This photo shows a farmer in a bright blue jacket and welly boots removing stitches from a lamb's back leg. She is using a small pair of scissors, and is leaning forward with the lamb held firmly between her knees. The lamb is facing away from us so we can only see its hindquarters and one front leg. The pair seem to be in a livestock shed with straw covering the floor, and there is part of a red gate visible to the left.


I’m busy taking the stitches out of this lamb, 10 days after it was stitched up by the vet after it was worried (attacked by a dog). Luckily, the damage was just to the lamb’s muscle and skin, so it recovered from the injury.

In a lot of worrying cases you never find the dog, lambs have to be put down, or you don’t get any compensation for the vet bills. Even little dogs can cause a lot of problems – if they chase the pregnant ewes then they can cause abortions or pneumonia.

It’s hard work looking after the sheep anyway, and this is even more work for us. Farmers want everyone to enjoy the countryside we love seeing people out walking in our area, it’s just about them keeping their dogs under control.

How about a walk in our beautiful Northumberland livestock rearing county?

This is a newly established hedgerow that we’ve put between two of our grass fields. We’re trying to create new hedgerows that produce berries, habitat, and nesting areas for the birds, so we’re doing things for nature as well as raising livestock.

The hedgerows are natural corridors that lead up to the woods from the river, so wildlife can travel around undisturbed.

This photo shows a newly established hedge in the foreground, with lots of red rosehips visible on the branches. On the other side is a wire fence, then a field containing several sheep and a few black cows in the distance. There are some mature trees on the far side of the field, and the sky is overcast, with the sun breaking through at a couple of points.
This photo shows a concrete courtyard with a renovated cow shed on the far side. It has three archways, which contain tall glass windows and doors. Inside, we can see a long table with a blue cover surrounded by chairs. On the roof is a small array of solar panels. Around the courtyard there are some pots containing pink and orange flowers, and in the foreground is a young white and brown spaniel, whose face is turned to the right.

From old cow byre to community JOY OF CARE Facility, a real diversification

We have two groups of young adults with autism who come to this facility on the farm twice a month. They do some work with the sheep, feeding pet lambs and such. We have this purpose-built facility in a converted cow byre where they can have their tea and get some support, plus it’s an area where they can come back to if they get a bit overwhelmed.

If I have enough energy and time one day, I’d like to set up a facility here for people with dementia and their carers, to do activities and give the carers a bit of a break. When I looked after my mum for five years I couldn’t find anything like that, and it would’ve made a big difference.

As we’re all living longer, I think initiatives like this are really important. Things like social prescribing are very popular now, and connections with nature, gardening, and animals are something we can provide on the farm.

Ewe: “Did you ask my consent for taking my ID?“

This is a purebred Clun Forest ewe.

Michael, who’s taking over some of the work on the farm, has got the yellow stick reader in his hand to take her ID from the tag in her ear. We can store information with that ID, such as if she’d had problems lambing the year before, and that helps us decide whether to breed from her again this year.

She’s held gently in the clamp, which allows us to give her medicine or check her feet for any problems. I liked the way she’s half looking round at Michael, as if to say, “What are you doing?!”

This photo shows a young farm worker scanning a sheep's ID tag. The man is wearing a checked jacket and black woolly hat, and is turning to look at the camera and smiling in a friendly way. The sheep is held gently in a clamp, and is turning her head towards him slightly. She has a black face and large ears. In the background we can see another farm worker in an orange jacket and brown hat. The man and sheep in the foreground are between two livestock sheds with multiple smaller stalls. The weather appears chilly and overcast.
This picture shows a black cow and calf in a green grassy field, both facing to the left. The calf is suckling behind the cow. We can see a couple of other cows in the background, and in the distance there are mature trees and an electricity pylon. The sky is grey and overcast.

Looking after the countryside and raising grass fed beef. What more could you want?

This photo was taken in early July, so the calf behind is about 10 months old, almost at the point of weaning. If you take the calves off to soon the cows can get mastitis (an infection in their udder), so you have to leave them together even when the calves are quite well grown.

This is an old “rig and furrow” field, so it’s been grassland for about 200 years and has lots of older grass species and flowers in the early spring. Permanent pasture is a huge carbon store. The cows just eat grass or silage (which is pickled grass that we’ve grown on the farm), they don’t get fed any cereals, and we’ve also been organic since 2001.

How much more natural can you get?

All photos on this page are © Frances Carmichael