Wednesday, 10 February 2016

That'll do Leif!

It's been a little while since we shared news of Leif's progress, so its about time we showed off some of his skills.

Leif came back to us just before Christmas and I was keen to get him working on our sheep. The wettest winter that I can remember and some very tame sheep didn't get things off to the best of starts with flooded fields and hooligan sheep! I was keen to get him working though and at the start of January, we moved some of our sheep offsite to a new location (more news on that in a few weeks) and I begun working him there.

Working sheepdogs is quite a skill, so I have been learning alongside Leif and you have to take care with this because any 'mistakes' made by myself would likely amplify in Leif and could lead to him developing some bad behaviours. I have been very lucky to have a number of people to call on for help with this and over the last couple of weeks, me and Leif have grown together, I've learnt to handle him with firmness and more confidence. We've had our little setbacks at times, but that's when it's time to do a bit more reading, make a phone call and have a go the next day.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip up to Cumbria for the weekend to get some feedback from school farm friend, Hannah Jackson. While I was there, I managed to get some video (sometimes difficult when you're by yourself) so that I could share Leif's progress.

He's now showing a confident outrun and he 'doesn't take any messing' from the sheep.

That'll do Leif. Good lad.

Friday, 5 February 2016


My name is Ethan and am going to be writing about the twelve piglets that were born on our school farm last month. So where do I begin?

We keep three different breeds of pig on our farm, we have three Kune Kune's - these are originally from New Zealand and they are a very friendly, good-natured pig and we keep these for teaching with. We also keep two types rare breed pig, Tamworths (the ginger ones) and Large Blacks. Back in September, we put one of our gilts (the females that haven't had piglets before) in with our Tamworth boar to try and get her pregnant.

Fast forward to the beginning of January and I came down to the farm on the Sunday evening to feed the animals with the other volunteers and everything was all good, there were no signs or no piglets. The next morning, when we were feeding the animals before school we still hadn't seen any piglets but later in the morning, Shannon, our farm apprentice, made the discovery. I was in lessons, so I wasn't the first down there (but I wish I had been) but I saw Mr Fearon walking down the corridor (you can't really miss him!) he was in a rush to his next lesson as he was teaching! When he walked past he had a big grin on his face and he went we have 12! "12 what?"

I rushed straight down to the farm at break so that I could see the piglets! Mr Fearon was right, we had twelve piglets and we think that they had been born late on the Sunday afternoon. They were really active and the sow was a being a really good first-time mum. It's quite unusual for a first litter to be so big, so we weren't that surprised when we had to make the decision to take the three smallest piglets away from the sow to give them a bit of extra milk. It is always a tough decision to take a young animal away from it's mother and Mr Fearon explained to us that we would just take them out to give them a boost with extra milk to make them a bit more competitive with their larger siblings and then reintroduce them with the rest of the piglets.

The piglets drinking their milk

The two 'pet' pigs being kept separately

The news of the piglets spread quite quickly and by the end of the day, we had photographers from the Liverpool Echo and the Wirral Globe coming to see the pigs and take some photo's and video of us. Mr Fearon had to give interviews over the phone to the reporters to tell them about what we do on the farm and the reason that we have pigs - we keep them for meat purposes.

By the end of the week, we had managed to get one of the three pigs back in with the sow and other piglets, but the other two were getting bullied off the milk, so we've kept them separate and bottle feed them during the day, when all of the piglets are weaned, they will be reunited.

Me and one of the piglets!