Court Farm is a vibrant, 270-acre working farm here in the lovely Llanthony Valley. As we are now heading into spring and the main lambing season begins, we thought it would be fun to share some information about the farm and the lambing process. Keep reading…
The Story of Court Farm
Bryony, owner of Llanthony Court Castaway, farms in partnership with her parents Colin and Cordelia Passmore. The family has farmed here for over 45 years; but they are originally from Sussex and have also farmed in Devon. The Passmore family moved around to different parts of the country in the wake of the 1880s great agricultural depression, before settling in the Black Mountains after Bryony’s grandfather began to buy sheep and cattle from Brecon market.
The farm consists of 26 acres of ancient woodland and 5 ponds, as well as bird boxes, bat boxes and areas of heaped timber which hedgehogs, birds, mice, and various other species can inhabit. The farmland is permanent pasture, which means it is not ploughed or used to grow crops. The family are passionate about regenerative agriculture, ensuring for minimal disturbance to soil (which enhances conservation and biodiversity) whilst maintaining healthy grassland to improve flock health and welfare (and overall production and efficiency).
Creating & Preserving Healthy Habitats
Bryony studied Zoology at university and is passionate about creating and preserving habitats to maintain healthy biodiversity and soil. As a farmer’s daughter and now a farmer herself, Bryony endeavours to ensure for efficient food production to maximise environmental gain. She farms the land to create a home for healthy, happy sheep, leading to ethical and efficient food production.
Bryony uses the area surrounding Llanthony Court Castaway to further support biodiversity. The hedge and area of native grassland which has been planted behind Castaway provides all-important habitats for pollinators and wildlife. Bryony hopes to install more bird boxes around the carriage, along with insect areas and more plants for pollinators.
The Lambing Process
Tupping – The first stage of lambing is tupping, which is when the ewes and rams mate. Tupping takes place during the autumn time. Farmers use several rams to cover their flock, usually in the ratio of 1 ram to 40-60 ewes. This increases the chances of ewes being covered by the rams and falling pregnant. Ewes only come into season once a year, so there is a short time period for them to become pregnant. Ewes usually become breeding sheep at 2 years old.
Scanning – Ewes will be scanned on the farm to discover how many lambs they are carrying. Ewes usually have one lamb or twins, but it’s not uncommon for ewes to have triplets, quads, or even quintuplets. Pregnant lambs will then be split up into groups so that feeding and nutrition can be carefully managed – after all, a ewe carrying one lamb doesn’t need the same amount of food as one carrying quintuplets!
Lambing – Lambs are born around 145 days (4.5 months) after the ewe falls pregnant. First-time mums are often brought inside so that farmers can keep a close eye on them and help them give birth if needed. During lambing, farmers are on hand throughout the day and night to make sure that things run smoothly.
Feeding – Once the lamb is born, it’s vitally important that it gets onto its feet quickly and latches to the ewe’s teat to get the first milk (colostrum), which is jam-packed full of essential nutrients and antibodies. If the lamb doesn’t drink within the first few hours, the farmer will collect the colostrum from the mother and feed it to the lamb via a tube.
Adopting – Unfortunately, lambing can be a difficult time and not all ewes and lambs will survive. If a mother is unable to look after one of its lambs due to a multiple birth (triplets or quads) or if the ewe dies, orphan lambs will be paired with other ewes for adoption. Once the farmer is happy that the lamb is feeding well, it can be released out into the field with the other ewes and lambs. Ewes will graze on fresh grass which helps them produce milk for their growing lambs.
Weaning – Lambs are fitted with identification tags which they will keep for the rest of their life. Lambs are normally weaned at 2-4 months old, when they will go on to be breeding sheep or will be reared for meat. The ewes will then have a few months to get into tip-top shape, ready for autumn tupping when the process starts all over again!
Lambing at Court Farm
Court Farm has a flock of 550 Texel, Lleyn and Aberfield breeding ewes. A small group of 50 or so ewes are lambed in February, and then the remaining ewes are lambed in April when the weather is likely to be better. They will keep 200 lambs to add to the breeding flock when they are 2 years old.
The surrounding fields at Court Farm will house sheep for most of the year. Many ewes have twins, so any sheep seen with number markings on their sides indicate mother and babies that can be easily identified as a family. Sheep will often leave their lambs to sleep whilst they go and graze, so you may see groups of lambs sleeping or playing together with no signs of mum around. But don’t worry – ewes always know where they left their lambs, and they have unique bleats so they can find each other again.
Bryony’s farm dog Flash is very good at watching and looking after his sheep flock. He enjoys rounding them up when they need to be brought into the farmyard for checks, but also watches and keeps them safe at all times.
Spring Staycations at Llanthony Court Castaway
Spring is a truly spectacular time of year to visit Llanthony Castaway. Enjoy walking across the fields with the sun shining on your face and sitting out in a pub beer garden with a pint (or two!), before spending the evenings snuggled up in your very own converted railway carriage. What could be better?!
We are filling up fast for the spring season, with only the following dates still available:
- Wednesday 16th – Friday 18th March = £194
- Monday 18th – Wednesday 20th April = £257
- Friday 29th – Monday 2nd May = £444
- Wednesday 11th – Friday 13th May = £218
- Monday 30th – Wednesday 1st June = £296
Click here to book your spring staycation at Llanthony Castaway today!