Running the farm has its challenges - it isn't just about long hot summer days watching chicks, piglets and lambs grow up in the fields! Luckily we had plenty of time to research and learn about what we were going to be taking on during the years we searched for a suitable property. There are no days off, regardless of the weather or demands from the day jobs (farming is a role we fit in to our early mornings, evenings and weekends alongside full time jobs). But that isn't to complain, just to be honest about the reality.
Like any business there is also the administrative and regulatory side of things. Farming is high risk, whether that be in terms of accidents, exposure to hazardous substances and equipment, adverse conditions, potential environmental impact, livestock, production of food for others and so on. As such there is a raft of rules to be followed and records to be kept - for good reason.
Has a County Parish Holding number through registration with the Rural Payments Agency, part of DEFRA.
Our livestock have flock and herd numbers through registration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and all the sheep and pigs need to be tagged in accordance with identification rules.
Keeps records of all animal movements, both on and off the land, through the electronic movement systems ARAMS and eAML2, as well as making annual flock declarations.
Is a member of the Hebridean Sheep Society through which we register or birth notify all sheep, complete annual flock submissions and pedigree tag individual animals.
Has a detailed flock health plan that describes all the health and welfare tasks to keep the sheep in good condition throughout the year.
Is mapped with the RPA and we maintain records on its use and management, including annual submissions under the Basic Payment Scheme.
Participates in the environmental stewardship scheme run by Natural England, requiring us to follow agreed management practices for certain areas of the farm and submit annual applications.
Is registered with the National Fallen Stock scheme, to dispose of any dead animals.
Must keep records of all animal feed obtained, from whom, with copies of the invoices and labels, and how it was used, and is registered with Trading Standards as an animal feed business to ensure we abide by feed hygiene requirements.
Must keep records of all medicines obtained, from whom, with copies of the invoices, and how it was used in which animals, with observance of any egg or meat withdrawal periods that apply.
Is registered with Environmental Health as a food business needing the implementation of a food safety management plan and daily checks, and also with Trading Standards to ensure that weights and labelling meet regulations.
Has a Type 1 Transporter Authorisation, following completion of training and assessment, that permits us to transport sheep and pigs on journeys of up to 8 hours.
Each day there are tasks that need doing although we tend to leave anything more substantial for weekends or periods of leave from work. The following are some of the things that need doing each day:
Open up the duck house each morning and round up the ducks in the evening.
Open the chickens' pop hole each morning and close it at night.
Top up the feed and water for the chickens, and any groups of chicks that are growing up.
Top up the feed and water for the ducks.
Collect and record any eggs laid.
Poo-picking in the chicken shed.
Feed the pigs twice a day, checking that the auto-drinker is still full.
Check on the sheep at least once a day, twice (or more) in summer, to ensure that they are all present, none are lame or showing unusual behaviour that may indicate a problem, and that the sheep trough is full of water each day (including breaking the ice in winter).
Take out hay to the sheep during winter months when grazing runs short or the ground is covered in snow.
Take supplementary hard feed out to the pregnant ewes in the run up to lambing.
Box up eggs for sale and record any sold.
Log the food business daily checks, including freezer temperatures.
Note any feed containers that are started or finished and update animal feed records.
More intermittent jobs include:
Buy and collect animal feed from the country store, label each bag and take photos of the labels for records. Update feed records with what was bought, from where, batch numbers and expiry dates.
Put out mineral or energy supplement lick blocks or buckets in the sheep field as needed.
Update animal medicines records with any products bought or administered.
Vaccinate the ewes in the run up to lambing each year. Vaccinate the tups and wethers once a year.
Vaccinate the lambs with two doses, four weeks apart, when they reach around 3 weeks old.
Collect samples for faecal egg count tests periodically and worm the sheep if needed.
Monitor the sheep for signs of fluke and administer a flukicide if needed.
Move the sheep from field to field to rotate grazing as needed.
Prepare the lambing shed - sterilise, set up pens, add bedding and feed/water buckets.
Two-hourly checks during the lambing period until all lambs born, including sleeping in the lambing shed overnight.
Ear tag lambs before turning out to the fields.
Clean out the lambing shed once lambing is over - muck out, pressure wash, tidy up materials.
Occasionally check each sheep's feet for hoof condition and address any problems.
Shear all adult sheep and hoggs each year.
Apply insecticide to each sheep during the fly strike season, re-applying every six weeks until the risk has passed.
Pressure wash the trailer after each animal transport.
Obtain the year's supply of hay and straw, rearrange the outbuildings so it can be stacked.
Sponge the ewes pre-tupping, removing the sponges 48 hours prior to adding the tup. Remove the tup after two cycles.
Empty and scrub out drinking troughs, then refill.
Update land use maps with RPA.
Complete and submit BPS application each May.
Complete and submit CS application each year.
Maintain animal movement records on ARAMS or eAML2.
Update accounts with items bought or sold and reconcile with bank statements monthly. Quarterly VAT returns.
Liaise with abattoir and butcher to arrange slaughter and butchery of meat.
Identify customers, sell meat and maintain records for business and food safety purposes.
Update social media and website.
Muck out chickens and ducks at least weekly, including scrubbing drinkers and feeders.
Use the muck pile to mulch the hedgerow when sufficient has accumulated.
Check all fences, gates and walls, and undertake repairs as needed.
Check all footpaths remain unobstructed and that there are no dangers, e.g. fallen or loose branches in the woodland.
Set up incubator and check daily during incubation. Clean and sterilise after each cycle.
Test the output of the electric fence in the pig paddock at least weekly.
Strim / cut back vegetation along the electric fence as soon as the output begins to drop due to shorting.
Slaughter, pluck, hang and gut meat chickens in batches when ready.
Arrange for a contractor to cut the Meadow for silage after the end of August.
Service the trailer each year.
Clean and maintain equipment throughout the year as needed.
Maintain and paint the outbuildings and animal housing each year.