Commercial Free Range
Our sheep are Kendal Rough Fell, a local hill breed. The young sheep are bred pure, to a Rough Fell tup and live mostly on Newbiggin Crag with their lambs. The gimmer (female) lambs are retained for breeding and the wethers (males) go to auction as fat lambs - some are sold from the farm as our lamb meat boxes. The older sheep are cross-bred with a Texel tup and their lambs go as fat lambs.
In January, the sheep are scanned and we can see how many lambs they are carrying. The sheep come off the fell in mid-March, onto the home paddocks to lamb - they lamb outside, usually with minimal intervention from us. As they lamb they come into the meadows, which offer better grazing whilst the lambs are small. At the end of April the sheep and their lambs go back onto the fell and in June the sheep come into be clipped. The lambs are weaned from the sheep in September, with the sheep going back to the fell and the lambs grazing the meadows around home. In October, we again gather the fell, check the sheep and then put them into groups with the tups. Five months later comes lambing time, and the whole cycle starts again!
Our first pigs were in fact a birthday present 4 years ago and since then we have kept a small number of pigs bought in at about 8 weeks old, weighing approximately 10kg. We keep them to about 6 months old and weighing 60-70kg before taking them to our local butcher for pork joints, chops and sausages. We usually have Saddleback crosses, a breed we find produces great tasting, succulent meat. We feed our pigs pellets, vegetable scraps and some of the whey from the cheese-making. They are extremely cheeky and entertaining to watch - we hope to start to breed from our pigs in the near future.
We keep a small number of hens, free-range during the day with cabins for night-time. Hens lay up to 300 eggs a year and are fed layer’s mash as well as vegetable scraps. From an early age the children have all loved to play with the hens and help to feed them and collect the eggs - luckily the hens are very tolerant (for a while at least!)
Hens start to lay at 19-21 weeks old and lay consistently for 12-18 months. Commercially these hens would be replaced; we keep ours as they will continue to lay and live for 6-8 years. For this reason, sometimes our egg supply can be variable!