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Haylage is greener, geese and organic pigs... : Soil Association : Blogs

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Haylage is greener, geese and organic pigs...

Emma Heseltine - 16 December 2012

The Christmas geeseThe haylage is always greener in the other barrow. When feeding the cattle at Aglionby its best to keep your eyes peeled for Hayley, she is a bit over eager sometimes. We are feeding haylage at Aglionby and have to take it out into the field with a big wheelbarrow. There are two cows and calves, four in calf cows and a heifer and five store cattle and they need quite a bit of forage to munch. The trouble with Hayley’s keenness is that she sometimes nearly jabs you with her big horns when she is trying to steal food from the barrow. Also she has to come and try the contents of each barrow load to see which is best. She is highly food motivated our Hayley.

Turn back now if you are squeamish…It’s the end of the line for the geese. Today the guy is coming to kill the geese for Christmas and the marathon plucking/dressing/packing can begin. Last year I didn’t go and watch but this year I go and have a look as they are doing the last couple. It’s important to keep them calm and do the job a quickly and efficiently as possible. They are penned a little away from their hut and brought over one at a time. First they are stunned with a special gun which is non-penetrative then their throats are cut to kill them. They are strung up in the hut. I’m sad to say goodbye (which I do say by the way, I’m not ashamed to say I talk to the animals); they have been a noisy and argumentative part of the farm since May. But everything has a purpose and these geese will take a spectacular central role in celebratory feasts this Christmas time. I’m looking forward to mine, now to get them all plucked and ready to go.

One of the Soil Association inspectors, Ian, is coming to have a check on our goose killing/preparing system this year and Susan has asked him to certify my pigs seen as how he is here. I’ve been keeping my pigs to the standards but as we have not been inspected since I got them I can’t call them organic. Now’s my chance! I’m a bit nervous, it’s like a pig exam, but I know my pigs are good and happy pigs. I get the thumbs up on the location and housing, and the condition of my pigs, who, true to form come trotting over to my call and make a fuss about not getting a feed/scratch/etc… they don’t bite Ian which is a big plus.

I do however get a minus point for not getting one of my documents correct from the lady I got the weaners from. I don’t think it’s the end of the world as everything else is in order; online movement/receipts/feed composition/health plan/organic certificates/abattoir report etc…etc…etc….Paperwork! So I get a couple of recommendations and some things to do and I get a big tick for my organic pigs. I just got through my first inspection, even if it was only a little and quite simple one, I think this calls for a celebration!

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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