Denbury Farm Blog


Our Life Denbury Farm 11th October 2018

The Evil Badger Cull has started again, with licenses to kill over 40000. Yes you are reading it right 40000 that this evil government has put a death sentence on, knowing that the scientific evidence proves they are not the cause. It is orchestrated by the National Farmers Union. If you insure with them please change to another company.

A bit over a year ago we lost our cob Black Swan. We found him floating on the lake as if a sleep, but when we lifted him out his underneath was open as if he had been attacked.  The Swans had been together for 5 years and were very close. We were unsure to replace him, but we felt it was not nice for the pen to be on her own so we replaced him with a one year old cob. That didn’t go down well. The pen chased the new arrival relentlessly for weeks, so reluctantly we decided to find the cob a new home. 

The pen got on well without a mate until this spring when the Canadian Geese flew in to nest. She wasn’t too happy when they arrived and half heartedly chased them away. Eventually she allowed them to stay. The pen and the gander avoided each other whilst the goose sat the eggs, it was a happy lake. But as soon as the eggs hatched and the goslings showed themselves it all changed. The goose and the gander made the pens life a misery. In other years she had the her male swan to back her up, but that had now changed with the geese chasing the swan relentlessly. It got worse when out of the blue a new pair of geese with a gosling turned up. And even worse when the gosling started turning into geese. After I had fed her of an evening I had to feed the geese so that the pen was not cornered in and attacked by the geese when she moved away.

The swans were never over friendly even with me. I feed them every evening with corn and whole meal bread, that was the only reason they suffered me. That changed with the pen being on her own. She would sit with our holiday guests and became very friendly with them. We had hoped that when the geese flew off leaving the angled wing gosling she may have suffered angle wing, but she chased her off of the lake as soon as she got near it. With the holiday season coming to the end we decided to try another cob to keep her company.

We found an advert for Black swan in Maidstone Kent. It turned out to be Leeds Castle. They wasn’t sure what sex they were but were good enough to get them checked by DNA. Having birds sexed by DNA is quite easy. Just send a feather to the DNA testing company and you get a result very quickly. Fortunately there was a cob and we made arrangement to have it transported back to the farm.

The cob arrived in a carboard box  and had taken two days to get here. We decided after the way the pen had treated the last cob we tried to introduce we would put this one into a large cage in the hope they would get use to each other. That lasted just a minute or so as the cob decided he wasn’t having any of it. He wanted out and made it very clear. I reckon the minute he got out of the cage he realized what a big mistake that was. The pen decided no way was she going to allow the cob onto to her lake. and all hell broke loose. The poor cob didn’t know what had hit him. The pen chased him until she had caught him and jumped on him trying to push him under the water. As much as the cob tried he couldn’t get away from her trying to duck him under. Eventually he made his escape onto the lakes bank and there he stayed until the next day. With the cob on the bank it was the first time that  had chance to see what he was like and I must admit I as very disappointed. He looked very thin, his beak was a pale beige a good sign that he was not happy in swans and by the look at the size of his neck he could well have been related to a giraffe.

The pen continued chasing the cob for nearly a week and would not allow him to feed. It got the stage that we were seriously think we would need to find him a new home, then one of our holiday guest told me that although the pen and cob were avoiding each other the cob was on the water swimming. Then a report that they were getting a little closer to each other. As the week went on the pen allowed the cob to have some of her feed. Within days although there was a little bit of bickering they were sharing the feed close to each other. Now they are a pair and enjoying each other company with the cob putting the pen in her place if there is something he is not happy with. The cobs beak is nearly to the correct color.

Our Life At Denbury Farm 16th August 2018

The gosling with the angel wing definitely cant fly and look as if it will be staying with us at Denbury. It parents keep coming back to the lake in the hope it will fly away with them but unfortunately it is not going to happen. As much as all the geese bicker when on the lake together it parent return most days with the other geese and goslings, all trying to encourage it to fly away with them. They all wait on the hill, it being a good place to take off from, calling to angel wing to let it know that they are ready to fly off.  They all run down the hill still calling with the angel wing trying to take off ,but as they take flight it is left flapping its wing but unable to fly. It only stops trying when the geese are out of sight it still calling after them. It is so sad seeing t happen. I dont know how long they will keep returning but they need to be ready to migrate over the Winter. We would like to mix t with our ducks and chickens but t would not be fair for it to hear its parents return and it is unable to get to them. As soon as we are sure that they are not coming back we will integrate it with our other birds.

Over the past couple of week we have had red deer in our valley. We haven’t seen them at Denbury for a few years. The last time we had any was when we had a rut a good few years ago. I have a recording of it but he infra red lamps were just not good enough to get a good sight of it. The red deer that have visited us over the past two weeks have made up for what we havent seen. Two young stags and a young hind have been in the valey over the past few evening and for the past two weeek to top it all we have had a royal stag and younger one. We managed to photograph them last night. We get roe deer most nights and earlier on this year we had a muntjac visit so we are extremely fortunate to have three type of deer visiting us.

 

Our Life at Denbury Farm 28th July 2018

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The first pair of Canadian Geese with their single Gosling flew away yesterday. Another pair of geese that came to the new lake hatched 5 goslings and just four weeks later another pair came from nowhere with one gosling. The gosling defiantly couldn’t fly, how it got there or where the geese were nesting we really don’t know. The two pairs of geese are constantly fighting each other and chasing our resident black swan who I reckoned should never allowed them on her lake. This year the ponds are busy with nesting waterfowl. Three pairs of Canadian Geese and three pairs of Tufted Duck nesting as well as Mallard. This year was the first time for the Tufted but unfortunately none of the ducklings survived. The Geese with the 5 gosling are teaching the gosling to fly so it will be any day soon that they will be off as well. The gosling that hatched with the late arrival Geese has an angel wing. We have a Muscovy duck with the same problem and that cant fly, so it could well be that we will have another addition to look after.

The badger cubs are getting so big that it is becoming difficult to distinguish them from the older ones. Our resident fox did only had one cub this year. It looks a bit lonely on its own. It has in the past week been visiting the badger feeding area, and another vixen has started to eat there with her three cubs so the feeding area is very busy. Last night a very large Roebuck came. It may well have been the young buck that visited in the winter.

Our hay has been made two weeks ago. Touch wood we seem to get it right every year when we make it with it being dry and hot. We usually make ours when the grass is in full seed that makes it a more energy feed. This year it as touch and go if we had all the hay we needed. We just got through with one bale left. We reseeded a baron field last Autumn so we should have plenty for this winter. You have probably seen and heard on the news that the hot dry weather has stopped the grass growing. We have needed to use some of our winter. We are also able to get some brewers grains so we will be ok. There are going to be a lot of farms that will need to use their winter food in this dry spell. It will enviably cause a shortage in the winter feed. It could cause a lot of problems. Potatoes and root vegetables that need lots of water are also suffering because of the dry weather. Potatoes will cost more

Making our hay reminded me of the first year we came to Denbury nearly 30 years ago. Our twin boys were seven at the time. We walked down the valley to see how the hay was drying. From a distance we saw four badgers with their noses pushing under the drying hay. Being newish to farming we didnt realise that they were looking for worms and other feed under the damp hay. I must admit badgers at the time after listening to what I believed were my farming peers badgers were a nuisance so we decided to chase the badgers away. The boys ran ahead yelling to make the badgers run off. One stood his ground or was deaf and stayed put. After seeing the other badgers running away the boys were getting a little braver and ran to within a few feet of the deaf badgers who suddenly turned around and ran at the boys. Did they run. It was a good thing they were good at running as I was too far away to help and laughing so much I could never had run to help them.

Our Life at Denbury Farm 28th April 2018

I thought you may like to see some our new additions. Our yearly Canadian Geese  produced only one Gosling. Not sure if there were any more and they were victims of the crows or that one egg hatched early and the geese left the nest too early. It could even be that any other eggs they had were infertile, but it is better than last year when we didn’t get any goslings at all. There is another nest on the smaller lake, so we are expecting more goslings

Two of our hens hid themselves away and produced chicks. We have been trying very hard to find where our chickens have been laying their eggs so that we can stop them from sitting. Unfortunately you cant decide if the eggs are going to produce hens or cockerels. Its easy to find homes for the hens but it is a struggle with the cockerels. We wont let people have hens without a cockerel, but it is a struggle.

The baby emu was a lucky survivor, Fuzzle its been named by Mr Farmer. Some weeks ago after the snow I found that three of the four emu who had been sitting their eggs had abandoned their nests. A few days later I checked on the one still sitting and it also had abandoned its nest. It must only had been a few hours earlier as the eggs were not completely cold and I put the eight eggs I had found into the incubator. I did not know long the emu had been sitting them, but last night a chick had hatched. Not sure if any others will. I don’t even know if the hatched egg was early. Emu eggs incubate for average 56 days but can be as early as 45 days or late as 60 so we will have to leave the remaining eggs incubating for another two weeks to make sure . The male Emu sit their eggs and don’t leave the nest for the whole period even for food or water. Two males are sitting eggs in the field.

The badger cubs are out feeding every night. Last night they were playing with their mum. You really should try to watch them on the webcams. Tere are also pregnant roe deer as well as a buck and the nursing vixen.  Seeing the badger cubs and the badgers as a family on the webcams over 15 years years ago completely changed my thought on protecting of our wildlife.

Our life at Denbury Farm 14th April 2018

Two badger cubs with their mother came out of the sett last night, full of mischief causing their mother a few problems. The roe buck was feeding just a few feet from the sett entrance where they came out from. One of the cubs never seeing a deer before went to investigate, nearly touching noses. The deer didn’t bother with it for a little while but it soon got bored with the cubs antics. It threw its head sideways causing the cub to leg it back to mum, leaving the buck to carry on feeding. The cub went back again, this time the buck was having none of it and with its head catching the cub with its antlers causing it to roll over. It did look for an instant that the cub had been injured. Back with its mother under protest this time she decided to get them back into the sett. No way they must have been thinking, as she was pushing them in they were struggling to get out of the sett entrance. Finally she got them both back into the sett for a few minutes. I reckon whilst back in the sett the two cubs were conspiring against the deer, for once they were out the two of them rushed toward the buck making him to leg it away. We didn’t see the buck any more last night.

After over 15 years we never get bored with watching the webcams. Other than short periods in winter time there is always something happening This spring the feeding area has been particularly busy and exciting. As many as four deer at any one time, one or two feeding at the same time as a couple of the badgers. The vixen tries to sneak in for a little feed, she is defiantly at the bottom of the pecking order with both the deer and the badgers chasing her off. In saying a couple times this week one of the badgers has been feeding with the vixen.

From a distance last week I thought I saw a couple of fox cubs in the edge of the wood investigating whatever they investigate at that age. It needs to get a bit warmer, then fox cubs will be out a lot more and playing. Although at a distance from us but well within our sight, with the vixen watching close by knowing we are there but of no danger to them. Its going to be an eyeful when the fox cubs visit the already busy feeding area.

We have two pair of Geese nesting this year. Our regulars on the larger lake and a new pair on our new lake. The new pair had to work hard to convince the swan to accept them, but grudgingly and still bickering a little they have managed to start nesting.

At last today we have seen a whole day of warm sun. It hasn’t stopped raining for the past 3 months, so today was not expected. On nearly 30years It’s been by far the wettest winter we have ever experienced at Denbury. The fields are sodden and for sure the horses won’t be going out on the first of May as usual. It far too wet. For the first time for many years we made haylage at the beginning of Autumn last year. (hay not quite dry and wrapped in a poly rap) Just as well we did as today we were down to our last three bales of hay, a little over a week’s supply. Our contractor got the haylage in off of the field. After a few months on hay it is a treat as you can see on the webcam they are enjoying it. It should get us though until the second week of May.

Our Life At Denbury Farm 26th March 2018

You can see that these two mothers are feeding young. The badgers from our sett and the vixen who comes to the sett for its regular feed. We reckon there are at least six badgers in the sett plus their cubs. As a bonus a buck roe deer losing his velvet. It’s going to be a busy feeding station.

Our Life at Denbury Farm 18th March 2018

 

To our relief our Llamas have tested negative to TB. I must admit we are very surprised that not even one had it. More so with the history of bovine tb on the dairy farm next door to us, and that Llama are very susceptible to the disease. Not only is a good for the Llama it is a good sign that the badgers in the area are tb free.The badger feeding area is getting very busy.

I don’t know how many are in the sett but we are seeing at least five different ones most nights. We reckon that some may have come from one of the satellite setts nearby. Last night the wildlife using the feeding area was magic. We had visiting Roe deer, fox and badger. Two deer were feeding when a badger came and joined them feeding. There was no arguments or running off, just animals laid back and feeding. It was a bit different when a fox showed its face whilst the deer were feeding a little later, the deer were having none of it. The fox was chased off so quick that it didn’t have time to get a mouthful. It did come back when the coast was clear and had agood feed. We are looking foreword to when the badger cubs are ready to show themselves. If the fox come with her cubs later in the year it will be an eyeful. We are so very fortunate  to have the wild life we do at Denbury.

The geese landed back on the lake a couple of weeks ago. Six flew in, just staying for two days. Not sure when but what we believe to be our two regulars flew in on the own next day and have stayed since. Last year for many a year there were no goslings. They nested but flew away a month or so later. There have been a lot of geese flying over the farm in recent days. It is a nice sound when they fly over honking. Many a morning when the mornings are lighter we are woken with their call.

We are having another dose of snow today. We rarely get snow in this part of the country. The last was a good few years ago. It so bad we couldn’t get off the farm for a week. It hasn’t been that bad but we are having a fair bit. We got the sheep inside on the first occasion, Just in time as it happened as the first night in they started to lamb. I will try this week to get the camera watching the sheep.

We heard the beginning of the dawn chorus this week and the first woodpecker, pecking a nest. The daffodils are budding and the snowdrops dying back’, Spring is on its way until the snow stopped it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Life At Denbury Farm 24th February 2018

 

I must be mad. Mrs Farmer had me up at 5.am to drive 25 miles to the RSPB Wetlands at Ham Wall, Meare this morning so she could do a little photography. The drive takes us across the Somerset Levels where in 2014 we had the major floods. First time that I have been that way since the floods. Usually every year the Levels would flood, not to the extents as 2014, but with the major work that has been done dredging the manmade canals and drains there were just small wet areas rather than the whole levels being, if not flooded at least underwater, especially with the very wet winter we have had this year. I cant imagine that the dredging has not been detrimental to the waterfowl in that part of the levels. There is another RSPB wetlands centre on this part of the levels. I had  never noticed it before, so we may look there next time.

What a beautiful  morning to go there, but it was it cold.  We could not have arrived at a better time, getting there just as the sun was rising. And what a beautiful sight it was. If nothing else it was worth getting up early just for that, but there was much more with the waterfowl. Widgeon, Snipe, Tufted Duck, Egret and much more.  Of course getting there at sunrise all was waking up with their calls, quacking, whistling and honking when the geese were flying over. We are going again in about two weeks time, trouble is that we will need to get up half an hour earlier.

Our Llama were given tuberculin on Monday two weeks back. We made a temporary race with two gates to confine them in at one at a time. It worked very well with them being very calm. Two decided that they didn’t want to hang about and jumped over the side rather than us opening the gate, one had been done the other the vet chased and managed to do on a lead rope. On Monday coming the vet will return and take blood samples for testing. Its then a week or so wait for the results.

Our Life At Denbury Farm 9th February 2018

 

Lots of different creatures like the Badger Sett and Badger removing old bedding

 

 

 

We are having the wettest winter on the farm that I can remember in the 30 years we have been here. The fields are sodden, walking on them they quickly turn to mud making it difficult to walk on and get the work done that we need to do in the winter. We waste our time every morning checking the BBC and the Met office forecasts for you can guarantee that an hour later it will be completely different. On Sunday it told us that it was going to be dry up to Thursday with showers Friday. It’s been the complete opposite.

The Badgers have not been eating a lot of the feed we leave out for them. They are definitely in the sett as the camera picks them up most nights taking bedding in and out for this year’s cubs that we are 99% sure are in the sett, and excavating new entrances and holes to the sett. The Deer show their selves most night eating the badger feed and we see the Fox now and then. We got an old badger camera working yesterday and laid another cable for a camera down the slope that we hope to get working in a week or so.

We received a letter from the Defra last week telling us that our Llama have to be tested for TB. We are not looking forward to it. All camalids, llama, alpaca, camels etc are very susceptible to the disease, so we are expecting the worse. Unfortunately it has to be done. More so as there is a dairy farmer next door whose fields are adjacent to ours. He accepts that badgers are not the only cause of bovine TB. He also didn’t join the badger cull, although. His herd has tested positive for TB on numerous occasions and his farm has been restricted on any movements. There are two farmers in our area who we know will kill and poison badgers, but most in our area know that bovine tb is spread by deer, sheep and other animals. The test on our llama is on Monday. They will have to be restrained, not an easy task with llama to be vaccinated with tuberculin. That the easy part. The hard part is between 10 and 30 days after when a blood sample will be taken and sent away for testing. If any test comes back positive the llama will have to be slaughtered. We have 10 llama that are all very special to us, but we are expecting most will test positive.

This link will give you some information, but it also proves without doubt that Defra, the NFU and Government are fully aware that many other animals carry and spread Bovine TB. http://www.tbhub.co.uk/non-bovines/

Our Life at Denbury Farm 22nd December 2017

 

Some good news, By the way that the Badgers are acting and changing their sett bedding we reckon that there may be a pregnant sow in one of our setts. They had cubs last year in a satellite sett that was confirmed by Bobbie and Fox, who saw youngsters whilst protecting the sett during the cull.

We started to get worried that the  badgers had moved out from the main sett as very little food was being taken, but as you can see Mrs Farmers new cameras showed they were still there and increasing the size of the sett, big time. The photographs were taken with a new trail cam that takes nigh time colour photographs and video that she has been able to get some good photographs of the fox and deer who have been regularly using the feed area. Some of the photos show the fox taking an interest in the badger sett. A few years ago both the badgers and fox used the sett to have their cubs. 

We got the horses in a couple of weeks ago. It would have been better if they could  have stayed out longer but the ground was very wet and Sprite who is no spring chicken was not very happy. It didn’t take long to get her head collar on, she was so eager to get in she nearly put it on herself. We did stable them one to a stable but now we have fenced off a large part of the big barn so they can be together. It seemed kinder to allow them to be together, they are able to walk around and groom each other, even if it is through their rugs. They bicker a bit at feed time. Maybe not bicker, more like musical chairs going from one pile of feed to another with the bigger and stronger always winning, but not realising the one they pushed out is eating just as much from another pile. 

Our Christmas day on the farm is not very different to any other day. We sit down with family for dinner, open presents and relax with a drink or two after feeding and bedding the animals. Mrs Farmer being a real gadget person decided on her present. She will be able to show more of our life on the farm. You will soon see.

All at Denbury Farm wish you all a very happy Christmas and a very prosperous new year.