Time for the cows to take a rest

Ruth Kimber has seen an explosion in the fox population locally. PHOTO: Andreas Neumann/Pixabay
Ruth Kimber has seen an explosion in the fox population locally. PHOTO: Andreas Neumann/Pixabay

By Ruth Kimber
Our open day went really well, with the help of family and friends. We were fortunate with the weather – not too hot and no rain. However, we could do with a good soaking now as we have missed the showers.
We were loaned two super trailers from Cannington College and RJ & KD McIean Ltd, agricultural machinery dealers from Semley, Dorset – both were up to the required standard to take the public safely on a farm tour. We had the help of Butt Brothers Agricultural contractors which drove one of the trailers and loaned its Forage Harvester, alongside Redlynch Agricultural Engineers which loaned a new Valtra tractor, and J & C Bird brought its Massey 35 and Darrens Fergi T20, all of which the public enjoyed getting up close to.

Bees and insects
Several stallholders offered tasters of their wares, including Barbers, whose life-size green and white cow complete with udder and teats was a great attraction for old and young alike, as they tried hand-milking the water from the udder!
The farm tours, shop, cafe and trading barn were all busy and everyone seemed to have a very happy day.
We are now getting ready for the holiday season, as family and staff take a well-deserved break, and those left behind covering the work. The wildflowers on the verges around the farm are in their glory, alive with bees and insects.
We have started drying off the cows so they can have their rest period before calving in the early Autumn. They have two months rest from milking – they live in pastures away from the farmyard but we have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t have any health problems, summer mastitis, eye troubles brought on by flies etc.
The farming year is a big cycle, each season brings its own demands.
The change of Prime Minister may well have an effect on agriculture, as different people like to put their mark on policies. The lack of checks and balances on the newly signed trade deal with the Australians is a real worry, as it seems products will be able to be imported to the UK which have been produced with lower welfare and environmental standards than our own farm produce. Welfare and environmental regulations make for a more responsible product but it does add significant production costs.
Our turkeys are growing apace but we have lost several to a large stray tabby cat – we have caught him on camera. We also have an explosion of the fox population – I think it may be the cover they enjoy in the many fields in the vicinity that have been abandoned by the owners, who are not farming them or letting them out. The trouble is other wildlife will suffer as foxes take eggs and young birds, and even feast on domestic cats, and, of course, poultry.
Kimbers Farm Shop, The Kitchen and Somerset Trading Barn BA9 8HD (B3081). Phone: 01963 33177; www.kimbersfarmshop.co.uk. Open Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-5pm, Saturday 9.30am-4pm.

Insights into challenges of drought

The Met Office reported an average rainfall of only 15.8mm (0.6in) across England for July.
The Met Office reported an average rainfall of only 15.8mm (0.6in) across England for July.

By Alice Miller BVSC DBR MRCVS
Friars Moor Livestock Health

We share our farmers’ concerns as we continue to experience extraordinary drought conditions across the UK. The Met Office reports an average rainfall of only 15.8mm (0.6in) across England for this last month, making it the second driest July since records began in 1836. This is just 24 per cent of the total rainfall expected for an average July. Many grass fields are looking barren as growth has reduced, or completely stopped. This presents worrying challenges for all livestock keepers who are figuring out how best to support the nutritional requirements of their flocks and herds.
It is important to also consider that animals with limited feed sources will be forced to forage for alternatives. If animals have no other option they will eat from unsuitable hedgerows, ditches and verges, where ordinarily they would leave these often-unpalatable plants alone. As a result, it is not uncommon to see problems due to plant poisonings.
Many farmers are already buffer feeding to mitigate for the low volume and lack of nutritional value in the grass. Hopefully with good early cut forage available there are options other than drawing out insufficient grazing. It is important to discuss your flock and herd requirements with your nutritionist first. One of the biggest concerns is ensuring you have enough supplies to see you through the winter. So, it is vital you plan now. When increasing concentrate levels, it is important to only feed what is required as a supplement or instead it ends up as an expensive substitute. For example, when concentrates are fed and grass is available, cows will eat less grass, so the grass quality will just deteriorate if too high a residual is left. It is also important to monitor for signs of acidosis. Prevent acidosis by avoiding sudden dietary changes and by limiting the volume of concentrates fed at once.
It is important to monitor production to establish the impact the drought is having on your herd and flock. Regular body condition scoring of adult animals and regular weighing of youngstock, and animals intended for breeding or finishing, will help establish growth rate trends. It is important to mitigate these losses sooner rather than later, since the knock-on effects can be long-lasting. It takes much longer for animals to regain weight than lose it. We want to avoid reduced finishing weights and extended rearing times. In turn if heifers are not meeting body weight targets for breeding, they will be older by the time they calve in. Higher age at first calving has a long-term impact on the efficiency of the system as well as affecting the lifetime production capabilities of that animal. Nutritional stress will also reduce milk yields and impact animal health and fertility, with an increased risk of cystic cows as well as reduced cyclicity seen.
Practically, your vets and nutritionist are more than happy to help advise you further, but it is also important to remember you are not alone in this, and if you wish to discuss financial or mental health support, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and the Farming Community Network (FCN) are great places to start.

August brings the harvest home

The combine harvester is about to turn fields of burnished corn into bare stubble and fill the barns with plump kernels of wheat, oats and barley. PHOTO: Carlos Barengo/Pixabay
The combine harvester is about to turn fields of burnished corn into bare stubble and fill the barns with plump kernels of wheat, oats and barley. PHOTO: Carlos Barengo/Pixabay

By A J Selby
Countryfolk can always tell you the seasons from the smell, the atmosphere, the temperature and a ‘feel’ for the time of year. Most could wake from a coma and, blindfolded, tell you the season. It’s that innate closeness with the natural world that puts him or her in touch with the changing months. And so we have passed the tipping point of mid-summer and we are in the lull that, on hot still days, makes us feel listless and tired. It shows itself in the flora and fauna around us as plants bow to the midday heat, their earlier vibrant green no longer apparent.
The grass has almost stopped growing in all but the wettest of places and the trees too hang as though preparing for the final rush towards autumn. Birdsong, which just a month ago was full and joyous, is now muted and sporadic – it’s as though they just can’t be bothered anymore. Only lone males who failed to find a mate are singing – other males are feeding broods. And into these quiet and melancholy days comes a familiar sound – the combine harvester, about to turn fields of burnished corn into bare stubble and fill the barns with plump kernels of wheat, oats and barley.
Back in my late teens when the world was a different place, I used to drive the smaller of the two combines on a local farm, an old Massey Ferguson with a ten-foot header and no cab. It was used for the smaller fields that the big Claas couldn’t get into and I loved being in control of this machine – my friends had their souped-up Ford Escorts and Capris but I sat high and proud on the combine.

Shark’s teeth
Talking in the village local to the old boys after combining, I was regaled with tales of horse-drawn binders and their wives helping to bundle up the sheaves of unthreshed corn into stooks. They are all passed now and it’s my generation who look back and tell our own tales while today’s young farmers plant and harvest their fields with high-spec engineering and satellite navigation in their air-conditioned cabs. What will harvest be like in the second half of this century?
The first pass was around the outside of the field – the headland – to enable the driver to turn at the row ends. The knives, like shark’s teeth, would first cut the stalk low to the ground and as the corn landed on the ‘table’ – the bottom part of the ‘header’ – the reel would comb it into the guts of the machine. Drums inside would ‘thresh’ the grain from the stalks and the oscillating sieves would ensure the corn went into a holding tank and the straw evacuated out the back. Once the tank was nearly full, the big augur would swing out and empty the contents into a waiting trailer. In large fields the augur can run all the time with the tractor driving alongside the combine – we couldn’t do that very efficiently in the small fields as it meant stopping and turning at the end of each short row.
The driver needs a lot of skill to firstly drive in a straight line and run tight to the edge of the standing corn, and then watch the elevation of the ground in case the header needs raising or lowering – rough ground/large stones. Then, should he encounter some corn that has become flattened – ‘lodged’ – he will need to slow down and use his skill with the reel to comb up the stalks before cutting them. He needs to ensure that he isn’t going too fast which would clog up the threshing, but quick enough to eat up the acres. On dry ground such as chalk, spring barley can be quickly gobbled up yielding a ton or so to the acre but heavy ground wheat can produce up to four tons an acre and takes a lot more time – older farming readers will recall one of the first high-yielding wheat varieties some 50 years ago, called Maris Huntsman.
The combine driver also needs to watch the tractor and trailer if he is filling up on the go, or the corn tank if he isn’t, and doubtless he will also be interested in any wildlife that dashes from the ever-diminishing block of uncut corn in the centre of the field. There will be deer, probably roe and muntjac hereabouts, as well as hare, rabbit and fox, although not all together! The smaller mammals may hide under the rows of straw until the baler comes in and makes the field as bare as an army recruit’s haircut.
Then another harvest will be over, and the pheasants, partridges – there are an awful lot of French partridge around this year – and pigeons will move in to pick up the gleanings that have come out of the back of the combine until the ground is once again prepared for the next crop. The bare fields will allow walkers a little more room along the headland and the days will shorten as we move inexorably towards autumn. And so the cycle continues and our break-baskets and breweries are filled for another year. Pay your respects to the farmer at the harvest festival and especially the skill of the combine driver as he brings the harvest home.

How to take the strain out of long school summer holidays

How to take the strain out of long school summer holidays

by Alice Jonsen
Earlier in the week I came across a quote from Hillary Clinton: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” It seems appropriate to flag up as we kick off the long school holidays.
As someone else said to me recently, the long school holidays over the summer – wonderful as they can be – are one of the reasons women can earn less than men.
Because, the chances are, in most families where there are two parents or guardians on site, one male, one female, the latter will be doing the lion’s share of juggling work around the children. The balance is shifting, particularly for people who are able to work from home, but it is still far off an equal divide.
For some families that works. That’s how they want it done. At the end of the day, what works for your family is what matters, not a government- or research-led statistic telling what is right or wrong.
But for many women who run their own businesses or are employed full- or part-time, while raising school-aged children, the next six weeks are challenging to say the least.
Olivia Bath runs an organisation supporting working mums – it’s called The Women’s Vault. One of the most startling points she raises is that working mums today spend more time with their children than non-working mums in 1975. Family life, structure, demands – they have all changed over the years. The need and ability to earn and do more, the increase in single-parent families – this all affects how parents operate and how they envisage their relationship with their children. I’m certainly not saying one decade was better than the other. But – always a but – the shifts in family structure have put more pressure predominantly on working mothers.
So, if you are feeling the strain over the next few weeks, remember you are not a superhero. Take a look at what you are trying to do. Can anything wait a few weeks? Can you just focus on the essential, immediate tasks? Is there anyone you can ask to share the load with? And if you are able to take a break, make sure you do just that. Take social media apps off your phone for a few days. Don’t have long discussions about work. Allow that space to recharge you and bring new ideas to the table. You might be surprised how effective doing nothing for a short time can be.
Alice Johnsen is a life coach based near Sherborne (07961 080513; alicejohnsen.co.uk)

Slaw is quite simply so versatile

Slaw is quite simply so versatile by Rebecca Vincent

When putting together a light summer plate I always like to add a slaw. Some may consider slaw boring, but it is incredibly versatile – you can add anything that can be finely sliced – and it can help boost your plant-based variety.
For example, even this simple recipe contains four fruits and vegetables but you could easily add other ingredients like finely sliced fennel, celery and/or kale to boost the variety further, and get a wide range of beneficial phytochemicals – compounds found in plants.
Red cabbage, a member of the nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetable family, contains great levels of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, calcium, magnesium and manganese. It also contains glucosinolates, including indole-3-carbinol, sulphoraphane and isothiocyanates, phytochemicals with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apples are good sources of vitamin C and potassium, as well as beneficial phytochemicals including ellagic acid and quercetin. They also contain pectin, a soluble fibre – one medium apple contains about 3
grams of fibre, ten per cent of the recommended daily intake.

Red cabbage and
apple slaw
(Serves 4-6)
¼ medium red cabbage
1 medium apple (I used Royal Gala, but any eating apple will work)
½ red onion
1 medium carrot
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp plain live yoghurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
Cut the cabbage into quarters through the stalk and run one quarter through a mandolin or finely slice by hand. Do the same with the red onion and pop in a large mixing bowl.
Core the apple and slice thinly, then cut the slices into matchsticks. Grate the carrot and add both to the mix.
Gently crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, or with a rolling pin, and add to the fruit and vegetables along with the lemon juice, yoghurt and a pinch of salt and pepper, mixing well.
I know fennel seeds aren’t to everyone’s taste, so feel free to substitute cumin seeds, which also work well, or any herbs and spices you enjoy!
Rebecca Vincent BSc (Hons) is a BANT-registered nutritionist working in Wincanton (07515 019430); www.rebeccavincentnutrition.co.uk

by Rebecca Vincent

Stress in cats can be hard to spot

Cats can find living with another cat a cause of long-term stress. PHOTO: Isa Karakus/Pixabay

By Lynn Broom
Longmead Veterinary Practice
Cats can be stressed by situations which do not appear stressful and can develop strange behaviours in response to these stresses without ‘looking’ stressed.
Long-term stress can produce multiple subtle behaviour responses which often go unnoticed by their owners and so a diagnosis of a stress-related condition often comes as a surprise.
The main behaviours we see in stressed cats are recurrent cystitis, inappropriate urination and over-grooming. The causes of stress can include changes in the home such as a new baby or new pet, aggressive neighbourhood cats or even their owners going away on holiday. Living with another cat is frequently a cause of long-term stress.
Recurrent cystitis is a common problem caused by stress in cats. Typically they will urinate frequently, often in unusual places and blood can be present in the urine. There is rarely any infection present and most cats respond well to pain relief.
Prevention may be achieved by limiting stress, using plug-in pheromones like feliway and, where necessary, supplements which support a healthy bladder lining. This is a distressing condition for female cats but has the potential to become life-threatening for neutered males who may become unable to urinate and risk bladder rupture and acute kidney failure.

Litter trays
Increasing water intake can help by increasing frequency of full volume urination and can flush out crystals which may form in concentrated urine and may further irritate the bladder lining. Cats frequently prefer running water and allowing them to drink from a dripping tap or a cat fountain can increase drinking. Ensuring fresh water is always available is essential even for cats which prefer to drink outside as sources of water will be limited during hot or freezing weather.
Cats which urinate and/or defecate in the house other than in litter trays will often do so because of stress. Again pheromones may help with this.
Providing multiple litter trays around the house, particularly in areas where the cat is choosing to relieve itself can help. Placing one in a convenient place for us may not be used by a cat because they don’t like its position for some reason. Many cats will not use a dirty litter tray, particularly if another cat has used it. Regular cleaning and more trays than cats can help with this.
Stress over grooming is also commonly seen. Typically cats will lick their tummies and between their back legs excessively to the point where they become bald and can cause sores.
Ruling out sources of pain or itching is essential as both can cause similar symptoms. Reducing stress, if possible, can help. Some medications may help but this can be a difficult condition to control.
Cats are generally solitary animals and sharing a house with another cat can be surprisingly stressful. The stress can be reduced by providing multiple areas to eat and drink and multiple, frequently cleaned litter trays. Ensuring each cat has its own space will reduce conflict.
The International Cat Care website provides excellent information on recognising the subtle signs of chronic stress in cats and provides useful advice to help manage it to help you make your cat as settled and comfortable as possible in their situation.

Rockies in strong goal-scoring form

Asa Philips congratulates Jack Lovell on scoring against Street. PHOTO: Avril Lancaster
Asa Philips congratulates Jack Lovell on scoring against Street. PHOTO: Avril Lancaster

Shaftesbury were in the goals again at Coppice Street with a 4-1 win over Poole Town.
Jack Lovell scored a hat-trick with Joe Wickham getting the other. Will Fletcher had levelled for Poole Town with a header.
Konrad Symaniak in the Rockies’ goal made an incredible double save and tipped a pile-driver over the bar as Poole pressed.
Jack Lovell bagged a hat-trick in a 6-2 victory when Shaftesbury faced Toolstation Western League Premier Division outfit Street at Coppice Street. Luke Delaney, Louis Moore and Asa Philips were also on target. The pre-season campaign has yielded 16 goals in four games.
The Reserves won the earlier 11.30am fixture 2-0. Ollie Marsh’s free-kick and an own goal saw off Somerset County League Division 1 Street Reserves.
The pre-season schedule was wrapped up with the visit of Southern League South & West Division side Lymington Town. Second-half goals from Ethan Maddocks, Joe Wickham and a Cameron Beard penalty sealed a 3-0 win.

by Avril Lancaster

Young Zak out in front

Zak Batey on the winner’s podium with trophy. PHOTO: Lawrence Hammonds
Zak Batey on the winner’s podium with trophy. PHOTO: Lawrence Hammonds

Wincanton-based motorcycle racer Zak Batey has taken the ACU British Youth Grasstrack Championship title to add to his already impressive racing CV.
The event held in Cheshire is the biggest meeting of the year and despite being his first time in the intermediate class, Zak showed he is a class act.
The category was for riders aged 14-17, so 14-year-old Zak was one of the youngest in the group.
It was a small technical track which played to his advantage. While some of the older riders prefer big sweeping tracks or just did not manage to get round as fast, Zak stayed focused and put on an exceptional show.
Each competitor has five rides and it could not have been closer going into the last ride. Zak lined up with Hayden Watts from Kent with the two riders tied on points. The Wincanton speedster took the win and the title.
Zak said: “He was on my back wheel for the last lap pushing me hard. It’s been a dream to win a title since I started racing when I was six.”
Zak is now looking forward to more exciting events and taking on sponsors – anyone who would like to get involved with Zak and his team can phone 07428 620423.

by Kye Harman

Bounce for joy

Space Inflaters Gillingham

Space Inflaters opened its doors for the first time on Saturday 18 July and played host to well over 200 guests, including major stakeholders and dignitaries, parents – oh, and children. Music played via the new sound and laser light system, while the fully operational café/bar was a hit.
The venue, sister site to the successful Riversmeet Leisure Centre, is the second community site being run in North Dorset by The Gillingham Community and Leisure Trust.
Filled with huge space-themed inflatables, it’s the perfect way for children to let off excess energy during the summer holidays. Each session holds up to 100 people every 90-minute slot, making it perfect for parties, so do book early to avoid disappointment. Prices are displayed on the website, with peak being £6 and off-peak £5, adults go half price. And a new under 3’s area is soon to be available.
The Gillingham Community Leisure Trust say they aim to please as many people as possible: “This is a community initiative with a warm community feel,” says Alan Waistell, Director of Leisure, “and any surplus made from this venture will be put back into the community.”
Space Inflaters, as named by the public, is aiming to deliver services to disabled, low-income families, and host some major community events at site in the coming 12 months. Visit www.spaceinflaters.org for more information or call 01747 213125. Space Inflaters, 22 Brickfields Business Park, Gillingham SP8 4PX.

Thank you for the music

With an incredible 200-year history, the Gillingham Imperial Silver Band is now looking for new players

With an incredible 200-year history, the Gillingham Imperial Silver Band
is now looking for new players

At the recent Gillingham Town Meadow Fete, The Gillingham Imperial Silver Band (GISB) gathered to play a vivid programme of popular music. The six-piece ensemble drew the attention of many in the crowd to the world of brass, and in between musical sets the players engaged with the public to answer questions. Those who were interested were able to try one or more of the various brass instruments on display, such as the trombone, tuba and cornets.
The performance however not only involved playing but also recruiting, because the GISB urgently needs more members to help it thrive. Following the recent break in ‘live’ playing, plus work relocations, a significant number of players have not returned to the band, leaving it desperately short of players. “Without a successful recruitment drive this long-standing town band is in danger of folding,” says Marcus Adams of Adams Music.
The GISB traces its origins back to the 1800s when it was first known as a jazz band. Following a break in playing during World War One, the band reconvened and then became a brass band in 1928.

With an incredible 200-year history, the Gillingham Imperial Silver Band  is now looking for new players

Brass or silver?
Well, if you’re wondering, these days there’s no difference. Silver-plated instruments were once used, and were always deemed more expensive than brass, and so a ‘silver band’ was believed to be a little more superior. However, the key is that these bands are the epitome of a community.
Historically, young players would learn from the more established players, practise hard and hope to get a place in the main band as their skills and knowledge developed. Indeed, the GISB has both a Main Senior Band and an Academy Band in two tiers – Beginner Brass and Training Band – offering excellent brass-playing opportunities for both current and potential players.
While a small group perform together in many styles of music, Marcus Adams says: “The Senior Band, with its current low player numbers (it should be at least 25), is unable to engage in carnivals, parades, and contests without the help of players from neighbouring bands.”
The GISB will do everything in their power to ‘keep the show on the road’, arranging 10-piece and smaller group compositions themselves, but emphasise the opportunities for all ages and standards of musicianship from Key Stage 2 upwards.
If you’re interested in becoming an engaging part of the community, get in touch via the band’s website www.gisb.co.uk, the group’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/86966453901 or by emailing Marcus Adams adamsmusic@btinternet.com.