Author Archives: Jill Judd

  • What’s the most unusual food that an animal at the farm eats?

    Each month, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free family admission pass for a day at the farm, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Rebecca Bennett.

    Rabbits eat their own poo. This may seem quite unusual, but it’s actually a very important part of their digestive process.

    Rabbits are herbivores and their natural diet of grass, plants and weeds is high in fibre and cellulose which makes it tough to digest.

    The digestive process starts with the rabbit physically breaking the food down by chewing, before passing the food into their stomach and on to the intestines. Their small intestine works hard to get as many nutrients as possible out, but at this point in the digestive process the food hasn’t been fully broken down. After the small intestine, the food passes into the caecum, where bacteria break it down further and release more nutrients. However, the food can’t move back up the digestive process, so although it is full of nutrients, it then leaves the body as a special type of poo called a cecotroph. The rabbit can then eat the cecotroph and get even more nutrients out of it as it goes through the digestive process for a second time.

    Cecotrophs are darker in colour and more squidgy than the other pellets that rabbits produce. It’s important for the rabbits to be able to eat them as they provide them with nutrients and vitamins that they need to stay healthy. Why not see if you can spot any in the rabbit cages on your next visit to the farm?

    References:

    https://www.petplan.co.uk/blog/why-do-rabbits-eat-their-own-faeces/

    https://www.saveafluff.co.uk/rabbit-info/rabbit-poo

  • Picking Elderflower

    Belvoir are back at Sacrewell, and they want your picking power.

    After a challenging winter the sun has finally put his hat on and come out to share in the good times of Summer, and with him he brings an abundance of Elderflower.

    So get ready as Belvoir are calling you to kindly roll up your sleeves and take to the English hedgerows in your local area to help pick another bumper crop of Elderflowers, so that they can continue to make lovely Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Pressé.

    How to get involved

    1. Choose your picking location. When picking, do not pick from public places, e.g. church yards, and only pick from land with permission; please respect the countryside code. Please note that there is no picking of Elderflowers at Sacrewell.
    2. You’ll need … a bin bag to put the flowers in and some good walking boots. We advise you to wear long trousers so you don’t get stung by nasty nettles.
      We like elderflower heads, so no stalks please, and they need to be fresh so please deliver the flowers on the same day you picked them because they go brown very quickly and become unusable.
    3. Bring your elderflower heads to Sacrewell, between 2.30pm-5pm. You’ll see the Belvoir team and van just before the Sacrewell car park.
    4. Belvoir pay £2.50 per kilo for your lovely Elderflower, which they will weigh near the Belvoir van.

    Find out more on the Belvoir website …happy picking!

     

  • How much milk does a cow produce each day on average?

    Each month, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free family admission pass for a day at the farm, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from James Atkin.

    We have exciting news! This summer Sacrewell will be welcoming two red Dexter cows. Dexter cows are a miniature breed, originally from Ireland where their small size helped them thrive in rocky and mountainous terrain.

    In the UK the most common dairy breed is the Holstein-Friesian cow. In the 1970s the average Holstein-Friesian cow produced 21 pints of milk a day, whilst in 2012 the average was 42 pints a day.

    This increase is due to selective breeding. Selective breeding is where a farmer chooses to breed from the animals that have the best traits, for example a dairy farmer would use the cow that produces the most milk to have calves that should also produce lots of milk and a dairy farmer would not breed from cows that don’t produce a lot of milk.

    It was recently recorded that a Holstein-Friesian cow in Wisconsin, USA, produced 574711 pints of milk across the year, which is the same as 184 pints a day!

    There are four things which can affect a cow’s milk production:

    1. Feed – the more food a cow has access to eat, the more milk they will produce
    2. Genetics – If the cow is the daughter of a high milk producing cow, they are more likely to produce a greater volume of milk
    3. Weather – sudden and extreme changes in the weather can cause a decrease in a cow’s production of milk.
    4. Age – As a cow gets older they are much better at producing milk. They begin to produce more milk after they have stopped growing at the age of 3 to 4 years.

    Cows and milk production play a big part in the Sacrewell story. In 1926 a small herd of Shorthorn cattle arrived at the farm. By May 1965 the herd had increased to 100 cows and the breed of cattle had changed from dairy Shorthorn to Jersey cows which produce much creamier milk. The milk produced was sold and delivered in the surrounding villages. William Scott Abbott kept detailed records of his own selective breeding programme, photographing the cows and the calves that they produced.

    Dexter cows are the smallest breed of European Cattle and come in three different colours: red, black and dun. They tend to be very gentle, relaxed and caring in nature.

    These small cows measure 38 to 44 inches at the shoulder and weigh less than 1000lbs (450kg), which is roughly the weight of a grand piano!

    Whilst Dexter cows are a miniature breed of cow, they still can produce large quantities of milk, with the average Dexter cow producing 16 pints of milk a day. You can make 320 cups of tea each day with the amount of milk produced by the Dexter cow!

    References:

    http://www.dextercattle.co.uk/

    http://www.thatsfarming.com/news/dexter-cattle-breed

    https://www.uaex.edu/4h-youth/activities-programs/docs/Dairy%20Facts.pdf

    http://www.dairymoos.com/how-much-milk-do-cows-give/

  • How many boxes of cereal would an average wheat field make?

    Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Bella and Theo Oxenbould:

    We know a bit about wheat at Sacrewell. We know that in a one square metre field, you can plant 250 wheat seeds, which will grow and produce 1 kilogram of wheat grain. So that was our starting point.

    Then we went to find out about some cereal. The nice people at Weetabix told us that they use 365 grains of wheat to produce just one Weetabix biscuit. Their biscuits come in a variety of box sizes, but we sell the small, 24 biscuit pack in the campers section of our shop, so we’re going to concentrate on that one.

    If you prefer cornflakes to Weetabix, you might be interested to know that they are made from maize (aka sweetcorn) rather than wheat (aka corn). We haven’t done the calculations for a field of sweetcorn, but we did find this great episode of Food Unwrapped which shows how the sweetcorn is made into cornflakes in a factory.

    Then it was time to do some maths.

    The average field in the UK is 12 hectares:

    12 hectares = 12 000 square metres.

    1 square metre produces 1kg of wheat grain, so 12 000 square metres produce 12 000 kg of wheat grain.

    1 kg of wheat contains approximately 25 000 grains of wheat:

    25 000 x 12 000 = 300 000 000

    So we get 300 000 000 grains of wheat from an average field, and it takes 365 grains to make each Weetabix biscuit.

    Grains of wheat

    300 000 000 ÷ 365 = 821 918 biscuits

    There are 24 biscuits in a small box.

    821 918 ÷ 24 = 34 246 boxes.

    We’ve made quite a lot of estimates and assumptions in our calculations. The weight of an individual wheat grain can vary depending on the variety and how well it grows. The yield of grain from a field can vary depending on the weather and soil conditions that it was grown in. The size of an actual field can vary hugely.

    But we’re happy to say that an average wheat field would make approximately 34 thousand small boxes of Weetabix cereal. That’s more than enough for me to have two in my breakfast bowl every day for the next 46 years!

    References:

    http://www.nebiodiversity.org.uk/

    https://www.reference.com/food/many-grains-wheat-gram-88a4bf0a5a8ebff3

    Images from www.pixabay.com

  • What’s your monthly animal food bill?

    Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This week, they’ve won a family day pass and the question came from Susan Wallwork’s eight year old daughter Abigail.

    There are lots of different mouths to feed on the farm, and every one has their own special diet. Most of our animals stay outdoors and will graze the grass, legumes and other pasture plants found in their paddocks.

    Each animal also has their own specific dry food, which for the larger animals is usually a grain mixture consisting of corn, oats, barley as well as added minerals and vitamins. We call this the hard feed order (including the pet yard animals) and it’s about £150 / week.

    When you walk down the path, you will probably see the metal baskets filled with hay (or more likely, an empty basket with hay all over the floor after the goats and sheep have eaten their breakfast). We buy the hay (for feed) and straw (for bedding) together and this is around £200 / week.

    In addition to this are any special dietary needs: –
    Donkeys have Farrier Formula for hoof growth at £37 per 5kg and anti-bacterial hoof treatment
    Calves are still on powdered formula milk at nearly £40 per 20kg bag and calf creep pellets.

    They also get treats like fresh fruit and veg (watch our donkeys get some turnip treats is this farm camp video from 13:50) from time to time.

    This means our monthly food bill alone is around £1200, and on top of this the animals all require regular vaccinations, wormers and sometimes antibiotics plus fly treatments (mainly for sheep and horses) and anything we can’t diagnose or treat on site will require a vet visit.

     

     

    Sacrewell is run as a charity by the William Scott Abbott Trust with the aim of providing an agricultural education for everyone, from school children to heritage enthusiasts. As a charity, we are always happy to receive support and donations are welcome. You can help us to educate and delight future generations by becoming a member or volunteering on the farm.

  • The first ever Farm Camp at Sacrewell

    A recent study of four-to-eight year olds in London found that one-third of them didn’t know that milk was produced by cows. Sacrewell and the William Scott Abbott Trust are on a quest to change statistics like these through their new Farm Camp programme. The programme offers school groups the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in farm life, from mucking out the donkeys to digging up the potatoes they’ll eat for dinner, developing life skills like team work and resilience along the way. Groups will also spend at least one night under canvas on the farm, sleeping in the peace and quiet of rural Cambridgeshire until the resident peacocks wake them up with their morning alarm call.

    The programme was officially launched on July 13th and 14th with a camp for the Year 3 children and staff from Ravensthorpe Primary School in Peterborough. Martin Fry, the head teacher said, “We’ve had a fantastic time. One of the highlights for me was seeing the children make their own apple juice with the apples and the apple press. It was great seeing that whole process of where we get the things that normally we just find in the supermarket. The children were really into that.” The eight year old pupils also enjoyed their visit, Cara said “I enjoyed the campfire,” and Bradley said the pizza that he made from scratch was “Delicious!”

    This exciting programme has been made possible with £21,240 of funding from Mick George Limited through their Mick George Community Fund. Nikki Cherry, Engagement Manager for Learning at Sacrewell is pleased with the success of the first farm camp and very grateful for the support she has had from the team of staff and volunteers at Sacrewell. She hopes that many more children will benefit from a Farm Camp experience in future.

    After the success of this pilot camp, Sacrewell are taking bookings for school groups who wish to give their pupils an insight into farming and where their food comes from, combined with a residential stay. Farm Camp will be available from May to October 2018, please see our Learning pages for more details of our schools offer.

  • What do the peacocks eat?

    Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Emma Mehmed’s three year old son.

    The peacocks at Sacrewell are free to roam wherever they like on the farm so they are opportunistic feeders. They can often be seen lurking near the picnic tables outside the mill, waiting for a family picnic to finish so they can enjoy the crumbs that have been left behind. They can also easily hop over the fences in our animal paddocks and have been known to nibble on the seed and cereal mixes that we feed to our goats and sheep.

    Peafowl (the term used for both male peacocks and female peahens) are not a native British species. The blue ones which you can see at Sacrewell originally come from India and Sri Lanka. There are also green peacocks from Java and Myanmar and a third, lesser-known species called the Congo peacock which has a range of coloured feathers.

    In the wild, peafowl forage for plants, insects and small creatures which they can find on the ground. They are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. The peacocks at Sacrewell forage around the farm in the same way. They’ll find plenty of plants and insects in the hedgerows that line our paths and paddocks.

    Although the Sacrewell peacocks are happy to take advantage of an easy meal, it is much healthier for them to move around and search for food in a natural way. We would ask our visitors to remember this when they are having their picnics and ensure that any rubbish or leftover food gets safely stored inside our wheelie bins.

    References

    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/peacocks/

    http://www.arkive.org/congo-peafowl/afropavo-congensis/image-G19975.html

  • Which animals are the most photogenic?

    Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Pati Patka Aparatka.

    Working at the farm  every day, we get to see witness some incredible things yet rarely have a camera at the ready. Yesterday, we watched a calf have the surprise of its life as it investigated some grass and got its poor nose stung by a nettle. For the first time in the spring I watched a ewe give birth. I blinked, and out popped lamb number two.

    Some moments are hilarious, others are breath taking and it’s really hard to be able to point out the most photogenic animals because it is absolutely down to luck. Instead, enjoy a selection of our favourite shots of the animals since the new year. Thanks to Jill, Oli, Amy and Harriet for the photos.

    Feel free to share your snaps with us on our Instagram, we share the best ones in our newspaper Sacrewell in Season.

  • What are peacock babies called?

    Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Kate Baker’s son.

    Peacock babies are called peachicks, though you won’t find any peachicks at Sacrewell as we only have male peacocks and no peahens.

    We thought you might be interested to know the correct terms for the male, the female and the baby of some other animals that we have on the farm too.

    Animal Adult male Adult female Young
    peafowl peacock peahen peachick
    pig boar sow piglet
    cattle bull cow calf
    chicken cockerel hen chick
    sheep ram ewe lamb
    goat billy nanny kid
    horse or pony stallion mare foal
    alpaca macho hembra cria
    donkey jack jenny foal
    guinea pig boar sow pup
    rabbit buck doe kit

    For some animals, farmers also use different words for adult animals which are used for breeding and adult animals which aren’t. Here are two examples:

    Animal Castrated male Breeding male Young female Breeding female
    pig barrow boar gilt sow
    cattle steer bull heifer cow

     

    An adult male peacock displaying his fabulous feathers.

  • Peter the Rabbit (Belgian Hare)

    Most of you should recognize this beautiful Belgian Hare from the animal village. Peter, loved by many, passed away peacefully in his sleep last week. He loved having his long ears stroked and had a rather inquisitive character.

    Despite the name, Belgian Hares are a type of domestic rabbit. Selectively bred to look like a wild hare, these rabbits were imported from Belgium to Britain in 1874. They have long slender body and agile legs, just like the hares you see in the countryside. The Belgian Hare is one of the most intelligent and energetic of rabbit breeds.

    Peter will be missed by our volunteers, staff and visitors.

    Peter the Belgian Hare