This Farming Life 2023 Episode 7

This Farming Life 2023 Episode 7

This Farming Life 2023 Episode 7 – In the ever-changing rhythm of life, anticipation and care for new beginnings becomes a central theme for many. For some, it means attending to the needs of their charges every minute of every day. In the quaint village of Inverkip, following a heartwarming and successful pregnancy scan, Rachel and Camy are immersed in preparations. They’re meticulously setting up their sheds in anticipation of welcoming this year’s batch of Park Cheviot Ewes, the cream of the crop from their flock. While the hope is that these prized ewes will deliver their young unaided, Rachel and Camy are under no illusions. They’re fully prepared and constantly on alert, ready to step in should any complications arise.



Elsewhere, Nikki and Ollie are brimming with excitement as they welcome their very first colony of adorable rabbit kits, marking a significant milestone in their breeding program. The future seems promising. However, every rose has its thorn. With Ollie dedicating long hours at the maltings and the escalating prices of building materials, their dream project of holiday pods is facing challenges. They’re now navigating the tricky waters of staying within budget and meeting deadlines.



Meanwhile, in the serene backdrop of the Cairngorms National Park, the cycle of life takes another turn. Robert, with a mix of anxiety and hope, makes his way to the market. He’s there to bid farewell and sell off last year’s batch of vibrant spring calves. The weight of an entire year’s dedication and hard work rests on this sale. The anticipation is palpable as he waits to discover the profits of his endeavors. Concurrently, back at the ranch, this year’s batch of calves are on the horizon. This keeps Robert on his toes, tirelessly working around the clock to ensure the safe delivery of each precious newborn calf.


This Farming Life 2023 Episode 7: A Season of New Life and Renewal on UK Farms

New life is at the forefront of everyone’s mind this season, which means round-the-clock care for some farmers across the UK. On the outskirts of Inverkip, Rachel and Camy are getting their sheds ready for this year’s crop of Park Cheviot Ewes – widely considered the best in their flock. They hope the ewes will give birth unaided, but they must stay vigilant in case they need to intervene. Meanwhile, Nikki and Ollie welcome their first colony of rabbit kits as their breeding programme takes off. Though things are looking up, Ollie’s long hours at the maltings and the rise in cost of building materials means their holiday pods are over budget and behind schedule. And in the Cairngorms National Park, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Robert heads to market to sell last year’s crop of spring calves – a nerve-wracking wait to find out what this year’s profit for a year’s hard work will be. At the same time, this year’s calves are due, so he’s up at all hours ensuring each newborn is safely delivered. For these farmers, it’s a season that balances the bittersweet with hope and renewal.


What is a Park Cheviot Ewe and Why Do Rachel and Camy Value Theirs?

The Park Cheviot is a heritage breed of sheep originating from the Cheviot Hills between England and Scotland. They are a hardy hill breed known for their quality meat and wool. For Rachel and Camy, their flock of Park Cheviot Ewes represents years of careful breeding and selection.

These ewes consistently produce strong, healthy lambs that thrive on the windswept pastures of the west coast of Scotland. Their wool is also prized for its softness and high quality. By maintaining strict culling standards, Rachel and Camy have developed a flock with excellent mothering instincts and rich genetics.

When lambing season arrives in early spring, the ewes require round-the-clock monitoring to ensure safe deliveries. Intervention is sometimes needed if a ewe struggles to give birth naturally. Luckily, Park Cheviots tend to lamb with ease due to their athletic build and narrow pelvis. Rachel and Camy hope most ewes give birth unaided this season, but they must remain vigilant.

The annual lamb crop is the culmination of a year’s work breeding, feeding and caring for the flock. For the farmers, each new Park Cheviot lamb represents the future of their breeding program and farm livelihood. With global meat prices rising, a healthy lambing season could bring prosperity. But challenges like harsh weather, disease and lamb loss mean nothing is guaranteed.


Nikki and Ollie’s Rabbit Breeding Programme Takes Off While Their Holiday Pods Fall Behind

On their smallholding in the Yorkshire Dales, Nikki and Ollie have launched an ambitious rabbit breeding enterprise. Rabbits are prolific breeders, with does able to produce up to 60 kits per year. This makes them appealing as a livestock project for small farms.

Nikki and Ollie started with quality breeding stock, focusing on docile temperament and good mothering abilities. Their does recently kindled their first litters. Rabbit pregnancies last just 30 days, allowing for rapid generational turnover. The kits emerged with eyes closed, deaf and nearly furless. For the first week, they remain safely tucked in the nest box, nursed by their mothers.

As the kits grow, Nikki and Ollie will monitor their health, separating any weaker ones for supplemental feeding. Only the largest and most robust will be selected for breeding. The rest will be raised for meat production, a growing niche market. Rabbit meat is lean and nutritious.

While their rabbit enterprise is taking off, Nikki and Ollie’s side project of holiday lodges has hit budgeting woes. With Ollie working long hours malting barley, construction has lagged. Soaring materials costs have also increased the projected expense. They planned to offer luxury ‘glamping’ in refined cabins, but the financial reality may require scaling back.

Still, diversification is key for small farms today. Rabbit production and agritourism lodging complement each other, allowing the farmers to spread economic risk. With clever budget adjustments, the enterprises can support each other and the farm’s bottom line.


In the Cairngorms National Park, Out With the Old Calves, In With the New

In the remote valleys of the Cairngorms National Park, beef farmer Robert faces a pivotal time of year. The end of winter means taking last spring’s calves to market while preparing for new births.

So Robert trailers his fattened yearlings to the agricultural mart, hoping competitive bidding will ensure a fair price. The annual sale determines his farm’s profitability. Prices fluctuate with factors like meat demand, export rules, and feed costs. After a year’s intensive labor, even a small drop in calf value can hit hard. At the noisy auction hall, Robert watches anxiously as his animals enter the sales ring. The auctioneer starts the rapid-fire bidding, and the final gavel prices elicit Robert’s sighs of relief or disappointment. Despite market uncertainties, the cumulative calf value falls within his expected range, buoyed by strong demand for locally-raised Highland beef.

Back at the farm, this year’s generation of calves starts arriving. Robert embraces the sleepless nights, repeatedly checking the pregnant cows and heifers grazing the open hillsides. Inclement weather or difficult labor can quickly become life-threatening. So through wind, sleet and snow, Robert monitors for signs of imminent calving. Once spotted, he shepherds the expectant mother into a sheltered pen to birth. After a smooth delivery, the cow licks her wobbly calf dry as it gains its footing to nurse. Robert savors these moments of new life before returning to his vigil.

The cycle of calves weaned, calves sold, and calves born sustains the farm. While Robert can’t control market forces, his care in stewarding the animals through each season ultimately safeguards the farm’s future.

Here is part 2 of the multi-part blog article:


Lambing Season Means Sleepless Nights and Hard Decisions for Rachel and Camy

As the ewes’ bellies swell with pregnancy, Rachel and Camy prepare for sleepless nights lambing. Though most ewes birth unaided, problems can quickly escalate. Having witnessed the heartbreak of losing newborns, the farmers stand ready to assist or make difficult calls.

Rachel checks the flock constantly as their due dates near. She looks for ewes isolating themselves, shifts in udder development and changes in posture signalling imminent labor. Once Rachel spots active contractions, she monitors from a distance, allowing the ewe to bond naturally with her lambs.

Things usually proceed smoothly, but dystocias can arise. A malpositioned lamb might block the birth canal. Rachel gently reorients the lamb, easing its passage. With a problem like uterine prolapse, she must push the ewe’s inverted uterus back while administering calcium to aid contractions.However, not every complication can be remedied. After prolonged difficulty, the farmers must determine when further intervention will only prolong distress. In these grim cases, they humanely euthanize the lamb to save the ewe’s life.

Though heart-wrenching, their decision stems from a responsibility to minimize suffering. The farmers focus on the flock’s overall welfare, but that doesn’t make the choice easier. Afterward, they second-guess themselves, hoping they acted swiftly enough or wondering if they should have persisted. Rachel and Camy know such hard choices are inevitable with livestock farming.

During difficult births, the farmers’ first priority is the ewe. But they also consider the lamb’s experience. If revived after minutes without oxygen, it may sustain brain damage or organ failure leading to health issues. In farming, empathy involves understanding when death is kinder than life. The season’s joys carry a weight of decisions and their consequences.


Nikki and Ollie Make Key Breeding Choices to Develop Their Quality Rabbit Lines

To create quality breeding stock, Nikki and Ollie must make prudent selections from their growing rabbit population. They assess kit size, temperament, conformation and mothering ability to identify the most promising replacements. Choosing which rabbits to keep and which to cull sustains their program’s viability.

At two weeks old, the kits’ eyes open and they begin exploring outside the nest box. Nikki starts handling each kit, getting them comfortable with human interaction. She identifies slower-growing kits that will become meat production rabbits. Those meeting size and vigor thresholds will be candidates for breeding. To ensure only the best rabbits reproduce, Ollie separates the selected males at 10-12 weeks. By contrast, females can breed from 4-6 months. The top few females stay with their mothers, learning maternal skills by helping care for subsequent litters.

Once mature, a thorough evaluation is done before any bucks and does are bred. Ollie judges structure, fur quality, litter size potential and temperament. Does must have excellent mothering instincts, so Nikki monitors their interactions with kits. Through this selective system, they are steadily improving the genetic attributes most important for their breeding goals. However, culling rabbits that fail to make the cut is emotionally difficult. Nikki and Ollie remain practical about these decisions, recognizing that responsible breeding requires prioritizing the healthiest, most robust rabbits. Still, saying goodbye to those not destined to breed is the hardest part.


Calving Unforeseen Crises Test Robert’s Resolve and Resourcefulness

The nights wear on as Robert awaits the heifers’ first calves. Experience has taught what to watch for, but surprises still emerge. A difficult calving can quickly spiral, requiring quick thinking and skill to remedy. After decades calving, Robert meets each long night with steady calm, assessing problems pragmatically.

When a heifer’s labor stalls, Robert calmly investigates inside her while gently attaching chains to the calf hooves. With a flawless tug timed to her contractions, a slippery calf emerges in a gush of fluid. Robert clears mucus from its nostrils so it can inhale its first breaths while vigorously drying its coat. Another heifer’s labor yields a bloodless stillborn calf. Unfazed, he swiftly pulls the replacement calf he earlier spotted positioned behind its dead sibling. Though weakened, it revives after warming and receiving colostrum. Once he notices a newborn with its hooves bent sharply inward. Recognizing contracted tendons, he gently massages the joints to ease them into proper alignment. His benign neonatal expertise averts permanent disability.

Through instinctive handling of whatever situations arise, Robert helps shepherd new calves into the world. While others may falter when things veer uncertain, he maintains grace under pressure. Each small success reaffirms his deep sense of purpose—that his role caring for these animals and this place matters.


Rachel Draws on Her Bond with the Flock to Meet Lambing’s Rewards and Challenges

For Rachel, lambing season brings profound purpose but also self-doubt. Assisting births stirs a welter of emotions, from overwhelm to elation. Her confidence stems from trusting the instincts forged over years among the flock. Still, difficult choices take a toll.

Attuned to each ewe’s rhythms, Rachel recognizes when intervention will likely be futile. She must then make the excruciating call to euthanize the unborn lamb, prioritizing the ewe’s welfare. In the aftershocks of grief and uncertainty, Rachel’s hardest job is sustaining compassion for herself.

But the season also holds joyful moments that reinforce her dedication. When Rachel helps deliver a lamb and sees it stand on wobbly legs to find its mother’s teat, her heart surges. She shares a knowing look with Camy—one that says “this is why we endure the trials of farming.”

Watching the lambs’ first frolicking steps outdoors, Rachel feels overwhelmed in the best of ways. And seeing their flock contentedly grazing green hillsides, appreciation for this place and purpose eclipses any hardships.

Farming’s emotional toll can only be weathered through self-forgiveness and embracing fleeting graces. For Rachel, caregiving cannot exist without care-taking; she nurtures the flock best when also nurturing herself. Her devotion persists by recognizing no perfect answer exists—only doing your best with care and integrity.


Conclusion: The Bittersweet Truths of Farming’s Cycle of Life

For farmers across the UK stewarding livestock and land, springtime brings bittersweet lessons. Witnessing newborn calves, kids and lambs elicits profound joy but also sorrow when things go wrong. Difficult decisions test resolve, while surprisingly smooth births reward dedication. And releasing one generation to market opens space for the next.

Farming’s fundamental truth remains that nothing is certain; life fluctuates between hardship and hope. Reward comes from nurturing new life; anguish from being powerless to prevent loss. Yet where control is absent, meaning emerges by shouldering each season’s unique challenges with empathy and grace.

For those like Rachel, Camy, Nikki, Ollie and Robert, purpose is renewed by a simple truth: that even perfect care cannot guarantee perfect outcomes. But through commitment to animal welfare and sustainable land stewardship, they fulfill essential roles as caretakers. By weathering farming’s contingencies as a community, they find the resilience and inspiration to carry on. And in new life delivered anew each season, they place hard-won hope in continuance and rebirth.


Frequently Asked Questions



What makes Park Cheviot sheep a quality breed?

Park Cheviots are prized for their robust health, athletic build, rich wool, and mothering instincts. Careful selection by Rachel and Camy has resulted in excellent genetics and traits suited to Scotland’s climate.


Why might a ewe have difficulty giving birth?

Common issues like malpositioned lambs, uterine inertia, or contorted birth canals can prevent normal delivery. A difficult labor threatens the ewe’s life and may require emergency decisions.


What criteria do Nikki and Ollie use to select rabbit breeding stock?

They evaluate kits based on size, vigor, fur quality, temperament and mothering ability in does. Only the top candidates are retained for breeding, improving the herd’s attributes.


Why is calving season filled with uncertainty even for experienced farmers?

Calving carries inherent risks like adverse weather, complications requiring swift response, and unpredictable market forces when selling calves. Each year brings new challenges.


How do farmers find resilience through farming’s hardest moments?

Supporting each other and showing self-compassion helps them bear difficult decisions. The joy of healthy newborns and continuance of the natural cycles sustain their dedication.

Tags: , ,
Scroll to Top