Posted: 27/11/2014 at 10:29
Been there and done it - as a farmer's daughter I'd always been involved with stock and when my brother took over the family farming business and it became totally arable I missed the animals.
By this time I was married with young children and living in a rural village - we were able to buy a run down 9 acre smallholding and redundant mill. Bit by bit we cut back, the hugely overgrown hedges of hawthorn and blackthorn around the three meadows, making them stockproof (more or less) and made the buildings sound again (being married to a builder meant that this was possible - it would have cost a fortune otherwise).
I'd helped my mother keep goats on the farm, so the first animals we had were a couple of Golden Guernsey goatlings. Before long I had a milking herd of 7 goats (producing milk and cheese), 60 rare breed poultry, assorted ducks, geese and guinea fowl.
Each year we bought in 4 weaner pigs at a time and these were reared and fattened (the whey from the cheesemaking came in handy there) and we had a small flock of Southdown ewes (a lovely gentle natured breed who can rarely be bothered to try to escape - they were traditionally used for grazing orchards and it is said that if you paint a white line on the ground they won't go over it)
We started off with a Manx Laoughtan ram but we didn't have enough ewes to keep him happy and he became rather stroppy and broke my thumb( making milking the goats tricky for a while). After that a local farmer lent us a ram when needed, and sheared the sheep in exchange for the wool - we also took our sheep to his farm for dipping.
Since then the regulations on movement of animals are even tighter and I think taking sheep to be dipped on another farm would not be possibe now.
We also bought in 4 Hereford x steers at 4 months old and kept them on grass, hay, barley straw and barley meal getting them to slaughter at around 16 - 18 months. We used a small local abbattoir owned and run by a friend - superb welfare conditions and the animals were never stressed or anxious there, resulting in the most tender beef (adrenalin toughens meat).
In one of the brick-build mill buildings we had three large chest freezers.
We had a small grey Ferguson tractor and a few implements - the most useful of which were the grass cutter and hay turner for the meadows. A friend who worked on another local farm would borrow his boss's tractor and baler and help bale and stack the hay when it was ready.
We repaid friends for their help with joints of beef, free eggs and geese at Christmas etc. We simply could not have managed without them. Friends were also beyond price when we discovered that a gate in the meadow with the footpath running through it had been left open and the cattle were munching their way through the village allotments and churchyard - half the village turned out with great good humour to help herd the cattle back up the lane and into their meadow again. Several rounds of Adnams beer were provided in the local pub that evening with much gratitude.
I'd always ridden so we also had a ride and drive Exmoor pony - he was a bad tempered so and so and a total liability - I sold him on to someone who had far more time than I and could re-school him and keep his brain busy so he didn't have time to plan his devious schemes. After that I borrowed a friend's lovely Haflinger mare to ride. Much the best way.