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Winter on the farm

The glamping site during winter on Warren Farm, Somerset

Here’s a glimpse of what’s going on at Warren Farm in the run-up to Christmas. Prepare to learn a lot about sheep and cows!

As Christmas approaches, our glamping site is closed for the season but we’re still busy with our animals and with preparations to open the glamping site again next year. 

An important winter job is to put our rams out on the fields with our ewes so that we’ll have lambs in the springtime. At a ratio of one ram to 40 ewes, the boys have a lot of work to do, and with luck we should have 1400 pregnant ewes by the end of it!

While some farms opt for earlier lambing, we prefer a slightly later lambing season when the weather is better and the grass is lush enough to enable the ewes to lactate and produce ample milk for their lambs.

Meanwhile, the calves that were born in the spring are now being housed separately from their mothers and fed on a high-quality diet. Some of the mums are being wintered outside this year – they’re a hardy breed and will happily graze on a mix of the hay we cut and baled in the summer, and the grass that we left uncut specifically as winter feed.

Calves

Winter grass is different from summer grass: it goes into semi-hibernation and pulls its nutrients back down into its roots to survive. This means it doesn’t have the nutritional value needed by the dairy cows kept by our neighbours. Our cattle are reared for meat, not milk, and can survive easily on hay and winter grass, but dairy cows are the elite athletes of the farming world and need something more. They also struggle with the wet ground during winter and could easily churn it up so much that it would make next year’s grazing less than ideal.

As a result, our neighbours’ dairy cows are typically taken indoors in winter and fed on nutrient-dense silage plus maize and a special blend of high-energy high protein ingredients including rape meal, minerals, vitamins, chopped straw and molasses..

Meanwhile, we send our ewes to graze our neighbours’ fields in an arrangement called tack grazing. This is temporary grazing on other farms; we put out temporary electric fences to keep the sheep in the fields. It gives our grounds a rest, as well as keeping our neighbours’ fields in order. 

Ewes

One lesser-known side effect of this is that amid the Christmas festivities, when everybody goes out for their after-dinner walk, it’s common for us to get calls about incidents involving sheep. They’re spread out over a very large area, increasing the chances that they will be chased by dogs, or gates will be left open. 

For that reason, we always have our Christmas dinner in the evening, when all issues have been dealt with and all the walkers are safely home again! We usually celebrate Christmas with our two teenagers Hannah and Tom, and with James’ uncle John, who also lives on the farm, and it’s well worth waiting for.

On the glamping side, we’re busy upgrading our two log cabins. We’re extending Deerleap with a bigger kitchen, dining area with new floor, and we’re putting new flooring into Rookham. Kate is also busy getting all the fixtures and fittings fresh, clean and ready for the spring.

While the glamping site is closed, we still have bookings coming in throughout the winter – from weddings to family and couple getaways. We’re looking forward to welcoming next year’s guests, and we know from experience that our springtime reopening will be upon us before we know it!

Have a wonderful festive season and we hope to see you next year.

Glamping site open for booking 2024