Badger

The farm is run as a family business, Keith, his mother and father and their other son built the business up to what it is today. Unfortunately it isn’t all in one place so a lot of time is taken up travelling to work with sheep and cattle further afield. As well as the farm where we live, there is also a fell farm, the farmhouse is rented out but the land and fell are farmed by Keith and his brother and the business also includes the farm where Keith’s brother lives. Altogether the business is made up of 500 acres, 2 tenanted farms and one owned. At home we milk cows twice a day it’s a small herd of British Friesians and at full capacity we milk up to 46 cows in an old fashioned shippon (not many of those around these days). We lamb over 1000 sheep, 550 here on the farm and 300 at the fell and keep 300 replacements from the previous years lambing. It’s what’s called a closed flock ~ no bought in sheep only tups. We also keep 60 suckler cattle and hand rear the calves out of the dairy cattle to produce beef and suckler replacements. To some you won’t have a clue what I’m on about but it’s relevant information on how we farm.

As well as my husband and his brother, one of my sons works on the farm and myself, we all have our own jobs and we like it that way. If someone isn’t there we cover for each other but we rarely take a full day off because we have to milk twice a day. Last year we had 5 full days holiday.

Up until August last year my father in law worked here everyday helping milk, he looked round a lot of the stock further afield and came back in the evening to milk. But our world was turned upside down last year when Michael, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease MND or sometimes called ALS. The disease has no cure and it begins to affect the muscles in the body until eventually a patient can lose all movement, speech, swallowing and breathing. This is what happened to Michael. He became completely dependent on myself, Keith’s mum and a neighbour. We had very little external help and we cared for him up until his death in April this year.  I mention this because it is explains the way in which, one person, each and every person who is involved in the farm is important to the running and success of the business. And when one person is removed it makes it extremely difficult for the others to carry the weight of the work. It is a continuous cycle, if you are lucky, of knowledge and skills passed from parent to the next generation.

Previous to Michael taking ill I had been involved in a little of everything but not full time, mainly lambing and paperwork but for the past year I have helped Keith milk everyday and fed and reared all the calves.

There are many animals on the farm, the dairy cows I know 1-1 really well as they are milked twice a day but many of the lambs born around 1600 or above each year get sold as meat or breeding sheep to other farms and they aren’t petted or friendly. But during lambing time there are many lambs that need extra care and support or are orphans and they come into what I call the Arklid Special Care Lamb Unit or #arklidsclu . Every lamb in there is named, and brought up as if I’m their mother until they may or may not get a mother to adopt onto.

As well as the farm animals we have 6 working sheepdogs: Lark, Ben who used to be the only boy with the bitches, Gem, Meg, Patch and Badger!

Badger deserves a very special mention …

On the 7th of January this year Lark gave birth to 8 live puppies. Unfortunately one died immediately after his birth, my daughter named him Charlie and we buried him in the orchard. Things seemed to be going well for the rest of the pups and Lark was being a wonderful mother to them, cleaning them keeping them active and they were all suckling her in the shed. We were all overjoyed to put it mildly, ecstatic more like, to see the puppies was beautiful, we were having such a difficult time watching Michael’s health deteriorate, covering his work and caring for him at home in the cottage down the road where Keith and I began our married life. It was like a sign of hope when the puppies came and I felt full of love for them.

But the next morning one of the puppies had dropped off feeding, he was cold so put it under the heat lamp to warm. A few hours later he picked up and Lola called him Truffle but unfortunately he died. The next day was my son’s 16th birthday and we were having a family tea in the evening. It was difficult to focus on keeping things happy because another big pup had gone the same way, cold and went off feeding. He was one of the first born and I’d seen him suckle well so I knew he’d had Lark’s colostrum. He was crying so I brought him in and warmed him in the Rayburn, he picked up but sadly he also died. I decided to call the vet, a family friend because I knew something was wrong. He listened to my story and the puppies symptoms then asked me a few questions. He then gave me the diagnosis but began by saying ‘I’m afraid you are in for a tough time’ I thought he meant we might have to feed them with bottles bring them in the house but no, he didn’t mean that, he told me they had something called fading puppy syndrome and there was no cure. I couldn’t believe it, it really couldn’t be happening but sure enough over the space of 12 days one by one the puppies died. The vet had said we might be lucky and have one left so we tried to remain hopeful but as we lost 2 more little bitches a few days later and another we were eventually left with only 2 puppies out of 8, the littlest and the largest.

But 2 weeks later we still had one remaining puppy, and against the odds he went on to grow and grow and survived. We now have a six month old crazy sheepdog named Badger, son of Lark and handsome Ben, a true miracle for us amongst the sadness we have experienced.

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