Monday, 12 December 2011

The sheep have been up grazing on Holy island again this autumn. There have been more of them there this year and so they have cleared it of quicker. That was the hope as the snow did cause some disruption last year!

They have made a good job clearing off the rough and have taken out both the michelmas daisy and the piri piri, both invasive species, that were inside the fenced off area.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

All this lovely autumn weather is great apart from the fact that the cows at Silverlink seem to prefer snoozing to munching. Never mind I think I would prefer for the weather to stay warm and sunny for a bit longer!

Monday, 10 October 2011

 The goats arrived at our trial grazing site on the whin grassland last week in glorious sunshine. Maisie, George, Ollie and Thistle have a shelter there ready for when the weather changes which I am sure they have much appreciated over the last few days!

Once they decided to come out of the trailer it was time for a quick assessment of where they were

before getting stuck in to some tasty brambles. They will stay on site until xmas when they will have a break and if all goes to plan return next spring. The idea is that over time they will remove keep down the amount of scrub that is spreading over the grassland.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Shearling lamb

It is that time of year when we have some shearling lamb available for sale. They come as half lamb packs @£65 each.
Each pack comprises of 2 leg joints (shank end and chump end), 2 shoulder joints boned and rolled, approx 12 chops, 3 chump chops and 2x 500g packs of mince.
All have been grazing extensively on nature reserves and semi-natural grasslands for the past 18 months.

They are available collection only from:
Scotts the Butcher 
Dobbies garden centre         
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE20 9BT

Ouseburn Farm
Ouseburn Road,
Newcastle Upon Tyne,
Tyne And Wear

To order or for more information please email:

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Love is in the air, the bull was feeling rather amorous this morning so I kept my distance!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The ponies at Prestwick were full of fun today or was it just horseplay?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The ponies at Prestwick are starting to have an impact opening some areas of the grassland. It's just a shame that the water levels have risen back up to near winter level with the rain we have had this month. Once they have dropped back again some of the rushes will be cut open it up some more.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

They always get the better of you don't they.
The 4 cattle on Druridge pools have been quite happily settled there for several months now. There were 2 steers (castrated males) and 2 females one of which was a free martin. A free martin is the female from a pair of twins and is almost always infertile. The plan was to bring another 4 in to join them which would have been female, but before this could happen the one fertile female in the group decided she couldn't wait any longer and jumped 3 fences and travelled 2 fields to find a bull. Once there she quite happily stayed and was not keen on returning. After much discussion about the possibility / probability of this happening again it was decided that the best course of action would be to take the cattle off for now. This isn't ideal as the grass is still growing and should ideally be shorter for the migratory wildfowl which start to pass through at the end of this month but the probability of this happening again is far to high and if young cattle are bulled before they are big enough it results in difficult calvings and a strong chance that the mother and calf will not survive. We will have to rely on the ponies and possibility some sheep to keep the grass down for the rest of this summer.
Next year it will be all steers and not hormonal teenagers!!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In between the showers haymaking has been progressing at Cleadon hills SSSI.

There are areas which cannot be cut by machine. Every few years an effort is made to cut these areas by hand which is very time consuming and costly and means they are not quite as good as
they could be.
Over the long term it would be beneficial to graze the hay aftermaths (regrowth) and other areas in the autumn and spring. An initial consultation process is being started looking at the feasibility of grazing hardy Exmoor ponies over the area for a few weeks each year.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Have been across to Whittledene today and moved the sheep from the bbq field for a while. Then it was on up Kielder to check out the grazing at Bakethin and Yarrow and work out a plan for the next few months. Bakethin will be Exmoor ponies and Yarrow ponies and cattle. While we were up there it started to chuck it down and the rain has pretty much followed us all the way back to Gosforth.
On the way back we came around via Fontburn and the 2 ponies there look well with the site starting improve. I am going to put on a few sheep next week to help it along a bit. They will probably be Shetlands along with some others breeds yet to be decided, it depends which ones volunteer on the day!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Some Highland cows have now joined the ponies and sheep at Prestwick, they have not long since calved and have some cute little calves with them. They are very good mothers and protective of their offspring so it is best to keep a respectable distance from them until they settle in.

They will be grazing out on the rushy areas while it is fairly dry and the water levels reasonably low.

They were going to graze the fields beside the road for a few days but that has had to be postponed until some fencing work is done behind the houses. There was a gate missing and the garden fences don't seem to be 'Highland cow proof'! We wouldn't want them turning up to a barbeque uninvited!

Friday, 8 July 2011

The sheep are now off the top section of Whittledene aqueduct, which they have been grazing for the early summer period this year. They have moved to the bbq field where they will stay until the early autumn when they move back onto the aqueduct for the winter grazing period. It will be interesting to see what flower species come into bloom on the heavily grazed area later this summer.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Surveys at Whittle

The grazing at the Whittle aqueduct has been a little experimental. last year a length of this site was grazed until June giving a late flush of flowers. We returned to survey the site and see what was the result of this late grazing and to compare it with the more conventinally spring and autumn grazed section. The diversity of plants on the site was certainly impressive, over 20 species in some of the quadrats. However, the area grazed late last year did seem to be a little more grass dominated, a huge range of species were to be seen but the grass was quite lush in comparison. We need to continue the work and surveys to assess this more fully.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Low Bleakehope May 2011

On Saturday some hardy souls travelled up to Low Bleakehope in the Cheviots Hills where we spent a very informative few hours with Stuart Nelson who gave an insight into living and working a remote hill farm. It was a great opportunity to ask questions and gain an understanding of what is happening in a countryside that we often drive past and is a great attraction for visitors to Northumberland.
Many thanks to Stuart and Sarah for their kind hospitality

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Things have been going relatively smoothly of late, well as smoothly as things go when working with animals, and I had this growing feeling that the odds were shortening against something not going to plan. Sure enough last Thursday it happened.
I had arranged with the owner of the cattle grazing at Pegswood to meet with him and move them off site, the job had already been delayed a little due to him being in the middle of lambing.
The lorry was booked for 1pm and we met at 11.30 to get the animals in, plenty of time or so we thought. The pen was set and across we went to fetch the cattle across. Every time I go to check them i take a bucket of feed and make them walk across to the gate before they get any, i then make a point of walking around them and talking to them to keep them quiet and used to being handled so they are easier to catch.
All went smoothly to start with until one of them refused to come right into the pen, before running off. After getting them almost in half a dozen times only for them to run off each time things were getting a little strained!
Eventually 2 hours later with the lorry waiting, and some strong language that would have made a milk maid blush, we succeeded and they were loaded.
The best of it was when they were unloaded at the other end they walked off the lorry quietly and stood looking expectantly at me to feed them.....
It's day's like this that show why conservation grazing is expensive and time consuming even the professionals have trouble sometimes!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Harry and Bertie now have 5 new friends with them at Prestwick. They all seem to be settling in well, even managing to open a gate and letting themselves through into the next field before they were meant to be there! There will be one or two changes before the herd is finally settled and then they will graze their way around the fields and eventually the carr itself. They even seem to have got used to their woolly neighbours but I haven't mixed the two together yet, time enough for that over the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Harry and Bertie two Exmoor ponies have arrived at Prestwick Carr to help with the grazing. The first job was for them to check out their woolly neighbours!

..........then the boundaries.....with a snack along the way of course!

Jo who works at the Wildlife Trust came along to help move some sheep to Claravale nature reserve. Jess was quite impressed with her gathering skills but is not too concerned that her job is under threat just yet!!

The sheep in question mostly Swaledales with a few Hebrideans for good measure soon settled into their new home where they will spend the next 2-3 weeks tidying back the new seasons growth before moving on and leaving the site empty until it is grazed again in the late summer / autumn.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The sheep preparing to leave Holywell. The broadleaved plants are starting to emerge in the meadow now so it is time for the sheep to leave. The grass has been taken down nice and short which will reduce the competition for the other species of plants as they start their growing season. Come June they should be in full flower and once they have set and shed their seed the meadow will be cut and baled for hay, which depending on the weather should be in late July. The sheep will then return in the autumn to graze of the regrowth of grass that occurs in late summer.

Jess has great fun rounding them up and just dares them to escape from the pen so she can chase them back in again!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Here they come! These young Exmoor ponies are grazing a meadow at Hedley hall wood. They will stay here until late April when the meadow will be left empty for the summer to allow all the plants to set seed and flower. The ponies will then return in the autumn. These are young ponies once they are fully grown they will move onto 'harder' sites leaving the better meadows for the younger ponies.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

These are Luing cattle which are now grazing on Pegswood moor. The area hasn't been grazed for a while and so the rough rank grasses have taken over smothering out everything else. The cattle will eat down the rough grass and plunge up the mud around the edge of the wet areas. This will create a better habitat for the wetland waders and other birds which like this type of habitat.

Ideally the cattle would have been grazing there over the winter but the snow came just as they were about to go on so they went elsewhere instead, probably just as well for them! Anyway they have settled in now and will munching away there for a few weeks.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Today was the day we introduced some billy goats to a whinsill grassland site near Belford. The idea is that the goats will browse the bramble, gorse and other scrub that threatens to cover the fragile soils along the rocky outcrops. The surrounding field is grazed by cattle and sheep during the summer but they tend to leave the prickly stuff alone, whereas the goats will hopefully target it. Much of the larger gorse hs been cleared by wildlife trust volunteers and the aim now is to prevent its regrowth by targeted grazing. It will be a slow process but over a few seasons there should be a noticeable difference in the scrub cover, time will tell.

After a slightly nervous start Norbert, Oscar and Dirk headed odd to explore their new surroundings.

The goats have come from the Natural England NNR at Lindesfarne.

The grazing programme is part of a larger whinsill grassland project that has been running with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Tarmac, the Northumberland Coast AONB, Natural England,ourselves and local landowners.
The whole project is a fine example of partnership working at its best.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Moving the Highlands between fields at Havannah. It's always better to get them to follow voluntarily than to try and chase them. If they get upset there is nothing more awkward than a 'huffy highlander'!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Two Exmoor ponies Foray and Koala are now grazing on Druridge pools. They have been provided by the Moorland Mousie Trust and will be spending the summer in the Druridge Bay area moving from the pools up to East Chevington in the late spring. They will add another dimension to the mixed grazing programme that already uses cattle and sheep.

Friday, 25 February 2011

I left Jess at home today as I was just going to the office for a short while and on to the butcher to collect a lamb and I didn't want to leave her in the car with it just in case!
As usual murphy's law came into play and I got a call to say there was a lamb out at Whittledene. Fortunately I managed to press gang some help and we got it back in. That's the second time the same sheep has been on the wrong side of the fence but we can't find where it is getting through. One more strike and it will be it's turn to be collected from the butchers!

Monday, 21 February 2011

I hope you will all join me in welcoming Charlotte to Flexigraze. Some of you may already have been in contact with her with regard to the lambs that will ready later this week.
With Charlotte helping to look after the ordering process that leaves with me a bit more time to work with the stock and promote what we do. I seem to be getting a few requests to give talks to groups lately.
Over the next few weeks Charlotte will contacting those of you who have already bought lamb from us with details of how much will be available this year and roughly when. Anyone who is interested in some but has not ordered before please get in touch.

On the grazing front some Exmoor ponies will soon be arriving to join the sheep in grazing some of the land up the coast and now the days are getting longer cattle will soon be arriving to grazing an area of land at Pegswood. More details of what they are there to achieve as when they arrive!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Flexigraze Volunteer

Hello all!!
Just a quick introduction of myself. I'm Charlotte and I am a volunteer helping Stephen out with Flexigraze.I will hopefully be making blog updates and in contact with some of you through email if you are purchasing any of the lambs. I've provided some pictures so you can put a face to the name (although admittedly they are not my best pictures).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A volunteer unloading sheep at Holywell, it's important to have an accurate count for the movement records.

Two, three, four.........

Where did he come from...........better check that he has an electronic ear tag for the records!