Partridge Hill Farm Summer Newsletter 2017

It’s been an exciting quarter folks; here’s my Summer Newsletter 2017

Dear Friends and Customers of Partridge Hill Farm,

Happy Mid-Summer greetings to everyone. This afternoon’s long awaited and very welcome rain storm has given me the perfect opportunity to down tools and head inside to write this quarter’s newsletter. As it always appears I’ve had another non-stop busy few months, made all the more productive by the longer day lengths and fine weather.
I finished my last newsletter with a promise to let you know how my organic battle against the weeds, particularly the rampant Common Rushes, which was to be this quarter’s main task. I’m very happy to report that the majority of the affected areas have been mowed just as the rushes were coming into flower. By cutting the offending plants at the right time I hope to break their dominance by preventing them from going to seed, and by giving the grasses around them a chance to compete. This tactic may well have to be repeated later in the summer but round one has been won, in the meantime. What has amused me as I’ve been slowly chugging around the pasture on a 25bhp tractor with a 4-foot topper is my internal inclination to covet the contractor’s 150bhp tractor with a mowing system several times wider than mine that’s racing around the neighbouring fields as I watch in envy!

The Badger Face sheep were busy lambing when I last wrote, and I’m happy to say by the end of the season all my ewes had delivered. The unbroken flow of twins didn’t last all the way through the flock but still by the end of it a very respectable reproduction rate of 167%, which considering how many of the ewes were first time mothers I’d say they did very well.

The lambs have been growing on very fast as they do, and the mothers have done a good job at looking after them in during their most critical first couple of months. The adults were sheared about a month ago, I’m getting better at this managing each sheep in a quicker time and they’ve all turned out looking quite smart this year, even if I do say so myself, though I might not win any award at the County Show!

My plans for the flock are evolving with my handling experience, later in the year I’m looking forward to buying in some ewes from a larger breed in order to match the joint sizes customers are more used to buying in retail outlets. With so many breeds in the UK the decision for which one to go for hasn’t been easy but I’ve been given a lot of guidance from a neighbouring commercial sheep farmer who has a long life time of experience, on top of his father’s passed on knowledge as a sheep trader, so we’ve been able to identify the best bigger breed for Partridge Hill Farm. It’s a Welsh lowland breed called the Beulah Speckled Face Sheep and they have all the characteristics needed to fit in on perfectly on my farm. They are good mothers, giving birth easily and caring well for the lamb during their initial couple of months of life, and importantly able to thrive on rough unfertilised grass.
I am really looking forward to developing my flock in this direction, in response to customer feedback, but for those who are hooked on the flavour of the Badger Face do not worry I will still be able to supply your favourite lamb breed preference! However, it does mean that I am not going to expand the Badger Face section of the flock as I had been planning to earlier in the year when I kept the best lambs back from sale for that purpose. Therefore that does mean that I now have some hogget for sale.

Hogget is the name given to the meat of a sheep that is between 1 and 2 years old, before it becomes mutton. It is still tender, its flavour just a little richer than lamb and the joint sizes will be larger making really something to be celebrated. It’s not easy to come by as commercially it’s more profitable to sell produce on a soon as possible. I’ll be selling it at £11.50/kg discounted from the usual lamb price of £12.50.
The last of my present pig batch are now ready for sale also, these are a Berkshire X Duroc pig, the Berkshire as you know, is renowned for its Wild Boar like flavour and the Duroc is a traditional American hog known for its leanness, so this cross breed is becoming more and more popular amongst breeders for its combination of these two great characteristics, I’ll be keeping some back for my own freezer that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to some fantastic BBQs and evenings around the fire this season.

So, if you’d like half or quarter of a pig I’m selling them at £9/kg discounted from the usual £10/kg or if you’d like to buy a smaller amount in a combination Hog and Hogget taster box for the usual prices then get in touch and I’ll go through the options with you. Last time I sold sausages I couldn’t meet the demand so I’ll be making a lot more this time around for your summer BBQs!

Before I finish it’s not too soon to start talking about Christmas at Partridge Hill as the turkeys are on order. I’ve reserved a mix of breeds from my supplier this year, yes I’ll be rearing the original UK Christmas bird the Norfolk Black as I have done for the last couple of years, its flavour cannot be matched, but I’m also going to keep some Norfolk Bronzes which I helped farm in Hertfordshire, once upon a time, which produce a broader breast for customers who want a bigger bird on their table, and while I’m at it I’m going to trial a couple of white turkeys to see how they do in my free range system as I had a few orders last year for 30lb(14kg) birds which I couldn’t get anywhere near to meeting, the largest of my Norfolk Blacks reaching 20lb(9kg).

So, in all it’s been an exciting few months working out how best to respond to customer requests and feedback and I’m really looking forward to making these positive changes in breed selections and seeing the productive outcomes of my pasture management strategies over the next couple of months, and I hope to let you know about their successes in my autumn newsletter.

I look forward to hearing from you with your order enquiries and wish you all the best for the summer season!

Farmer Ben