop roots. These runners can be cut away from the main plant, ( in autumn time after leaves have dropped and and the bushes have gone dormant).
  •  If all else fails there are garden centres or nurseries that sell both native, and hybrid cross hazelnut plants.

Where to plant a hazel tree?

  • Hazels need full sunlight in order to thrive.
  • Hazel trees prefer soil that is slightly acidic.

Hazel pests and diseases

Occasionally, pests, such as leaf hoppers and caterpillars will attack the hazel tree and damage its leaves and twigs.  One other insect that you may not welcome is the Hazelnut Weevil (pictured below) read here for more information.

hazelnut eating insect

Hazel trees are durable and typically don’t fall victim to epidemics.  However, there are a few diseases that the tree is particularly susceptible to, including:

  • Crown Gall – causes the formation of round wart-like galls to form on the tree’s lower branches.
  • Twig Blight – attacks the tree’s twigs; though, if left untreated, the blight will cause damage to the Hazel’s leaves and lead to premature leaf drop.
  • Powdery Mildew – appears as a white coating on the top of the leaves. In severe cases the leaves will turn yellow and drop before autumn.

What is a hazelnut?

Hazelnuts are produced by hazel trees and generally ripen in late August. The shell of a ripened hazelnut is brown, glossy, and roughly ovoid. Once shelled, the hazelnut has a bitter dark brown skin, which should be removed before cooking the nuts. The flesh of hazelnuts is white, and slightly sweet when the bitter skin is not present. The nuts can be used as a topping for soups and salads. Many cooks toast hazelnuts before using them to enhance their mild flavour. They are a good source of Vitamin E and B. Oils from the nuts are extracted and used in a number of beauty products.

How are hazelnuts created?

The catkins actually bloom in the winter, which makes the hazelnut unusual for a fruit tree. The wind carries the pollen to the female red blossoms, and then, it goes dormant until spring, when fertilization actually occurs. Shortly afterward, the nut starts to develop.

Why eat hazelnuts?

Hazelnuts are eaten raw, roasted or ground into flour. They are not only tasty, but they offer many health benefits as well, making them a delicious and nutritious snack.
 
Here are four reasons to increase your intake of these super-healthy nuts.
1. They Contain Good fats – high in omega-9 fatty acids. These healthy oils play an important role in balancing cholesterol in the body, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and offer protection against coronary heart disease and diabetes.
2. They are rich in vitamins and minerals – an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin E.  Hazelnuts have the highest concentration of folate among all the tree nuts and also contain calcium, magnesium and potassium.
 3. They are rich in Phytochemicals – including proanthocyanidins, quercetin, and kaempherol.
 4. They are high in protein and fibre – a good alternate protein source for those who don’t eat meat.
 

Nut allergy info

More of the light oils are present when the nuts are green or raw (unroasted) and are much more dangerous for anyone with a nut allergy.

 Hazelnut FAQs

  • Will hazelnuts keep if I pick them when them when they are still green? You can harvest and store green hazel nuts as long as you allow them to dry properly (airing cupboard, window sill etc) and will keep till Christmas. Alternatively roast them, allow to cool and store roasted nuts in zipper bags. Use within a month or freeze them.
  •  Can I forage for hazelnuts in the wild?  Yes fresh green hazelnuts are prolific in most ancient hedgerows, and are ready to eat straight from the tree, (squirrels permitting).  In this green state they are quite different from the hard, brown-shelled, Christmas nut they will eventually become.  Their flesh has the crisp crunch of overgrown peas, and a sweet vegetable taste.  However they are probably smaller than the commercially grown ones.  Most wild hazels are best eaten green as they tend to be on the smaller size, and thus shrink to next to nothing if you let them ripen.
  •  What is a Cobnut?  A cobnut is the most widely cultivated form of  hazelnut (the word filbert is also sometimes used).   Cobnuts were traditionally grown in Kent and can still be found there, as well as in Sussex, Devon and Worcestershire. Grown commercially they are bigger than wild hazels and, provided they are fresh (the leafy frill on the nut casing should not be too brown and dried out), they are very worthwhile. You may be able to buy fresh hazels from the local farm shop or grocer.
  • How do I dry green hazelnuts?  Collect the nuts and keep the good ones (those not damaged or with scabs on) leave them in a dark but ventilated place they will rippen nicely.  Only use larger ones if you are aiming to keep them until Christmas.  Here’s a link to info on how to store the unripe ones which you often have to pick early to beat the squirrels/mice/birds to.
  • Where do dried hazelnuts come from? Despite the fact that hazelnuts are grow in many different regions worldwide, the vast majority of the dried ones sold in this country come from Turkey.
  •  How to remove the skins from hazelnuts? Try roasting them in the oven at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. Then put them in a towel and rub them until the brown skin falls off. Or place the nut on a hard flat surface and place a heavy board on top,  roll the board over them and most of the husks will split. Then pull off the husk where it splits.
  • When will hazels fruit? Hazels will begin to produce nuts three to four after planting, but it may take 2-3 more years before they really take off and produce heavily.  A healthy tree can remain fruitful until well into its fortieth year of life.
  • Do I need a male and female hazel tree? Hazels have both male and female blooms on the same plant which form during the prior year and remain dormant through most of the winter. They bloom very early in the year (spring). Male (pollen producing) blooms are called catkins. Female (fruiting) blooms produce the nuts and are very small and easily overlooked. They look similar to leaf buds on branches, but they are rounder shaped with very small red threads coming out of them.

 Hazelnut recipes

Home-Made Nutella
Roast your hazelnuts.   Using a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until fine and powdery. If your food processor is strong enough, the hazelnuts will eventually turn creamy and smooth. Then add the spread sauce made from 150g Icing sugar & 50g green & blacks cocoa powder. Video link to making nutella. Recipe link for vegans.
Pesto
Whizz up some hazel nuts and garlic in a blender with some olive oil , lightly simmer for a few minutes to take the edge off the nuts and garlic, then take off the heat and add chopped basil and serve on top of pasta.

Pickling 
Select the best hazelnuts, (plump without any sign of shriveling).  If the shells of the hazelnuts are still on, look for smooth, glossy shells with no signs of cracks or holes, and shake them. The nuts should not rattle in the shell, as this indicates that they have lost moisture.  Lay the nuts out on newspaper to dry for a few days before roasting them. Add your pickling ingredients and store in an airtight container.
 
Link to recipes
 

 Hazel Folklore

Celts and Druids believed that hazelnuts were a source of wisdom and the tree itself was sacred.  In Greek mythology hazel branches were woven into headpieces and worn to protect warriors from evil.  Irish folklore states that drinking hazelnut beverages helped develop prophetic powers.
 
In Roman Britain, Hazel trees were once cultivated and became so abundant that Scotland was named Caledonia (a term derived from Cal-Dun, meaning “Hill of Hazel”) after them.
 
The nuts of the Hazel were commonly used to bring luck by stringing them together and hanging them in the house.  Such a string of nuts were often given to a new bridesmaid as a gift to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health.  When eaten the hazelnuts are said to increase fertility, and of old were eaten before divination to increase inspiration.
 
Down through the ages the Hazel has always been considered magical, and was used primarily for its powers of divination.  Hazel divining rods or dowsing rod are used to detect water and mineral veins.  Typically a divining rod has two forks off its main stem shaped like the letter “Y”.  The two forks of the rod are gripped with the fore fingers along the forks, so that the tail end of the rod points down toward the ground to begin searching.  Another method was to peel the bark of the rod and simply lay it on the palm of the hand.

websites used in the making of this article:

Aug 072012
 
15sep12 039

Fly Strike is the thing a smallholder fears the most when they have sheep

Some people (usually your vet) will tell you that sheep are born to die, and sometimes I think its true.

Its summer, its August, and the lambs are growing fast.  At 5 months old they are now weaned from their mums, and eating grass like there’s no tomorrow.  The ewes and tups have all been sheared and there is enough fresh grass to go around.  All the hard work has been done now and its time to relax.  Take a holiday, or have BBQ’s in the garden.

Aye right!

Relax at your peril.  Warm damp weather is ideal conditions for flies, blow flies in particular.  They are lovely to look at, shiny and green, but if you see them near your sheep you are in trouble.  If you don’t check the sheep regularly then you are in even bigger trouble.

Once you hear that someone else has had fly strike you immediately go onto full alert and check your own sheep.  Then you worry about it until the first frosts. Or, like I did recently, you discover fly strike in one of your lambs.  Having to deal with a struck sheep is a distressing thing for both animal and human, but it must be dealt with.

What is fly strike?

Someone will say that they have had fly strike when they discover that their animal has a wound that is infected with maggots from the blow fly.  Most of the blowfly lifecycle occurs off the sheep and adult flies may travel large distances to find food.  

“When given favourable conditions of humidity and warmth, the entire life cycle from egg to adult can occur in less than 10 days.”

Eggs hatch within 24 hours and first stage larvae penetrate the skin using their hook like mouthparts and secrete enzymes which liquefy and digest the tissue. Larvae are very active and cause further skin and muscle liquefaction with secondary bacterial infection as they develop. Maggot development can take as little as 5 days before they fall off and burrow into the soil to form pupae.

“Struck areas often attract other blowflies

and further waves of strike.”

Once hatched, larvae feed and grow rapidly, undergoing two moults before they become mature maggots in three to 10 days. They then fall off the sheep and undergo further change on the ground, transforming to adult flies in about three to seven days.

“Female flies can lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in batches of hundreds, and live for approximately 30 days.”

Blowflies fall into two categories: primary flies are capable of laying eggs and starting a strike, while secondary flies cannot start a strike, but attack areas damaged by an existing strike, and make the injury worse.

When does flystrike occur?

Flystrike can occur at any time of the year, but in the UK animals are particularly at risk between April and October when the weather is warmer.

Why is fly strike bad for sheep?

“Blowfly strike is a major welfare concern and an important cause of ill thrift and death in affected animals.”

 Flystrike occurs when certain species of fly (Lucilia sericata, Phormia terrae-novae and Calliphora erythrocephala flies) lay their eggs on another animal. These eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal’s flesh. Flies are attracted by soiled or wet fur/fleece, often around the animal’s rear end. However, any area of the body can be affected, as can any wound, cut or scratch. Flystrike causes serious pain and suffering and it can be fatal.

 How do I know if my sheep have fly strike?

“if its bad you will know just by looking”

There is a saying  – ‘there are people who look at sheep but never see them’ – don’t let that be you.  The quicker you spot something unusual the better.  Lean on the gate and just watch them, get used to watching their normal behaviour.  I’m told I have an obsession with poo – however I think you can tell a lot from the rear end of a sheep and their poo.  What do you need to look out for?

  •  Fly struck sheep are usually restless and may bite or kick at the struck area. They may often turn back their head, biting nervously, or run in short gallops and lie down. Affected areas are usually sites of faecal contamination or infected wounds and are, therefore, usually over the hindquarters and perineum or elsewhere on the body at wound sites.
  • The fleece overlying struck areas is discoloured, moist and foul-smelling. During the early stages, the maggots, which are approximately 1.5 cm long, are only visible, end-on, when the wool is parted, but as the disease progresses, the wool falls out to reveal the underlying affected tissue.
  •  Typically, they will also seek out shade, and may be lying under a tree or hedge. The affected area of the fleece may also appear damp and will be a darker colour.
  • On closer examination, wool will be moist and may be stuck tightly together. The area may also be accompanied by a foul odour. 
  • In severe cases, the skin may be broken. 
  • If the disease progresses, septicaemia could result from secondary infection of the damaged area. If left untreated for long enough, the animal will die. 

Sheep suffering from fly strike show obvious signs of distress. They spend less time grazing and more time tail wagging and rubbing the affected area and biting the struck areas of the fleece they can reach.  If these signs go unrecognised and secondary strike occurs, the wounds can become very extensive and bacterial infection may lead to serious complications such as death from speticaemia and toxaemia. On examination of the sheep the result is often a foul smell from the wound and visible signs of maggots.

What do I do if I discover fly strike?

“Because the toxins released into the bloodstream by the maggots can cause the animal to go into toxic shock, death can result very quickly if flystrike is not spotted and treated rapidly.”

 The recommended way to treat flystrike:

  • Hand shear struck wool (where the maggots and eggs are) and a 5 cm barrier of clean wool around the strike, close to the skin to remove maggots. Unless wool is shorn off it is likely that maggot trails will be missed and sheep will remain struck. 
  • Flystruck sheep need to be treated immediately.  Struck areas are sensitive to sunburn, so should not be clipped other than to gain access to the wound.  A good soaking with an insecticidal organophosphate or high-cis cypermethrin dressing will then kill the maggots and protect the surrounding skin from secondary strike.  Insect growth regulators (cyromazine and dicyclanil) are ineffective for the treatment of established flystrike.
  • Weak and debilitated sheep with extensive flystrike wounds may require humane euthanasia, discuss this with your vet.  You may have treated the maggots on the outside but what if there are maggots inside?
  • Collect the maggot-infested wool into a maggot-proof (plastic) bag and leave the bag in the sun for a couple of days to kill all maggots. This breaks the life cycle. Don’t rely on registered flystrike dressings to kill maggots – some are incapable of killing large maggots and many maggots escape treatment by dropping from the sheep and burrowing into the soil before the insecticide can be applied. Unless maggot infested wool is collected and bagged, most maggots will survive and pupate and come back as adult flies.
  • Apply a registered flystrike dressing to the shorn area to prevent re-strike.
  • Remove struck sheep from the flock. Leaving struck sheep in the flock attracts blowflies. Move the struck sheep to a ‘hospital’ paddock (with a friend for company) this allows closer monitoring of recovery and reduces the risk to the rest of the flock.
  • Protect your other sheep by checking, dagging, and applying a preventative treatment.

Pour-ons are normally what smallholders will use.
When applied correctly to potential areas of strike over the back and breech, pyrethroid or insect growth regulator pour-ons can provide effective control of blowfly strike. High-cis cypermethrin pour-ons provide protection for about 6 weeks and alphacypermethrin for 8 – 10 weeks, while the insect growth regulator pour-ons, cyromazine and dicyclanil, provide protection for 10 and 16 weeks respectively. Pour-on chemicals dissolve in the wool grease and are removed when animals are shorn. In the case of high-cis cypermethrin, this may lead to wool residue problems. Furthermore, the use of pour-ons in adult animals before shearing may be wasteful as it will simply be cut out – shearers may also insist that you do not apply treatments prior to shearing for their own health reasons.  These chemicals are dangerous and there is the risk that without proper personal protective equipment humans may absorb some of the chemical through their skin when handling sheep.

 How to do I treat my sheep after fly strike?

*within your emergency kit you should have the following – hand shears, stiff brush, maggot oil, spoton, crovect, stockholm tar, purple first aid or other antiseptic spray, tea tree oil, citronella or other fly repellant*

It will be just your luck that you discover fly strike on a Saturday afternoon when all the agricultural supply shops are closed for the weekend.  Be prepared!

  • Shearing can clear up most active strikes, we also found a stiff brush handy for getting rid of the exposed maggots.  Remember to put as much of the fleece and maggots into a plastic bag as possible.  This will stop the cycle.
  • If you nick the skin when clipping apply an antiseptic spray and something such as stockholm tar (I like the sprayable horsey version) to seal the wound to prevent access to flies. Other recommendations are tea tree oil cream.
  • I apply spoton directly onto the maggot infested area to help draw them out of the skin and kill them, others may use what they have to hand such as Crovect or Maggot Oil.
  • Apply an insecticidal dressing (such as maggot oil) which protects the healing wound from re-strike. This will either prevent egg-laying female flies, or kill newly hatched larvae that emerge from eggs laid onto treated lesions.
  • Treat any open wounds to prevent infection.
  • The animal should also be treated with an effective broad-spectrum antibiotic.  This is normally given by injection (if you do not have any antibiotic- contact your vet who will supply you with a syringe of appropriate medication – if you are not comfortable injecting yourself then you will either have to pay the vet or get someone who is skilled to do this task).  Smallholders need to learn how to do these jobs – its tough – but its necessary.  I have never had a problem with talking through a concern with my vet.  The raw area attacked by the maggots is an open wound through which infection can enter and a vulnerable/stressed/ or sick lamb can also easily get pneumonia too.
  • If weak and sickly your sheep may not eat, and this in itself could be fatal.   If you are not sure that the animal is eating and drinking then it may be necessary to make sure that it gets adequate liquid and nutritional supplements.  I do this by utilising a bottle and sturdy straw originally for administering nutrients for twin lamb disease, you may also be able to use a large syringe (without the needle) to give the sheep an oral application of water/salts/sugars/vitamins & minerals to keep it alive.  This needs to be done gently and in little doses.
  • Wash the open wound with an antiseptic solution every day to keep it clean (just syringe in or spray and let it soak in or run off). Keep an eye on the skin as it is vulnerable to sunburn or cracking and re-infection as the new skin grows underneath and the old skin falls off.  Other recommendations include vaseline to keep skin moist, and or tea tree oil cream to sooth and prevent restrike.
  • Check for more or hatching maggots and if necessary give a shot of invermectin to deal with any remaining deep seated maggots.
  • Does your animal need wormed or fluked – was this the cause of the dirty bum and infestation?  Even a change of food can upset a sheeps stomach e.g. from eating grass to being in a pen with hay and sheep feed.

After treatment, wounds can take several weeks to heal. The skin will start to grow under the dead areas within a few days and the peeling skin will fall off.  During this time, your animal will be at increased risk of further bouts of flystrike and infection, so it will require careful nursing and additional preventative measures detailed above. Then when the skin heals and dries it might crack so keep it soft with creams such as udder cream, vaseline, or tea tree cream.

Herbal remedies to treat fly strike:

  • Tea tree oil.  Research in Australia has  found that tea tree oil was highly successful in both preventing lice infestations and killing blowfly maggot larvae. “Tea-tree oil could be effective as a preventative treatment for  any wound likely to be struck. It has also been shown to have antibacterial properties and is suggested to have wound healing effects”  

How do I prevent fly strike in my sheep?

  • keep on top of your worm burden especially lambs on new grass or who have not developed resistance to an acceptable worm burden
  • if you have dirty bums then deal with it – cut away the soiled fleece (called dagging or crutching)
  • keep on top of foot rot in your flock especially during wet weather – if your sheep are limping and there is no obvious problem then deal with it and consider vaccination for the long term (blow flies are attracted to the smell of foot rot)
  • I use garlic licks and citronella sprays to discourage flies and reduce the risk
  • use treatments at vulnerable times, some chemicals give you up to 10 weeks protection – a must if you are going away on holiday

Blowflies prefer a warm, moist and sheltered environment, so the risk of strike can be reduced by moving sheep to more exposed pastures. The smell of wool grease and the presence of foot rot, urine soaked wool, skin diseases, scour, or infected cuts attract blowflies to sheep.

Established strike lesions attract even more blowflies. Recently shorn sheep are seldom struck and effective control of gastrointestinal parasites and footrot, general animal health care, crutching and dagging can further aid in the control of flystrike.

Which animals are most at risk of fly strike?

Flystrike (‘myiasis’) is a major welfare problem that mainly occurs during warm weather. It’s a painful condition that can affect rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs as well as farm animals such as sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

“Even clean, well-kept animals can get flystrike.

It only takes one fly and one area of soiled fur/fleece or damaged skin”

Animals (not just sheep) that have a dirty rear end or generally dirty fur/fleece.

Causes can include:

  • Long-haired animals that may not be able to groom themselves thoroughly without human intervention.
  • Obese/overweight and older animals that cannot reach round easily to clean themselves.
  • Animals with dental, spinal or balance problems, which make cleaning difficult or painful.
  • Animals that are ill, as they may not feel well enough to clean themselves thoroughly and, depending on their illness, may also produce abnormally smelly urine or have diarrhoea, which will attract flies.
  • Animals that have an inappropriate diet.
  • Animals that have an internal parasitic infection.
  • Animals with an open wound anywhere on the body.
  • Unshorn sheep of woolly breeds.
Feb 252012
 

Wwoofing

World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms

We have been approved for wwoofers and have availablility from

May – September check out this website to find out more.

To see our details click here or search for Fife Smallholder.

why WWOOF?

  • reconnect to the soil, get your hands dirty and get grounded
  • reskill and help revitalise ancient knowledge
  • gain first-hand experience of organic and biodynamic farming, growing, harvesting, preserving and animal husbandry
  • meet – and find inspiration in – likeminded people; both the hosts you visit and other WWOOFers you meet there
  • rediscover the relationships between local food production, social community and spirit
  • taste totally fresh produce
  • experience new places and acquire a wealth of experience for a very small financial outlay
  • get lots of interesting stories to tell!
  • walk the talk – try it out for yourself

How it works

Read this article that gives a good description.  If you are thinking about being hosts and want to talk it through contact us.

Other links:

 February 25, 2012  post archive, smallholder, volunteering Tagged with: , ,
Jan 152012
 
timber damage after storm at fife smallholder

The relationship between Beech, Bats, Woodpeckers, Owls, and Pigs on our smallholding

‘Piglet has his own house, a “very grand house in the middle of a beech tree,” which he gave to Owl when his house was blown down on a very blustery day’ .
Winnie the poo
large beech trees in winter
We have some large Beech sentinels in our wood that are estimated to be 190 years old, and one of them suffered damage in the recent high winds that hit Central Scotland.  The limbs on these trees are very large and although unfortunate it does offer opportunities from the adversity.
fallen tree trunk from beech tree

Firewood

Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burns for many hours with bright but calm flames.

Woodlander

Beech wood burns well and can be used to smoke herrings and cheese. Chips of beech wood are also used in the brewing and making of some beers. 

Wildlife

Although a fallen limb or tree is good for firewood, it is also a part of the natural process within a wood and many species depend on this happening to maintain the balance and ecosystem that exists within a woodland.  The larger the concentration of old trees in an area and the longer they have been present on site the richer the variety of species you will find among them.
Many species live here all year round. Some are visitors and some live here permanently. Some come for the spring (Great spotted woodpecker), summer (Insects: Hoverflies, Birds: Green woodpecker), autumn (Fungi), and others for the winter months (such as Brambling birds ). Because of the variety of habitats available. A range of birds use the broad leaved woodland, evergreen conifer, open rough grassland and low bog areas.
nest in beech tree

Beech mast and Beech leaves

Beech mast is also a favourite food of many woodland animals such as badgers, deer, mice and squirrels and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars.

The laughing woodpecker

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of the woodpeckers and has been known to visit our woods and its collection of fallen and rotten timber. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight, and will climb up tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching. It has a very distinctive call in that it sounds like it is laughing.
rotten wood and timber

Relationship between bats and woodpeckers

Tree are vitally important for our bats. The majority of British bat species have been recorded roosting in trees and some, such as the Noctule, rely almost exclusively on them. Noctules are often found in Woodpecker holes appearing to prefer them over natural cavities. Some researchers have suggested that Noctules may be dependant on woodpeckers to provide suitable roosting opportunities. Read more about bats.
potential bat roost in old woodpecker hole in tree
The picture shows an old woodpecker hole which could be used by Noctules for roosting. The hole is formed in a soft section of the stem of a tree. The stem has been infected by a decay fungi which has caused the wood to become soft enough to allow the woodpecker to create the hole. This potential roost has been created by a complex ecological relationship between Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), Tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) and woodpecker, possibly the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).  It isn’t just roosting opportunities that make beech trees useful for bats. The trees attract insects and therefore provide valuable foraging habitats.

Bats and Beech

Bats roost in trees, in obvious cavities, cracks and splits, but also in less obvious places such as under ivy and under loose bark.  The damaged parts of a tree are the most likely places to find roosting bats.  Any tree can be used for roosting as long as shelter is provided,  but old oak, beech, ash and Scots pine are most frequently used. Bat roost sites can be at any height, although the upper trunk and branches are favoured. Entrance holes may be narrow slits on the underside of a branch that can be easily overlooked, as well as more obvious old woodpecker holes in the main trunk.

Owls and Beech

One of the best trees to attract owls is the beech tree. That’s not because owls eat the beech mast, or beechnuts, but because the mice eat them. In this way, the carnivorous owls get nice, fat, juicy mice to eat to keep them in the area.
beech nut casings
“As long as owl’s habitat is left alone by man and in such a state as to produce a great number of rodents, there will be no loss of owls in a region. One of the things that those people managing woodlands can do is not to clear out all of the undercover where mice live. Tawny owls will particularly benefit from this practice. Wood left on the ground and a pile left to rot will draw all kinds of insects which also feeds owls.”
decaying wood attracts insects that are predated by owls

Livestock

Pigs and Beech

Livestock were once released into beech woodlands to feast on the beech’s oil-rich bounty. The nuts were also important as a source of food, particularly for pigs. They are energy rich and could be used to fatten pigs up for market. The period when the nuts ripened and fell was perfectly timed to fatten swine for late autumn butchering. A farmer with access to oak or beech mast could thus convert calories present in nuts into calories in pork with little or no additional effort and at no additional cost in fodder. Indeed, by using mast rights a farmer was able to make use of a resource that would otherwise be unharvested or very inefficiently harvested.

Pheasants, Poultry, Turkeys and Beech

Beech mast has also been used to feed pheasants, poultry, and turkeys.  Beech nuts should never be fed to horses.
fifesmallholder beech trees in autumn

Smallholder

It is commonly accepted that the foods used to feed and to finish meat livestock affect the final flavour of the product. Pigs  fed on oak mast, chestnut mast or beech mast has a reputation for producing exceptional finished meat. As a result, with the new interest in artisanal and high quality foods as well as humane stock handling, there is a resurgence of mast-fed pork.
While beechnuts are nutritious for humans, eating too many can cause headaches or giddiness, as vast amounts of potash are contained within the tree.

Beech Tree facts

  • Beech trees are shallow rooted, and mature trees are at risk of being uprooted in high winds.
  • These trees grow slowly, eventually reaching a height of up to 120 feet, with branches spanning 50 feet.
  • The nuts are encased in a spiny bur and are favored by birds and other wildlife. Beech has a full crop of nuts every 5 years but does not really start producing a good crop until it is at least 50 years old.
  • The timber is practically pure white and is used to make furniture and toys.
  • The tree is best known for its many and low branches that create a deep shade.
  • Beech leaves take a long time to decay, so few nutrients are released to nourish ground plants. Consequently, there is little undergrowth in a beech wood, unless trees have been deliberately thinned out (coppiced).

Folklore

names on a tree trunk

Magically, beech is specifically useful for making wishes. To do this write a or scratch your wish on a piece of beech wood then bury it in an appropriate spot.  As your written wish is claimed by the earth so will it begin to manifest in life.  Beech is also popular with lovers, as witnessed by the many hearts arrows and names carved upon the smooth trunks of beech trees.
beech leaves in fifesmallholder wood

Recipe

Beech leaf Noyau

1 bottle vodka
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 glass of brandy
Collect young, fresh beech leaves and strip them from the twigs.  Half fill an emptly bottle or jar with the leaves  and then pour on the bottle of vodka.  Seal up the container and keep leaves in it for 3 weeks, before straining them off.  Boil the sugar in half pint of water and add this to the vodka with a good sized glass of brandy.  You should end up with 2 almost  full bottles of noyau for the price of one bottle of vodka.

Links

Jan 042012
 
hand washing

The risk of cryptosporidium salmonella and E.coli on the smallholding

A smallholder can be very busy and multi-tasking is something you get used to.  It is therefore very easy to forget to wear protection, gloves, or wash your hands properly.  Especially at this time of year when it can be very muddy.

Your hands are permanently dirty from being outside, and can often have cuts or wounds from some mishap or other.  Or you are bottle feeding young lambs or hatched chics, and people (especially children) want to come and see them.  What is the risk in that?

The bacteria Escherichia coliand Salmonella and the protozoa Cryptosporidium are among the organisms that have the potential to cause serious disease that may be found in animal droppings and on contaminated surfaces around smallholdings.

What is cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan (single celled) parasite of human and animal importance, which if ingested, can cause an illness called cryptosporidiosis.  It can be transmitted through contact with soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal faeces. The most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, which can range from mild to severe. Cryptosporidiosis is most common in children aged between one and five years, but it can affect anyone. People with weak immune systems are likely to be most seriously affected.
Over 45 different species of animals including poultry, fish, reptiles, small mammals (rodents, dogs, and cats) and large mammals (including cattle and sheep) can become infected with Crytposporidium parvum.  The reservoir for this organism includes people, cattle, deer and many other species of animal.
Oocysts are shed in the faeces and can survive under very adverse environmental conditions. The oocysts are very resistant to disinfectants. People can re-infect themselves one or more times.  Human infection may be acquired by four main routes: from other people, from animals and their faeces, from untreated drinking water contaminated by either agricultural or human sewage sources, and from swimming in contaminated water. 
Cryptosporidiosis can be prevented by using good personal hygiene. Hands should be washed with soap after using bathroom facilities. Only clean or filtered water should be consumed, and food must be prepared properly.
“Individuals who work with animals should wear protective clothing, and washing hands after handling animals is essential.”

Farm animals at risk 

A number of different Cryptosporidium species infect animals. In humans, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis. In animals, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.  
Young farm animals can also suffer from Cryptosporidium diarrhoea.”
 The disease in calves/lambs/kids
  •  One to four weeks old
  • Diarrhoea, anorexia, and weight loss
  • Often occurs with other diarrhoea-causing bacteria and/or viruses, or in animals that have a compromised immune system
  • Re-infection can cause relapses, chronic infection and death
  • Infected calves/lambs/kids pass the organism in their faecal material
Humans can become infected with Cryptosporidium parvum through exposure to young ruminants with diarrhoea. Take proper precautions when treating calves/lambs/kids with diarrhoea.
  •  Wear protective gloves
  • Wash hands
  • Clean the environment

What is E. coli?

 Escherichia coli (E. coli) are common bacteria which live in the intestines of warm blooded animals. There are certain forms, or strains, of E.coli which are normally found in the intestine of healthy people and animals without causing any ill effects. A number of E. coli strains cause illness but E. coli O157 is associated with more serious illness. For the majority of people the infection is usually self limited and clears within seven days, but children under five are vulnerable to more severe illness. Symptoms can range from mild through to severe diarrhoea, to a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) that affects the blood, kidneys and in severe cases, the central nervous system.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is found in a range of food products, including meat, produce and eggs. Salmonellosis is an infection of animals and man caused by a group of bacteria called Salmonella. These can live in the digestive tract of a wide range of mammals including people and birds. Over 2,500 strains (serovars) of Salmonella are known most of which rarely cause disease. However certain strains, such as S.enteritidis and S.typhimurium, may cause human disease if, for example, foodstuffs become contaminated with animal faeces.
“Eggs from infected hens and milk from infected dairy herds may also contain salmonella.”
Infection may also follow contact with infected animals. It is usually fairly short-lived and often does not cause any obvious disease. However disease may occur with high temperature, diarrhoea and blood poisoning. In a few cases infected animals or people may carry certain strains of the bacteria for prolonged periods. 

Prevention

 Cryptosporidiosis is highly infectious so proper sanitation and good hygiene practices are important measures in the prevention of cryptosporidiosis.  Such measures include: 
  • washing hands thoroughly with soap (I prefer to use ant-bacterial) and warm water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, cleaning up after others with diarrhoea, after contact with domestic or farm animals
  • washing or peeling raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating 
  • avoiding unpasteurised milk and fruit juices

Sanitiser hand gels

Reliance on sanitiser hand gels instead of hand washing is not effective in killing bugs such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium. Visitors should be made aware that using sanitising gels is not a substitute for washing hands with soap and hot water and drying them, as gels may fail to remove contamination in the way that soap and running water can. However it is likely that using sanitising gels following handwashing with soap and water may provide extra benefit.

Handwashing 

 “Hand washing is the single most important prevention step in reducing transmission of gastrointestinal infections after handling animals and it’s crucial that hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after touching or petting animals or their surroundings on a visit to a smallholding. ” 
There are five basic ways to manage diarrhoea and vomiting and prevent the spread of diseases:
  • Careful hand washing is the most important prevention measure that you can take. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry afterwards. Do not share towels.
  • Use gloves when handling soiled articles from ill people. Wash soiled clothing and bed linen on ‘hot cycle’.
  • If looking after someone with gastroenteritis, carefully disinfect toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps and toilet door handles daily and after use. Use a bleach-based household cleaner, diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and hygienic preparation and serving of food.
If you have gastroenteritis, don’t return to school or work until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Look what happened in the Archers.  Don’t visit patients in local hospitals and long-term care facilities. While many people tend to feel better sooner, illness can still be spread if they return to work or school within 48 hours since the last symptom.

Other tips for a safe smallholding visit include:

  • Don’t put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the smallholding.
  • Don’t kiss animals nor allow children to put their faces close to animals.
  • Don’t eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the smallholding, including sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
  • Don’t eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
  • Only eat and drink in picnic or designated areas.
  • Remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become dirty and clean push-chair wheels.

Useful information

  •  A leaflet detailing advice for the public on avoiding infection on farm visits can be found on the HPA’s website 
  •  The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for those running and visiting petting farms can be found on the HSE’s website 
  • Information sheet 
Nov 192011
 

Benefits of Cider Vinegar, Garlic, and Poultry Spice to a Smallholder

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

As the light shortens and we come into autumn/winter some of my hens moult, and today I gave them some things that I feel will help them to replace their feathers, and maximise their health for the cold months ahead.  Lack of daylight and moulting means less eggs (energy goes into making new feathers), but I don’t mind a drop in egg production over the winter because I think it gives the hens a bit of a rest, and helps them to stay strong over the long dark, cold, damp days till spring.

Winter behaviour of chickens

The hens seem to stay in their sheds more over winter, and particularly during a cold spell when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.  They therefore have less access to minerals and food that they would normally consume whilst out free ranging in the field or woodland.

Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is an age-old product beloved by many traditional chicken keepers to promote all round health and vitality in poultry (and many other animals). 

What does it do?

  • Aids digestion of chickens

 helping to break down minerals and fats and assists the bird to assimilate proteins and convert food better.

  •  Lowers the Ph of the chicken’s digestive tract 

rendering it to be 90% less welcoming to Pathogens.

  •  Provides a natural source of Potassium and other important trace minerals

 Helps to improve fertility and general well-being.

  •  Depresses the growth of Algae in the chicken water drinker

 Use cider vinegar only in a plastic drinker.

  •  Helps clean the plumage of grease and old bloom, when used in baths.

It is therefore excellent for show birds.

  •  Clears respiratory tracts

  • Can also be used to treat minor wounds and skin irritations

At a dose of no more than 1 part to 10.

  • Cleans feeding and drinking equipment 

and is often sprayed into and around housing as a very effective fly and insect deterrent.

  • Will help chickens with stress 

which is one of the main contributors to their immune system lowering and letting in disease

How much cider vinegar do I use?

 Add to the drinking water at the rate of 5ml per litre of clean drinking water.  As a guide I would suggest 10ml of Apple Cider Vinegar per litre of fresh water – be careful not to add to much as it may stop the hens drinking which would be a problem.

*Caution*

“Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not an alternative to regular worming. It has been shown to improve resistance to internal parasites but is no substitute. Many keepers use ACV to improve resistance to coccidosis in particular.”

What Is Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease of poultry which affects the digestive tract and is primarily found in chickens and turkeys. If not treated it can lead to death. The symptoms are:
  • Ruffled feathers.
  • Unthriftiness.
  • Head drawn back into shoulders.
  • A chilled appearance.
  • Diarrhoea which may have blood in it.

Causes of coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite (coccidia).  Poultry are exposed to the protozoan parasite via their droppings, dirty drinkers and damp litter in their huts.  Coccidia thrives in damp conditions such as damp chicken litter and is found in chicken manure.  Coccidia can also be found in water that is not kept clean and free of chicken droppings.

Stress in chickens

Times of stress for a chicken may include:
  • Moving house
  • Introducing new birds or mixing up the pecking order
  • If snow falls on the ground (a stressful change in environment for chickens)
  • After a fright – e.g. fox or dog attack
  • After injury

What is the difference between cider vinegar I get in the supermarket and others?

The difference is that the ACV sold in the supermarket is filtered and pasturised to preserve the product and kill off bacteria. This also kills off the beneficial ‘good’ bacteria. The equine / animal feed ACV is unpasturised and unfiltered.

What about cider vinegar and worms?

Personally, I believe they help make the gut an unpleasant environment for worms but cannot replace a chemical wormer if you have a confirmed case of worms.  If in any doubt, if you don’t want to use a licensed wormer (Flubenvet) then do get a worm count done. As well as the health implications for your birds when not worming correctly, finding a worm inside an egg is unpleasant for you and your customers.  Check out this link for more info on worms and their treatment.
 

Poultry Spice 

Give your birds a boost in Spring or after the moult with this natural nutritional supplement plus extra minerals in a spice base. One teaspoonful to be given in the usual wet or dry mash for every 10 fowls. In cold weather a little more of the powder may be given. Specially recommended for improving all round condition and performance. Invaluable for rearing Poultry, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys and Game birds.

Poultry Spice contains minerals, powdered ginger, turmeric, fenugreek and aniseed. Click on the links to find out more about the health benefits of these spices to humans, and hopefully, our feathered friends.

Garlic

Garlic is supposed to keep the mites and lice away.
 
Oct 232011
 
scotland flag

If you are a smallholder in Scotland who has animals or livestock then read on.

 

Did you know?

“Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless that person has access to all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals while that person is attending to them, and is acquainted with the provisions of those Codes.”

Says who?

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (S.S.I. 2000 No. 442), Regulation 10.
It also states that :
– Any person who employs or engages a person to attend to animals must ensure that the person attending to the animals:
• is acquainted with the provisions of all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals being attended to;
• has access to a copy of those Codes while he is attending to the animals;
and
• has received instruction and guidance on those Codes.

How do I get access to the welfare codes?

In order to secure a high level of welfare in livestock and other animals, various codes of recommendation and practice have been issued on the Authority of the Scottish Parliament pursuant to section 37 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

click here for a general link or:

 The Five Freedoms 

The five freedoms are a set of recommendations for the welfare of animals in all environments.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 

by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort; 

by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease; 

by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express natural behaviour; 

by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress;

 by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

“The Five Freedoms are basic ideals of welfare for farm animals, wherever the animals may be, such as at farms, markets, slaughterhouses, or in transit, and should be applied by anyone in charge of the animals or handling them. “

 

 

Oct 122011
 
free range egg

smallholders can sell eggs direct

 

Producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to mark their eggs – so long as they provide other information such as their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs at the point of sale.

More info on eggs on my web page

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/chicken/egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Back to topic

 

 

 

Oct 102011
 

Smallholders and their dogs

Read about the uses of dogs on a smallholding, & pups for sale.

Dog page

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog

 Pups for sale

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog/pup

day old labrador pup

Day old pups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 012011
 

What is the white spot on my honey bees -is it a disease or mite?

fife smallholder honey bee

It is October, autumn here in Scotland and my bees are taking advantage of a late spell of warm weather to gather stores for the winter.  I can often tell what they are bringing in to the hive by the colours on their bodies.  Some of the bees in the picture have a white spot on their backs.  This is a good example where the bee has been touched by the plant whilst it has been raiding the flower for nectar.  This crop of nectar which was swallowed by the bee will be regurgitated and turned into honey, and capped with wax for eating later when it is too cold to fly.

fife smallholder bee fodder himalayan balsam

This is the plant that causes the white spot, Himalayan Balsam.  A good source of food for bees in autumn.

Sep 282011
 

Every smallholder should have at least one hive of bees

My garden and wood are well stocked with bee friendly plants and flowers, I have been known to follow bees round a garden centre and buy whatever they land on.  Plants for bees is one of my passions and I love to see them on a flower or shrub.  A consequence of this is that the moths, butterflies, and bumble bees benefit too.  Win win.  From January to December I have something in flower just in case they need nectar or pollen.

So ………. when all this well stocked larder is open to them, why do they choose to go to a flowering weed ?  :0)

honey bee

honey bee

 Click here for a link to more information about plants for bees.

Sep 272011
 

We love our sheep at Fife Smallholder.  

Please check out our new page that shows the diversity of colours and sheep breeds we have.  Starter flocks are sometimes available for sale.

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/sheep

smallholder sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 September 27, 2011  livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Sep 102011
 

Our smallholder garden has plants that the birds enjoy the seeds from in the autumn.

There is a delicate balance going on – the sparrows are quite heavy and bob about in the wind whilst eating the seeds.  This is a resident flock of sparrows that live on our smallholding.  But we also get migrant and seasonal birds that visit, to eat from the range of berries, nuts, and seeds that are available naturally.

 

Wild birds in smallholder garden.

Feeding wild birds in winter

In winter, small birds should be fat to avoid starvation and lean and agile to escape predators. This means that they face a trade-off between the costs and benefits of carrying fat reserves. Every day they must gain enough fat to survive the coming night. Severe winter weather can therefore be a major hazard for survival. A bird will lose a substantial proportion of its body weight during one cold winters night, and unless it is able to replenish its reserves, a prolonged cold spell could be catastrophic for large numbers of birds. Some species such as tits and crows cache or store food for times of less natural food abundance.
 

Supplementary Feeding

If offering supplementary foods provide a wide variety of foods at different levels – on the ground, in feeders and on a bird table. Scraps of bread (provided it isn’t stale), cooked rice and lentils, dried fruit such as raisins and sultanas, apples, oranges and grapes, coconut halves, mashed potatoes, peanuts, vegetable suet, millet and black sunflower seeds are all suitable foods to offer to birds. It is also possible to purchase ready-made up high-energy bird food mixes.
 
Providing birds with supplementary food will bring them closer for you to enjoy their fascinating behaviour and wonderful colours. However, supplementary feeding can’t provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need, so it’s important to create and manage your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through well-managed lawns,  shrub and flowerbeds.
 

All year round food for wild birds

If you provide both natural and supplementary food, your garden will be visited year-round by a host of different birds.
 

Ways of Attracting Birds into the Garden

There are many simple things that we can do to entice birds into the garden and encourage them to live and breed there. Basically, birds need water for bathing and drinking, a constant supply of food, shelter from the elements and nest sites. Water can be supplied by making a small pond with marshy edges or if that isn’t possible by obtaining a birdbath or drinking dish and regularly changing the water. Nest boxes can be installed for breeding purposes and climbing plants (e.g. ivy, honeysuckle and clematis) and shrubs, especially prickly shrubs, will provide additional natural nest sites as well as berries for the birds to eat. A well-stocked bird table will provide food, but of course providing natural sources of food is even better. With careful planning, it should be possible to provide a natural supply of food for birds for most of the year. Plants and shrubs, which provide fruit, berries and seeds are especially useful to birds and don’t be in too much of a hurry to pull up your weeds as many of these will also provide food for birds.
 
 

How to identify some common garden birds from their song

Planting for Birds

There are many trees, shrubs and plants that are especially attractive to birds, but of course the plants that you choose to grow will depend on the size of your garden/allotment, soil type, aspect and your own personal preferences. However, when selecting which plants to grow for birds do try and choose plants that don’t all produce food at the same time!
 

Trees

If you have a large garden or smallholding you may wish to include some trees. Trees provide shelter, nest sites and perches for birds, but there are many trees that will also provide them with food. Oak supplies acorns and woodpigeons, and woodpeckers will eat these. Rowan’s berries are popular with thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, bramblings, blackbirds and waxwings and the fruits of bird cherry (Prunus padus) and wild cherry (Prunus avium) are much loved by birds. Alder provides food for siskins,  goldfinches and tits, both the cones and the catkins being eaten. Bullfinches eat the seeds of ash and beech mast is popular with bramblings,  great tits, woodpeckers and chaffinches. Goldfinches and bramblings like the seeds of silver birch and various insectivorous birds also feed on the many insects that live on this tree. Conifers such as scots pine, larch, spruce, and yew also supply food for birds and have the advantage that they do not lose their leaves in winter, thus providing all-year cover. Scots pine seeds are eaten by finches, woodpeckers and the Scottish crossbill. Various types of thrushes eat yew’s berries and the seeds of larch and spruce are popular with finches, spruce seeds also being eaten by woodpeckers and European crossbills. Fruit trees such as apple, crab apple and plum are especially popular with birds. So why not plant some fruit trees or fruit bushes just for wildlife?
 

Hedging Plants

Hedges act as windbreaks and like trees provide shelter, somewhere to roost and nest sites for birds. Of particular value in a hedge are shrubs bearing berries such as elder, spindle (Euonymus europaeus), bramble, blackthorn, hawthorn, holly and wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare), which supply food for birds as well as shelter. In addition quite a few of these shrubs are spiny and offer good protection from cats and other predators. Hawthorn is popular with many nesting birds for this reason who often nest in tangles of bramble.
winter seeds for wild birds
 
Waxwings and redwings will eat hawthorn’s berries, whereas those of blackthorn are popular with thrushes. Holly and elder berries are loved by many types of birds, but are especially popular with blackcaps and thrushes. Hazel can also be used to make a hedge and its nuts are a valuable source of food for many mammals as well as for birds such as woodpeckers, jays, pigeons. Why not plant some honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)? It will soon clamber over the hedge and thrushes, warblers and blackcaps will eat its berries. Dog rose (Rosa canina) and guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) produce hips and also do well in a hedge.
 

Useful Shrubs

The following shrubs should attract birds into your garden/allotment:
 
  •  Berberis (Berberis stenophylla) – Berries are mainly eaten by thrushes and blackcaps.
  •  Cotoneaster (especially C. horizontalis, x watereri and C. frigida) – Waxwings, fieldfares, redwings and blackcaps will eat cotoneaster berries.
  •  Pyracantha – (P. coccinea, Pyracantha ‘Mojave’, Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’). Berries mainly eaten by blackcaps, waxwings and certain thrushes. Can be used to make a hedge.
  •  Viburnum – Waxwings like these berries. Can also be used to make a hedge.
  •  Ivy – Best grown up a fence, wall or tree. Woodpigeons, thrushes, warblers, blackcaps and robins eat ivy berries, which ripen in the winter.
  •  Mistletoe – Is an important garden plant, supplying berries at a time of year when food is normally in short supply.
  •  Buddleia – This shrub is tremendously popular as a nectar source for butterflies, but it will also provide seeds for bullfinches and other seed-eating birds.

Garden Plants

Many garden plants will supply seeds for seed-eating garden birds such as finches and linnets. These include evening primrose, michaelmas daisy, foxglove, aubretia, forget-me-not, sunflower, cosmos, snapdragon, wallflower, sweet william, lavender, sweet rocket, honesty, goldenrod, bird’s-foot-trefoil and globe thistle. And when I left some purple sprouting broccoli to go to seed I found that the seeds attracted quite a few greenfinches.
 

Weeds

As previously mentioned many plants that are generally classified as weeds are of tremendous food value for birds. Burdock, chickweed, cow parsley, clover, dandelion, groundsel, black medick, greater stitchwort, hogweed, fat hen, knapweed, shepherd’s purse, plantains (e.g. ribwort and hoary plantain), stinging nettles, teasel and many types of thistles such as spear thistle and woolly thistle will all provide seeds for birds to eat. Thistle seeds are especially popular with goldfinches, linnets, siskins and serin whereas goldfinches will eat the seeds of dandelions, groundsel, knapweed and fuller’s teasel. Dock, stinging nettle and meadow cranesbill seeds are popular with bullfinches.
 

Bird Identifier

The RSPB has an improved, interactive bird identifier to work out what bird you saw. Tell them a few details about the bird and they will suggest what it could have been. 
 
 
 


Sep 082011
 
green hazel nut

I love this time of year on the smallholding.

When there are lots of free wild food to eat, pickle, and add to desserts.

wild autumn raspberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my blog called ‘Too Much Of a Good Thing’  for tips and recipes on using up some of natures harvest.

Aug 272011
 

Why do chickens lose their feathers?

Now that it is coming into the colder weather on my smallholding, my hens are starting to moult! This makes no sense to me – why not do it in the warm summer when they won’t get so cold?

Check out this link which gives an explanation about moulting chickens.

 

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

Brrrrrr


When a chicken is about a year old she will start to lose her feathers but don’t panic, this is meant to happen. She is moulting. This is a completely harmless process of plumage rejuvenation and takes between 4 to 6 weeks. 
Make sure the birds are well fed during this period as it takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers. I also give them poultry spice at this time. 

Because of all the energy taking up with moulting, your chickens will stop laying until their new feathers have grown. It is also important to remember not to clip your chickens wings when they are moulting, but also that clipped wings will regrow after a moult and may need attended to again.

moulting chicken feathers

 Fancy making a jumper for your moulting chicken or rescue battery hen?  

Check out this link http://littlehenrescue.co.uk/jumpers.aspx

 August 27, 2011  autumn, livestock, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , , ,
Aug 242011
 

 Meadow sweet grows on our smallholding and is doing especially well in the wet meadow.

Its fuzzy white flowering heads standing out like blobs of shaving cream sprayed on to its dark green leaves. Meadow sweet has an especially proud history because it was used for relieving headaches and in 1897 its painkiller chemicals inspired the synthesis of aspirin – named after the plant’s old scientific name, Spiraea.

 

 

 

 August 24, 2011  Flowers, garden, post archive Tagged with: , , , ,
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