A busy couple of months
Jack Forster - 23 May 2011
Firstly, apologies for my lack of blogging over the last few months, but I have had a lot to do and had quite a few changes. Unfortunately I have had to retire from rugby due to a neck injury that has troubled me for some time, so its back to the farm full time for me. I am lucky that I have something else to do other than rugby, but I will miss the day to day banter as well as the bumps and bruises to be fair! I may be able to return to playing at some point, but not for at least 12 months.
I have also been very busy at the farm the aerator did arrive back in April, and I have managed to ‘spike’ of the fields at both farms, and I think it has done a fantastic job! (Shameless plug for a tractor and driver and aerator if anyone is interested…!) Within about 3 days you can tell the difference between the fields that have been spiked, and those that haven’t! It must really get oxygen into the soil, aswell as allowing standing water to get away. I think that we were a bit better off up North than down South in the fact that we weren’t quite as starved of rain, so I still think the aerating was worth doing, despite it being quite dry until the last few weeks. Its quite a slow job though, so I am glad we got the 4.5m rather than the 3m version.
The other thing I have been busy with is the launch of ‘Big Jacks Biltong’. Biltong is a dried meat product originating from South Africa, but we have been making it at the farm for a number of years. It is often compared to jerky, another type of preserved meat product, although biltong is dried, not smoked. The meat is a very popular product across Africa, and with people who have spent time in African nations. Biltong can be eaten plain, shredded on sandwiches and salads, and added to an assortment of other foods. Its basically silverside or topside that has been cut into steaks, seasoned, and air dried. It’s a tasty, healthy snack that’s full of protein and good for athletes! As I say, we have been making it for a long time, but have finally decided to brand it and sell it online (www.bigjacksbiltong.com), aswell as in the farm shop.
The next big job will be in June – making the haylage and silage for winter feed for the cattle. The only problem we have noticed this year is that there seems to be a lot of ‘hay rattle’ throughout several of the fields. Whilst it is quite palletable for the animals, it is a parasitic plant that grows on the grasses roots and inhibits the grasses growth. Apparantly it is great in wild flower meadows and the seeds (that actually rattle in the wind when they are ripe) are worth a fortune, but how we would ever harvest it I have no idea!! If anyone knows anything about how to either get rid of it or harvest it let me know!!
Jack is a professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, but also has an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College and aims to go back into farming when he retires from rugby.
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27 May 2011 16:54
Hi Jack - yes, sorry to hear that you're out for at least 12 months - there's nowt to beat playing, so I hope you get back on the pitch at some time in the future - provided you're OK to do so, of course. We're running out of biltong (and other stuff), so I'll be popping round to see Chris one Thursday soon. Good luck with the farm - our 5 Shetland ewes and 5 lambs are doing well, as are our 2 Saddleback / Gloucester Old spot cross hogs, who will be meeting their fate very soon ...
27 May 2011 09:18
Thnks for the comments fellas.Thats not a bad idea, it is probably worst on the fields which are mainly harvested rather than grazed, so that could be why. I think we are going to graze down a bit closer this year too, after some iformation we received at a recent Livestock Northwest Demonstration.
26 May 2011 15:10
Hi Jack, sorry too to hear about your neck injury - it must be hard stopping something you love. Love the sound of the biltong though - good luck with it.
Tim Perrett - SA
25 May 2011 12:19
Hi Jack, sounds like lots going on. Sad to hear about your neck injury that will put you out for a while, but I'm sure rugby's loss will be farming's gain! Great to see you developing products for markets you know, hopefully we'll see all the Sale and England boys enjoying the biltong soon! Your not the only one to bring up yellow rattle, seems this year has favoured conditions for it to grow in plentiful amounts! Never had much experience of it myself, but from what I read it doesn't like persistent grazing by sheep after being cut, so that should help take it out the sward. Harvesting it would be a little trickier but with one seed merchant quoting £120/kg, might be worth a Sunday afternoon session to harvest by hand! Any one else have any ideas on this?
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