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Farmer Jon joins the Trust

Posted: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by WoodsideJon

Jon Preston - Derbyshire Wildlife TrustJon Preston

My first month has passed very quickly, a steep learning curve of new faces, procedures and of course the reserves which we look after. I have been made to feel very welcome by my new colleagues and am struck by the commitment of the many volunteers who turn out rain or shine to help us. What also strikes me is the wide variety of landscapes Derbyshire has to offer, from the vast rolling moorland of the Dark Peak, through the striking karst formations of the White Peak, to the lush river valleys of the Trent and Erewash in the south, the county has many aspects and I look forward to exploring them all.

One of the first jobs was to get to know the livestock I am responsible for, currently a small flock of Jacob Sheep and a fold of Highland Cattle. By November the sheep breeding cycle will start and so a ram ‘MOT’ was carried out to ensure the boys were in tip top condition before meeting the ewes! This involves checking their teeth, feet and general body condition. The ewes are also given a check and ‘flushed’ - put onto fresh pasture to ensure they’re fit and healthy for conception and pregnancy through the harsh winter months.

The cattle are a new breed for me to work with, but seem to suite our requirements very well. They are happy outside all year, do well on lower quality grazing and a docile and easy to handle. On only my second day we had to bring two of them in to be TB tested at Drakelow. Thankfully they passed and have now moved to Carr Vale to continue their conservation nibbling. TB is a menace for cattle farmers and at best restricts movements between holdings and at worst can lead to the slaughter of whole herds. I look forward to seeing the results of the badger vaccination program in the county and hope that a cattle vaccination in licensed in the near future.

The challenges of my new roll are clear, from ensuring the balance of good habitat management with farm production, to learning about the reserves and the people who work on them, I look forward to the next few months and beyond.

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