Success is mirrored in arena

Carpet on the floor and mirrors on the walls – the horses and ponies at Heathlands, Blackborough End are in for a pampered time!


A few weeks ago, we posted an article highlighting the early stages of construction at an equine arena in Blackborough End. This work is now nearing completion, so here is an update showing the work we have done and explaining how our work fits into the owner’s vision for the business’s future growth.

The arena has a post and rail surround, two five-bar gates, one at either end, and Tornado Taurus horse netting R10/90/8. Post and rail is a firm favourite with horse and pony owners as it is the safest form of fencing and, although it is more expensive than a post and wire fence, it is durable and you potentially save hundreds of pounds on vet bills! The netting serves the double purpose of keeping sheep out of the arena (sheep graze around the arena perimeter to keep it tidy) and preventing dogs from escaping the dog behaviour lessons that will also take place in the arena.

Sand and fibre make for a stable and soft surface, perfect for schooling horses and ponies and to provide a soft landing!

Sand and fibre make for a stable and soft surface, perfect for schooling horses and ponies and to provide a soft landing!

The floor of the arena is laid with a sand and fibre mix. The fibre comprises thousands of inch-long pieces of carpet, which add structure to the sandy floor making it more stable. The carpet fibres also soak up rain, again making the floor much better for the horses to travel across. As owner Charlotte Carter wryly added: “It’s softer if you fall off too!”

Charlotte and Adam have big plans for the arena. At the moment they have up to 20 horses in livery but they plan to raise this number to 30 in the coming months. In the arena, they will school and exercise the horses as well as running classes, specialising in things such as therapy classes or dressage courses. Dog behaviour classes are an additional revenue stream for the hard-working family-run business.

The arena has post and rail fencing and a sand and fibre floor

The arena has post and rail fencing and a sand and fibre floor

 

“We have invested a lot into this,” says Charlotte, “now we have to start making it pay.”

Besides the fencing and flooring, Dodd & Co has also installed a storage shed, where jumps, equipment and machinery can be stored. Built from 6x1 Yorkshire board, the upper sides have gaps between the wood to allow good ventilation. The roof is made from juniper greenbox profile, with anti condensation backing.

Storage shed for hurdles, jumps, equipment and machinery

Storage shed for hurdles, jumps, equipment and machinery

 

Along two sides of the arena there are mirrors, which the riders can use to ensure they have the correct form on their horse or pony. This is an important part of the learning process as the rider is able to see for his or her self exactly how he or she is sitting and moving. 

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror...

 

The whole set-up at Heathlands is very professional. From the arena and fencing which looks smart, durable and of the highest quality to the amount of time, thought and effort that the Carter’s have put into the project. This time next year, the arena will be buzzing to the sound of lessons, classes and courses. 

Looking forward to using the new arena

Looking forward to using the new arena

Horse and pony care – we offer years of expertise

Keeping your equine friends safe and secure

Post and rail fencing with rabbit wire to keep wildlife out

Post and rail fencing with rabbit wire to keep wildlife out

 

While we work across a raft of agricultural and domestic projetcs, Dodd & Co started out largely in the equine world of stables, yards and fencing. We went back to our roots recently with a project which we featured recently on our Facebook page – a schooling yard in West Norfolk.

This was a bespoke build for someone who has a clear business development plan and there were very specific needs. And that is what we think sets us apart in the world of fencing and construction – our desire to work with each project owner to make sure that we are meeting every requirement in the most logical, cost-effective way.

If you are considering buying a horse or pony or increasing the number of animals you own, then here are some basic guideline for shelter and security.  

A pony or horse’s health and safety depends upon the fencing and shelter you provide. Your animal should have access to warmth or shade depending upon the season and your fencing should be robust enough to keep the animals in and unwanted intruders out.

There are several fencing options that can be suited to needs and budget. The most aesthetically pleasing and effective is post and rail fencing. This involves upright timber posts with horizontal rails. It is good to look at and very robust. The downside is that it is the most costly fencing option and the rails need to be examined regularly to make sure they haven’t split or warped. 

Horse wire fencing is a second option. The wire should have small gaps so the horses don’t get their hooves caught, which leads to potential accident situations. The fencing is topped with ‘hot’ or electrical wire to stop the horses leaning over and damaging the fencing. This fencing style also has the benefit of keeping foxes and badgers out.

There is also the option of electric tape or vinyl fencing. 

On no account should barbed wire be used for horse fencing as it will easily rip the horses’ coat and flesh. If you are even considering barbed wire, weigh up the potential vet’s bills against the savings made on the cost of fencing. 

While pasture management is not part of our service, we can offer advice in this area and we do offer a clearing service if you need a field cleared of hedging and old fencing. 

Good practice in pasture management is to start with a soil test. This will determine the current soil conditions and will help you decide which fertiliser and/or grass seed to use. Which grass seed you choose should also be determined by climatic conditions.   

Your pasture should be checked regularly for noxious and toxic weeds such as ragwort, which can be fatal for horses and ponies. Most horses with adequate forage will avoid eating these, but if the area has poor grass coverage, or you do not provide enough hay, they will eat the weeds and it can become a serious health issue.

If your horse is going to be turned out during the day, you’ll need to provide him with shade. If you have a pasture trees are one way to accomplish this. Be careful, though, as too much shade will depress grass growth. 

We specialise in bespoke animal housing

We specialise in bespoke animal housing

We specialise in bespoke buildings for horses and ponies and within our portfolio of projects we have designed and built stables that range from a  simple run-in to a fully-equipped stables, tack room and feed store. 

Owning a horse or pony is a hugely rewarding experience – we are on hand to make sure it is also a cost-effective and successful venture. 

Protecting our feathered friends

One of our most recent projects was some fencing work for Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) on their nature reserve which extends from Cley to Salthouse.

Our brief was to fence off the shingle beach to protect nesting ground birds, using fencing constructed to the NWT specification. While the NWT encourages people to visit to see the amazing birdlife that gathers in this unique ecosystem, it is also important to keep humans and dogs off the nesting grounds – once disturbed, a sitting bird is unlikely to return to her nest, so this is vital protective work to ensure the survival of many increasingly rare bird species.

The work certainly raised one or two challenges. Access is always a problem at remote sites such as this one. By its very nature a wildlife reserve is off the beaten track and, as the images show, we used some serious machinery to get the job completed efficiently and to a high level of durability. In addition, the loose shingle meant it was very difficult for the machinery to get traction. However, patience and some great work by the team meant that we were able to complete the work within the time frame. 

Getting machinery onto the beach was the first challenge

Getting machinery onto the beach was the first challenge

 

The length of fencing was approximately 1,700 metres, and we used three strand, high tensile wire. The posts, all timber HC4, included 3”-4” six-foot intermediate posts, plus 6”-7” 8 foot strainers and 4” 8-foot cross members to form box strainers.

 

The work was commissioned because the shingle beach and saline lagoons, along with the grazing marsh and reedbed support large numbers of wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, as well as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.

A little more about Cley Marshes

NWT Cley Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known nature reserve. It lies on the outskirts of the village of Cley next the Sea and extends to the neighbouring village of Salthouse. The 430-acre site was purchased in 1926 to be held 'in perpetuity as a bird breeding sanctuary'. It provided a blue print for nature conservation which has now been replicated across the UK. It has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, due to the large number of birds it attracts.

 The water levels in the pools and reedbeds are regulated to ensure they are ideal for the resident birds, and reed is harvested every year to keep the reedbeds in good condition. 

It is not just birds that the environment attracts. There are also several nationally or locally scarce invertebrates and plants specialised for this coastal habitat. 

A new eco-friendly visitor centre opened in 2007 containing a café, shop, viewing areas (including viewing from a camera on the reserve). The newest addition is the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, a courtyard and viewing deck, which allows for breathtaking views across the Marsh to the sea.

For information about this project or to discuss your own wildlife, livestock, agricultural or equine construction requirements get in touch via the website or call Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830.

A new arena at Blackborough End

This project is still in process but here is an early glimpse of what we have been doing for one horse-loving client in Blackborough End.

The brief was to turn an old yard into a modern, functional and attractive horse arena, suitable for working out the horses and ponies and giving lessons. The owners also have plans to run dog training classes in the arena.

Some of the rubble we moved to create the new arena

Some of the rubble we moved to create the new arena

 

At time of publishing this article, we have cleared the area of rubble and rubbish, laid the floor, and erected the post and rail fence, including five-bar gates at either end. The surface is a mix of silica sand and fibre, approx 100-125mm of sand and 50mm fibre. This means it is durable and weather-resistant and also easy on the horses' feet. 

The silica sand and fibre flooring provides a safe, durable surface

The silica sand and fibre flooring provides a safe, durable surface



As part of our service, we cleared a metre around the outside perimeter of the arena and this will be sown with grass. We have added Tornado Taurus horse netting R10/90/8 so that the owners can use sheep to keep the grass on the outside edge of the arena nice and clear of weeds and cropped short. The netting will also prove useful when wilful dogs are in the early stages of training!

The next stage is to build a jump store, for storing the horse jumps and the arena leveller. It will measure 6m wide by 4.5m, constructed out of 150 x 150 posts, clad in Yorkshire boarding, and roofed with juniper green anti-con box profile roof sheets. 

The project took two weeks from clearance to completion of the arena.

Specifications

100 x 125 x 2.1m posts.

Rails and gravel boards are 150 x 38 x 5.4m.

Fence height 1.35m

Spacings between posts 2.7m.

 

Nearing completion... just a storage shed to add

Nearing completion... just a storage shed to add

 

 

 

Cutting and clearing dates, one EU law that is likely to remain

While the UK is in the throes of negotiating its way out of the EU, and the myriad of rules and regulations that a 40-year membership has created, there are many environmental regulations that are likely to remain in place and continue to have an impact upon both the countryside and the farming community.

One of those is the restriction on when farmers or landowners can cut and trim hedges and generally tidy the land. 

Under the cross compliance legislation, which includes Statutory Management Requirements and Agricultural and Environmental Conditions, several restrictions have been placed on landowners and farmers with the aim of promoting public, animal and plant health; environment and climate change; the condition of the land; and animal welfare.

The most relevant to us at Dodd & Co and many of our clients are the rulings on hedge cutting and trimming; and clearing land.

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March

 

Under the legislation, you are not allowed to cut or trim your hedgerow between 1 March and 31 August unless you have applied for a derogation from the Rural Payments Authority (RPA) and received written permission or any of the following apply:

    •    The hedgerow overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedgerow obstructs the passage of, or is a danger to, vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders

    •    The hedgerow is dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted and because of its condition, it or part of it, is likely to cause danger by falling on to a highway, road or footpath; or obstructs the view of drivers or the light from a public lamp

    •    It is to carry out hedge-laying or coppicing during the period 1 March to 30 April (inclusive)

    •    It is to trim a newly laid hedgerow by hand, within six months of it being laid

Orchards are not included in the ruling and coppicing and hedge laying is allowed from 1 March until 30 August.

Under a separate ruling but still part of the cross compliance legislation, it is not permissible to burn heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium on land (other than in upland areas) from 1 April until 1 October.

The implementation of these cutting and clearing dates was introduced under new EU Regulations requiring the protection of birds during both the breeding and rearing season.

While many EU regulations are despised by people in the UK, there is little doubt that some of the regulations regarding the management of the countryside and environmental improvements are both for the good and here to stay. The results can be seen for themselves.

  • Under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, farmers have voluntarily put aside more than 450,000 hectares of land for wildlife.
  • More than 70 per cent of English farmland is managed under agri-environment schemes.
  • The amount of hedgerows has risen by 50,000km since 1990 to 550,000kms.
  • England has about 190,000km (118,000 miles) of public rights of way which criss-cross farmland - 78 per cent of those trails are footpaths. There are more than 33,000km of rights of way in Wales.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from British farming have been cut by 20 per cent since 1990.
  • The overall bird population across England is relatively stable. Of the specialist farmland birds a number are showing population increases Goldfinch, Stock Dove and Whitethroat. The numbers of Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw have more than doubled.
  • There are over 478,000 ponds in Great Britain, with 70,600 created in the ten years up to 2007.
  • More than 40,000 hectares of farmland in England are managed under an unpaid, soil related environmental measure.
  • There has been a long-term declining trend in fertiliser nutrient applications with nitrogen applications in England and Wales down by 30 per cent and phosphate applications down by 57% between 1990 and 2012.
     
Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

For advice about cutting, clearing and general agriculture, equine or small-holding construction, contact Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830

 

All jobs great and small...

Not every piece of work we do has to be a huge construction. We recently undertook a piece of work on behalf of a client to tidy and landscape an area along the front of three barns.

The barns and a cottage behind them had been renovated five years ago and the landscaped area in the front of the buildings was looking tired and a little scruffy. The barns are all rented so there is little incentive for the residents to maintain the communal area to the highest standard so regular tidying is a necessity. 

Overgrown beds and sizeable pot holes. Time for a Dodd and Co makeover!

Overgrown beds and sizeable pot holes. Time for a Dodd and Co makeover!

When the work on the barns was carried out back in 2012, the construction company gravelled the drive way but left a sizeable area in front of each barn as bare soil. The intention was for these to become kitchen gardens or flower beds but in fact, they had all just been over-run with weeds.

Our first job was to clear the gravel and flower beds of all weeds, so we used weedkiller to do this. Once the weeds had died off, we set about lining the beds with black liner to stop regrowth. We also took the opportunity to repair post rails around the adjacent paddocks that had come loose.

Liner down and weeds killed

Liner down and weeds killed

When the liner was in place, we organised the delivery of 30 tonnes of natural, angular gravel. The gravel refreshed the old material that was already in place and also covered the old flower beds to give the entire complex a cleaner, fresh look. The gravel also filled the potholes in the communal driveway.

The finished job - weeds gone, pot-holes filled and the barns looking as good as new

The finished job - weeds gone, pot-holes filled and the barns looking as good as new

While agricultural and equine work makes up the bulk of our workload, we are available for clearing and renewal projects such as this. Contact Jamie via the website or on 07766 815830 to discuss your requirements. 

 

 

It's a dog's life

Home sweet home for this beautiful working collie

Home sweet home for this beautiful working collie

 

While the majority of our work is with big animals – horses, ponies, cows and sheep – occasionally we are called upon to provide a solution on a slightly smaller scale.

This project is one that Dodd and Co took on quite recently to provide a three-block dog kennel.

The owner was concerned that the working dogs needed to be housed outdoors but the kennels needed to be both warm and safe for the dogs but also protected against the sort of animal theft that farmers, herdsmen and shepherds are occasionally victim of.

Working dogs they might be, but these are also much loved dogs who earn their keep as essentials cogs in the workings of the farm.

The terracotta roof adds a nice shape to the building 

The terracotta roof adds a nice shape to the building 

 

The kennels were constructed from 100mm thick insulated panels, which was guaranteed to keep the dogs warm in the winter months but also sheltered from the sun in the heat of summer.

The building is topped with terracotta box profile roof sheets with anti-condensation backing. This keeps the interior dry and prevents condensation dripping down the walls – bad for both the dog’s health and the longevity of the building.

The walls are clad with deep black feather edge and fitted with galvanised 8cm run sections. 

The kennels are divided into three individual pens with a enclosed space at the far end. The enclosed space is topped with a sturdy lid, which can be lifted to allow the kennel to be cleaned effectively.

 

For details on projects like these or for any agricultural construction needs, contact Jamie Dodd 07766 815830 or via the website.

No place like Holme

Our fencing provides a safe environment for cattle grazing on Holme Nature reserve

Our fencing provides a safe environment for cattle grazing on Holme Nature reserve

With age comes experience and in the case of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), 90 years of experience is helping the UK's oldest wildlife trust to run its nature reserves so successfully. We are delighted to work alongside the NTW on many of its projects. Among these is to erect and maintain the fencing around the marshlands at Holme Dunes. This is very rewarding work for two reasons. Firstly, it is always nice to feel that you are contributing to the upkeep of our areas of natural wildlife habitat; and secondly, it was a task that presented its own set of challenges – mainly due to the wet ground we were working on.

More details about the actual job will appear in a later post. This article just gives a little background to the nature reserve and introduces some of the residents you might meet if you take a trip to Holme Dunes and Nature Reserve.

The views from the board walk towards the sea

The views from the board walk towards the sea

If you follow the boardwalk from Holme towards Thornham, you will have the beautiful, wild sea-shore to your left and the marshlands to your right. These marshlands are home to a whole manner of wildlife – hares, foxes, toads, frogs, barn owls, marsh harriers and a host of other animals and birds. Located as it is , where the Wash meets the North Sea, this whole area of the coast is superbly located to attract migrating birds.

Holme Nature Reserve also holds a variety of important habitats which support numerous other wildlife species including natterjack toads, butterflies and dragonflies, as well as a large number of interesting plants.

Various military remains from WWII can be glimpsed around the reserve, including the remains of a target-railway used to train artillery. Much earlier remains have also been discovered including Roman pottery and, in 1998, a well-preserved Bronze Age timber circle, which became known as ‘Seahenge’. The circle was uncovered by strong tides, having been hidden for some 4,000 years (no longer at Holme, the structure was removed for preservation purposes by archaeologists).
 
Sea Buckthorn
Probably planted to help stabilise the dunes, this spiky silvery shrub is prevalent here. In autumn, its bright orange berries are a godsend to the thousands of migrating birds, such as wintering thrushes, that stop off at Holme.

Sea buckthorn grows on the dunes

Sea buckthorn grows on the dunes

Barn Owl
There are few sights in Norfolk more evocative than the ghostly form of a barn owl carefully quartering the fields and dykes. NWT Holme Dunes is one of the best places to catch up with the ethereal birds as they hunt silently over the grazing marshes in the late afternoon. Calm days are the best time to observe them.

Avocet
This unmistakeable black-and-white wader, with its characteristic upturned bill, breeds in small numbers on the reserve, and can often be watched feeding in front of the hides during the summer.

Migrating and vagrant birds
The perfect location of NWT Holme Dunes means it attracts large numbers of migrating birds. In spring, wheatears and warblers are common, with large numbers of finches and thrushes in the autumn. Scarce migrants such as wryneck, yellow-browed warbler and barred warbler arealmost annual. When the conditions are just right, thousands of tired migrants take shelter among the scrub and dunes in what is known as a ‘fall’.

Seabirds
Holme is a good place to seawatch: with the correct winds gannets, skuas, terns and divers can be watched passing by the coastline in their hundreds.

Bigger inhabitants

Besides the birds and other creatures you will find living at Holme, you will also see some animals of a larger kind. To keep the vegetation under control, the NWT has released wild Dartmoor and Konik ponies and White Park cattle onto the Dunes. 

White Park cattle with some Dodd and Co fencing

White Park cattle with some Dodd and Co fencing

These living lawnmowers play a very important role in managing the nature reserve by removing yearly vegetation growth and maintaining open habitats for wildlife. By maintaining an open sward, a whole range of plants are able to thrive.

Working alongside the NWT, it is fascinating to see nature in action, and all the complex was the animals, birds, plants and humans live alongside each other to create such a successful micro-environment.

Making a pact for animal welfare

Dodd and Co is really proud of the work it does with the PACT animal sanctuary in Wood Rising, Hingham. From fencing to bespoke buildings and stable blocks, we have been working with the team at PACT now for two years and in a future post we will detail the work we have undertaken and completed.

For now, here is some information about the work done by this great charity.

People for Animal Care Trust (PACT) was established by a group of people dedicated to animal welfare, and registered as a charity in March 1995. The PACT animal sanctuary is one of the largest in East Anglia.

The aim of PACT is to care for sick or ill-treated animals, largely by offering sanctuary in their specially-designed buildings. It is PACT's  ability to house and offer expert treatment and care that sets the charity apart from many other animal-care organisations.

PACT rescues, rehabilitates, and where possible re-homes, neglected, injured and abandoned animals. Their specialty is 'problem animals', victims of physical or mental abuse, they are coaxed back to health, overcoming their behavioral distress, and restoring their dignity. In most cases these poor creatures would have had no option other than euthanasia. PACT operates a strict 'no kill' policy.

Since 2000, PACT has re-homed or released 5,000 animals and has more than 1,600 animals housed at the Sanctuary. These range from cats and dogs through to ferrets, exotic birds, horse, pigs and donkeys. No animal is too small or large to receive PACT's specialist care. 

Providing a haven for wildlife.

The site at Wood Rising includes 15 acres of grassland, woods and lakes that is dedicated to wildlife. Dodd and Co have erected a predator proof fence so that injured wildlife, not able to survive in the wild, can be released there to live as normal a life as possible.

The PACT Animal Ambulance, sponsored by local companies, is on 24-hour call out and answers, on average, five emergency calls a week from the police and other people reporting animals in need. Very often these are wildlife that are attended, assessed, given immediate first aid and once stabilised taken to be cared for in the fully equipped veterinary unit at the sanctuary, where there is a full time veterinary nurse, and a vet who visits regularly.

PACT is now accepted as one of the best environments for animal welfare training. Every year, more than 25 students from agricultural colleges and local schools undertake work experience at the sanctuary.

Not just for animals

In addition, PACT has 16 employed animal care assistants and many volunteers. There is also a regular stream of helpers who come to the sanctuary, not just to help with the animals but for their own mental well-being. Sitting with the animals or taking the dogs for a walk offers people with mental health issues a chance to de-stress and relax. Working and being with the animals has proven to be an excellent aid to help people learn to cope and relate to people.

For more information on the work carried out by PACT, visit: http://www.pactsanctuary.org

 

 

 

 

Douglas fir, king of the soft woods

At Dodd & Co we use a lot of Douglas fir for our structural work. The pictures within this article are all of a studio project we recently completed which had Douglas Fir cladding inside and out. One of the reasons the client chose Douglas Fir was because of it’s ‘silvering’ properties. Again, the pictures, which are taken over a period of a few weeks demonstrate the speed at which Douglas Fir will lose its reddishness and take on a silvery-grey appearance.

Douglas fir

Douglas fir

Douglas Fir was first introduced to the UK in 1827 by the Scottish botanist David Douglas. It thrives in western areas of the UK where rainfall is higher than the rest of the UK. Since its introduction, it has become a staple of the construction industry. It is a commercially important source of wood and is used to make beams, veneers, furniture, cladding, decking and flooring.

Why do we use Douglas fir?

Douglas Fir is the strongest of our homegrown softwoods. It can cope with heavy duty framing, groundworks, cladding and landscaping. Like Oak, there’s not a lot it can’t be used for externally, it is naturally durable and will fare better than another soft wood in the ground. Due to it’s density and resin content it can be difficult to treat but we can advise on that.

Compared with European redwood, it is 60 per cent stiffer, 40 per cent harder and is more resistant to suddenly applied loads. It also has high levels of bend and compression along the grain.

As a sawn product it usually comes in planks of 300mm and six metres but bigger is always possible if required. The trees grow so straight that getting longer than six metres isn’t too much of a problem. Getting a different width is trickier but, again, nothing is impossible.

 

Of all the sawn soft woods, Douglas fir is relatively inexpensive making it a cost effective as well as attractive option.

Here are a few facts about the Douglas fir:

The Douglas fir is an evergreen conifer native to North America. It’s Latin name is Pseudotsuga menziesii and it comes from the Pinaceae family.

Douglas fir bark is non-flammable. This protects the tree from fires in its native range.

Douglas fir can grow to 55m and live for more than 1000 years. It can be found growing in a range of habitats, including open forests with plenty of moss and rainy conditions.

Spotting a Douglas fir:

Young Douglas fir has bark that is grey-green with highly scented blisters. Over time the bark becomes purple-brown, thick and corky with horizontal fissures. The leaves are needle-like, flat, soft and flexible, and distributed around the twig. They are green in colour with white-green stripes on the underside. Buds resemble those of beech trees - they are red-brown, scaly and slender, and taper to a point.

When mature, the trunk has resin-filled blisters while the scales on the cones have three pointed tips. A Douglas fir can be identified by the sweet resin smell that is released by crushed leaves.

Douglas fir is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. The male flowers are oval clusters of yellow stamens growing on the underside of the previous year's shoots, while female flowers are green to red upright tufts, and grow at the tips of twigs. 

After pollination by wind, female flowers develop into oval cones, which hang straight down from the branches and change in colour from yellow to pink to light brown. From each scale protrudes a unique three-pointed bract.

Value to wildlife

Because the trees live to such a great age, they provide deadwood cavities, in which birds and bats can shelter. Being tall, they also make suitable nesting sites for larger birds of prey, such as buzzards, sparrowhawks and hobbies (a type of falcon).

The spruce carpet and dwarf pug moths feed on the leaves, while the seeds are eaten by finches and small mammals. In Scotland, Douglas fir forests provide habitats for the red squirrel and pine marten.

Anyone interested in any of our structures using Douglas fir, please contact us via email or telephone. Details on the home page of the website.

Case study - getting studious in East Winch

Stunning studio/gym built by Dodd and Co

Stunning studio/gym built by Dodd and Co

A large garden project in East Winch, West Norfolk, put Dodd and Co’s vast construction skills to the test. The brief was to build a studio which could be used as an office, gym or extra living space in a range of natural materials with an added storage space for outdoor equipment such as a barbecue, sports gear or garden implements. The storage cupboard would then lead into a fence that shielded the oil tank from view. There was also to be a decked area at the front of the studio, where the client envisaged moving a rowing machine or exercise bike in fine weather – although there was little doubt the patio would definitely be doubling up as a drinks terrace!

 

Within the garden itself, a curved path was to be built into the garden, fitting into the slight contours of the garden and wooden sleepers were to be put into the borders to act as a screen and windbreak, as well as providing a design feature within the garden. Additional sleepers would be cut and put around the patio area of the house, to give that space a more secluded feel.

The testing aspects of this build were the slope in the ground, the high density of carrstone under the surface, which made digging foundations for the studio and holes for the sleepers quite tough going.

There was also the challenge of sourcing all the materials, including door frames and windows and negotiating on price.

The dimensions:

The studio is 3.6 metres wide by 7.2 metres long, with an outside decking area that is 2.4 metres deep and 7.2 metres long. The fence that encompasses a storage shed and an oil tank covering is a further 4 metres long. The bi-fold doors are 3 metres wide, while there are two windows, both 1.5 metres wide and half a metre high.

 

The metal trim gives a clean finish to the building and fence

The metal trim gives a clean finish to the building and fence

The galvanised metal around the roof trim is 1.5mm thick, while the pathway, which stretches 12 metres from the decked area to the house is 1 metre wide.

The build:

Showing some great innovation and clever use of materials, the studio has been created from cold store panels, clad internally with red wood tongue and groove and externally with Douglas Fir. The path, fence and shed is also constructed from Douglas Fir. Over time, this lovely red wood will age to a silver grey colour.

The roof is made from anthracite grey sheets with a box profile. Around the edge the galvanised metal has been folded to shape to give a clean line finish.

The shed also has an anthracite roof, with galvanised metal trim and is built of cold store panels and clad internally with Douglas Fir, and the fence line continues unbroken past the oil tank.

Doors, windows and fittings:

 

The doors and window frames are made from dark grey aluminium. There is a three-part folding door, plus two windows. Inside the studio is a deep storage box running along the 2.4 metre wall. This has two top-loading hinge lids. There are also eight double socket electricity points, plus an outside light. 

The garden:

The client wanted some structure and height added to the garden through the use of irregular sleepers dug into the borders and around the patio. The path would make a natural link between the house, patio and studio. A lot of thought went into the precise shape and placement of the path as it was important that people would use the path naturally and not cut across the grass.

The path was dug out and solid wooden bearings sunk into the ground. The path then followed a curve from the house to the studio. 

Sleepers were sunk into the ground all along the south side of the garden. A sharp wind cuts across this side of the garden so the sleepers act as a great wind break as well as a really nice garden feature. The important thing was to not make the line of fencing too uniform, so we went for varied heights and varied distance between upright sleepers.

The patio was also quite open to the elements. Cutting the sleepers so they stood at between 80cms-100cms, these were placed at the four corners of the patio.

Client’s response:

“Jamie and his team have been incredibly professional throughout this whole project. We spoke at length about what we were looking for and Jamie went away and researched materials and costs. He then produced a design for the studio, which we worked together to tweak.

“The actual workflow was well managed. It was a complex process involving the co-ordination of various tradespeople at different stages of the project. Jamie used a local electrician Premier Electrics, to install the electricity and a glass specialist to fit the windows. These experts in their field worked around the regular Dodd and Co team in delivering the studio on time and to budget.”

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Combatting the yellow peril of ragwort

Pretty yellow flowers disguise a deadly weed

Pretty yellow flowers disguise a deadly weed

One of the toughest but most important jobs we have to do on the farm is to keep ragwort under control. This bright yellow flower might look pretty in the first few days it flowers but in fact it is a deadly and fast-spreading plant that poses a threat to your animals and sucks the nutrients from the ground, preventing good grass growth.

For horses and cattle, ragwort is deadly. In the short term it causes stomach pain, loss of appetite, intolerance to sunshine, loss of coordination, difficulty in breathing and loss of eyesight. In the long term, it causes irreparable liver damage as the toxic effects of the plant build up in the liver.

Removing ragwort from your paddock or meadow is an essential part of paddock management, and this includes the dead stuff as ragwort remains poisonous even when it has been killed. Although the plant has a bitter taste, when dead this can be masked if it inadvertently gets into the silage or hay.

Know your enemy

In autumn, ragwort seedlings will start to appear, these are 10-15mm high. Ragwort rosettes can be found growing low to the ground from early spring onwards and the mature plants, which can reach up to two metres in height, burst into flower from May to October.

Rosettes mark the early stages of a ragwort's life

Rosettes mark the early stages of a ragwort's life

Once they have flowered, most of the plants die and some of the seeds germinate in the area where the mature plant has been. Ragwort also spreads quickly because one plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are covered by a fine down. This means that thousands of seeds are dispersed by the wind and this accounts for the rapid spread of the plant in the local area, although there is evidence that suggests that the seeds do not travel a great distance.

Take great care when pulling ragwort

The plant is also harmful to humans, so wear protective gloves and cover arms and legs when handling it. Ragwort should be removed before it flowers, but if this is not possible use a face mask to avoid inhaling the pollen. If you do come into contact with the plant, wash with warm, soapy water.

If you have ragwort growing on your land, it is your responsibility to get rid of it. Although not a notifiable weed – a commonly held belief – ragwort is one of five plants covered by the Weeds Act 1959, which allows the Secretary of State to use a measure of enforcement to stop the spread of the plant on private land. This legislation is rarely, if ever, used.

Pulling power

The easiest way to remove a small number of plants is by pulling the whole plant up, including the roots. It is best to do this at the seedling or rosette stage and, if possible, after rainfall when the ground is soft. Ragwort can regenerate from root fragments, so it is important to remove as much of the root as possible. A specialist fork can be purchased from retailers to help remove ragwort roots.

To tackle a widespread infestation, spraying is the best option, but you must rest the field for the recommended time after treatment. Agricultural merchants can offer advice and information about available products. The dead plant is still poisonous, so you must remove all traces before putting your animals back out.

Ragwort needs to be disposed of carefully. The most effective way is to burn the weeds, taking all relevant precautions. Defra can advise on this and other methods of ragwort disposal. Ragwort control is an ongoing process. As the seeds can remain in the ground for many years before they germinate, you are likely to find that you will have plants to remove year after year.

While the plant is much maligned, as with all things in nature, it also does good. In the case of ragwort, it is home and host to many, many species of insect. 

Queen Victoria's favourite!

Queen Victoria's favourite!

 

Ragwort facts:

  • Queen Victoria encouraged the growth of ragwort because she thought it was a pretty plant.
  • Ragwort is also known as Stinking Willie
  • One plant can produce 2,000-2,500 flowers and 75,000-120,000 seeds.
  • Ragwort is home to at least 77 insect species, with 30 using ragwort as their only source of food.
  • The poet John Clare wrote an ode to ragwort - he obviously didn’t spend hours trying to clear the noxious weed!

Flying pests need close control

Flies can cause misery in summer

Flies can cause misery in summer

It’s summer time and while the sunny weather may keep the humans happy, it can be a miserable time for live stock as the flies buzz around causing torment, loss of condition and sometimes disease.

Here are some handy tips for keeping your livestock at least a little protected from the unwanted attention of flies and insects.

It all starts with cleanliness. If you can keep the living area clean and free from muck, then you stand a chance of reducing the fly population. Keeping the barn clean and using fly-control products, you can keep stable flies from tormenting both you and your livestock.

Double trouble

The two flies that cause lives tock owners most problems are the common housefly and the stable fly. The former are nonbiting insects that carry disease and parasites, the latter are bloodsuckers who torment the animals. Flies – like flowers – are a natural visitor in the summer, but that doesn’t make them any more pleasant or desirable. By removing the warm, damp environments in which they thrive, you stand more chance of keeping their numbers down.

Reasons to swat

If any incentive is needed to keep the flies under control, think decreased output from dairy animals, reduced weight on feeder stock, expenditure on insect repellents and vet bills for eye and wound infections.

If you own horses, think of the spraying and swatting that goes on during grooming and the bad behaviour of ponies and horses plagued by biting insects.

One obvious solution is to clear the manure. Manure piles are prime breeding ground but areas of animal droppings are also rife with breeding flies. Remove debris from feeding troughs, discard damp hay, wet bedding and any other organic matter. Spreading it thinly over your fields is a good way of reducing the fly population while simultaneously improving pasture soil.

Your manure pile should always be placed close enough to your barn for access, yet far enough away to keep flies from swarming the premises. Regular removal of the pile should be part of your farm-management routine.

Using fly-control products.

Keeping your barns and sheds as clean and dry as possible is one answer. You can complement this work by buying fly deterrents.

Fly paper: hung in strategic spots is a tried and tested method of fly reduction. It is simple but it can be unsightly. A fly paper with thousands of victims stuck to it is pretty unsightly.

Fly Traps: i.e., plastic containers with bait inside to lure flies to their doom, are the slightly evolved version of fly paper. While effective, full traps can be ugly and smelly.

Misters: A more modern approach is to install portable fly-spray mist devices in buildings or areas where your  animals gather. These delivery systems work by shooting a fine mist of insecticide into the air every 15 minutes. The products are safe for pets and animals and are relatively cheap to buy.
 
Predators: Releasing flying insects on your farm to get rid of flies might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a natural, environmentally friendly means to eliminate the types of flies that cause the most harm around your barn. Fly predators, aka parasitoids, are smaller than their foes and resemble ants with wings. Their sole purpose is to stop the reproductive cycles of house and stable flies. Various suppliers sell fly predators, but because several species are available, it’s important to buy those that are effective in your region. Your supplier’s customer-support representatives can help you determine what type and how many you need. 

Releasing fly predators should be part of an ongoing programme that you combine with manure removal and premise spraying. Fly predators do not kill adult flies, so you must eliminate them with insecticides. Spray insecticides well away from the breeding areas where you’ve released the fly predators so as not to diminish their population in the process.

Spray Repellents
A variety of aerosol sprays can be used to treat your barn. Some products are designed to stick to surfaces for an extended period of time; others are for more immediate, temporary knock-down action. The problem with residual sprays is they’re actually more toxic to fly predators than they are to house or stable flies. And, as with most farm chemicals, the “bad” flies build up a resistance to the product. Read the labels of the products you buy to ensure they are not counterproductive to your goal.

Fly management on your farm should be seen as a job that gets easier the more you deal with it. Nothin will eliminates all flies, but a sustained effort using all of the tools at your disposal will significantly reduce them.

Norfolk puts on a show

For visitors and residents alike, the summer months in Norfolk are a time when the county really springs into life and showcases just what it can offer the rest of the UK and beyond.

Whether it is the coast-line, the Broads, the Brecks or any of the lesser-known areas in between, the county just seems to put on its finery determined to prove why it is such a favourite destination.

Date for the diary

But while the countryside and coastline beckons, there is one diary date when the beach has to be abandoned and a trip to the outskirts of Norwich is a must. Nowhere is the essence of Norfolk better demonstrated than at the county’s headline show. The Royal Norfolk Show is the largest two-day county show in the UK and it has been in existence since 1847. This year’s event takes place on 29th and 30th June at the Norfolk Showground in Costessy.

Three strands

This year, the show has three main strands: Grow it, Cook it, Eat it, is all about celebrating our agricultural heritage, our produce and our producers. Exhibitors include: Mr Mawkin’s Farm, cattle and livestock rings, Countryside Area, machinery past and present, Flower and Garden Show, cookery theatre, nominated catering outlets and the Adnams Food and Drink Experience. 

Animals and their owners on show

Animals and their owners on show

The second strand is Celebrating our Heritage, which is an important part of the Show celebrating the achievements and successes of our local institutions. One of the highlights will be the presence of RAF Marham as it celebrates its centenary. Other well-known local organisations who will have a big presence at the show, include Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Countrysiders and the Cub Scouts.

The third strand, and a key one, is the Retail Experience. More than 650 businesses will be trading at Norfolk’s largest outdoor shopping experience. These range from top-end retailers to bespoke Norfolk goods and there will be an eclectic range of shops offering luxury goods, clothing, garden design and furniture, cars, banking and professional services. There will be a range of agricultural suppliers present, many with state of the art farming and agricultural equipment on sale.

Here are the numbers:

With more than 81,500 visitors, including 8,500 school children, the 50 catering outlets and 676 retail stands will be very busy. It is also a time for fierce competition as 1,232 horses, 861 cattle, 824 sheep, 409 small livestock, 141 pigs and 128 goats will all be battling to be crowned best in show. 

Over the course of the two days, you will be able to watch a plethora of skills as Norfolk’s finest craftspeople and artisan producers line up to show off their goods. Besides the agricultural competitions, expect cookery demos, tips for gardening, demonstrations of fencing skills, tree-felling, metal work – there seriously is something to interest everyone.

For more information visit the Royal Norfolk Show website and plan your day. http://royalnorfolkshow.rnaa.org.uk

Norfolk Wildlife Trust – a local hero

Sheep grazing on the Breckland at Thompson, 

Sheep grazing on the Breckland at Thompson, 

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust is the oldest wildlife trust in England but it is an organisation that is forever adapting to meet the demands that are thrown at it. There is no ‘resting on its laurels’ for this non-profit organisation. 

Over the past 90 years, the NWT has been at the forefront of protecting England’s rich wildlife heritage, both for the sake of the wildlife, but also for the sake of the generations that would otherwise grow up thinking that a blackberry was merely a phone.

At Dodd and Co, we are delighted to have worked with the NWT on a number of projects, all helping to maintain and protect the Norfolk countryside and wildlife. Here are a few of the many projects that the NWT undertakes.

Conservation grazing

Management using grazing animals is vital for the maintenance and improvement of the habitats on many of the NWT reserves. The organisation owns its own sheep and ponies, whose grazing behaviours allow native plants to thrive on open habitats and conservation areas. For the first time, the NWT has acquired 15 British White cattle at Upton Fen. The cattle are ideally suited to this wetland environment. At Thompson, Longhorn Cattle have been used to improve the grazing of the area surrounding the ancient Pingos.

Coast and Broads

At Holme Dunes the NWT has worked with Dodd and Co to fence key areas to enable essential grazing on the reserve. With landfill community funds provided by the SITA Trust, the NWT are working on these fragile dunes to improve the environment for the Natterjack Toad. There are now areas of bare ground, dune slack pools and grassland habitats – all essential for the Natterjack Toad’s survival.

There is also a major restoration project – the WREN Biodiversity Action Fund – that has just reached completion at Hickling Broad. As soon as the water levels were raised, as a result of the project, avocets, bitterns, common cranes and white tailed eagles were among the birds that returned.

Woodland

Ash dieback has had a major impact upon our woodlands, so the NWT has been layering different species - native trees such as the hazel and field maple. In Foxley Wood, there has been a major replanting project, creating a diverse woodland of species such as hazel, dogwood and spindle, in place of the conifers that were there.

Breckland

Nine sites in the Brecks are managed by NWT, including Cranwich Camp, New Buckenham Common – where a record count of 2,300 green-winged orchids were present – and East Wretham Heath, where rabbits are being encouraged to graze the area to rid it of the invasive plant pygmyweed.

The work of the NWT is so important. Not only is the organisation preserving what is here, but it is encouraging the return of some of the native species that have all but disappeared. Through workshops, events, school visits, talks and a hard-working core of volunteers, the NWT is not only doing conservation, but it is encouraging a deeper understanding of conservation among the local communities.

Pastures spring into life

Here in Norfolk, spring is on its way and the earth is beginning to come to life again as the warmth infiltrates the soil.

At this time of year, you should check that your grass is growing well and your fencing is secure

At this time of year, you should check that your grass is growing well and your fencing is secure

 

Checking your pastures

If you haven’t already, it is a good time to get out onto your grassland and assess the conditions of your grazing meadows and paddocks so you can start planning out the year. It is good practice to make a note, written or mental, of what is happening. At the same time, take a look at your fencing and make sure it is fit for purpose.

Looking at the paddocks now in early to mid April, you may find some areas appear to be greening up a little quicker than areas around. At closer inspection it may be nice and green, but the green may be coming predominantly from a surge of clover and very little grass. If this is the case, ground cover is not yet where it should be. One conclusion to be drawn may be that the area was overgrazed last autumn/winter.

Ratio of grass to clover

This creates a few management issues. Number one, the field is going to require a little more rest now. If grazed too quickly, the competitive edge will be on the side of the clover. The grass will need a longer rest period to regain its strength. If the clover get too much of a foothold, the ratio of legume (clover) to grass can get too high. In cattle, bloat can become a problem. 

Get the ratio of grass to clover right for perfect pastures

Get the ratio of grass to clover right for perfect pastures

This situation generally starts when the clover exceeds more than 30% of the sward dry matter, but it is even more of an issue when the clover starts exceeding 40% of the dry weight. Visual dry weight estimates of clover tend to be underestimated. If it looks like 40%, it could be 50% or more. 

Also, grass generally makes up the majority of the production of the pasture. If the grasses are set back too much then production will be reduced and weed stress will most likely increase.

Fence off areas to allow recovery

If you are finding that the grass is taking its time to show itself or that clover is becoming dominant, then a simple remedy is to allow those areas to rest longer this spring before grazing them. Using some temporary fencing to keep the animals off the stressed areas or employing strip-grazing methods to rest part of the pasture will allow recovery.

Strip grazing using temporary fencing

Strip grazing using temporary fencing

If pastures were not overgrazed prior to dormancy last autumn and also maintained with adequate cover over the winter, then now you should be reaping the benefits – your pastures should have  good cover with no soil showing. There will be a nice amount of dry matter left over from the previous year and new green grass growth coming up through it. Though not as prominent to start with, the legumes will start increasing soon and make a beautiful stand of forage. Production on this site will be improved, weed issues less, and the carbon to nitrogen ratio will be better balanced. These areas will also tolerate more grazing under wetter conditions as compared to the first site.

Slowly does it - let the sun do its work

One word of caution, as the pastures begin greening back up, it is very important to not start grazing too quickly. As the plant begins to green up, it first starts to rebuild its solar panel. Photosynthesis is needed at this point to build back new roots and reserves. 

The more photosynthesis occurring per acre, the more carbon there is and more potential for increasing soil organic matter. As photosynthesis needs leaf surface area, the longer you can hold off grazing, the more photosynthesis will occur.

Case study - badger fencing in Wisbech

The latest installation from the Norfolk-based agricultural and equine construction specialists Dodd & Co is a cattle finishing unit in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

The specification was to badger and deer fence the entire unit - all in all 400 metres of Tornado HT15/158/8 Badger Fencing – and add a gated front entrance. The unit was situated in a farm-yard and the owner wanted protection from badger intrusions as well as general farm-yard security options.

The project involved digging a deep ditch to sink the badger netting 250cms below the surface – the wire below the surface comprised a RL6/50/5 Tornado skirt – with 1.6 metres of high tensile wire above the surface as well as a top barbed wire as an added deterrent. The posts used in the installation were highway spec 30 year wooden posts, chosen for their durability.

Badger and deer fencing at cattle finishing unit near Wisbech

Badger and deer fencing at cattle finishing unit near Wisbech

The double gates had concrete footing to ensure stability and durability and the whole project was completed in a few days.

Dodd & Co director Jamie Dodd said: “The project was a fairly straight-forward one. The main challenge was that the whole farm yard was a hardcore surface, so we had to puncture that to sink all the intermediate posts. That made it quite a tough task.”

Front gate with concrete footings

Front gate with concrete footings

 

Badger proofing area that house cattle is essential for farmers as the animal is thought to be a carrier of the TB virus which can infect cattle, with fatal consequences. 

A little about Tornado Badger Fencing

HT15/158/8 is ideal for use along highways or areas where badger movements need to be restricted; the closely spaced vertical stay wires help prevent badgers from pushing through the fence.

It can also be installed on post and rail fencing or used as embankment netting.

Tornado HT Badger Fence is manufactured with high tensile wire which strains tighter than mild steel and so requires fewer intermediate posts, making it quicker to erect. It does not stretch with weathering so does not need to be retightened annually. Tornado Badger fencing meets Highways Agency specifications H46 and H47.

The hardcore yard proved a tough challenge

The hardcore yard proved a tough challenge

Perfect pastures as new grass starts to grow

It has been a wet and warm winter but hopefully your pasture will emerge from winter-use over the next month with minimal damage. 

With March approaching, longer hours of daylight and an increase in soil temperature will encourage spring grass growth. However, while the pasture has survived through the worst that winter can offer, it is important to continue to protect pasture from any further damage, particularly as March and April can bring snow, frost and heavy rain. A combination of these factors can lead to poached land, this not only looks unsightly but it can damage the soil structure and lead to stock health problems such as mud fever.

Here are some handy hints for pasture protection.

  1. Grass should be kept at a minimum length of 2cm (1in) to provide a protective coverage for the ground and help prevent soil compaction, poaching and damage to grass roots. 
  2. Resting and rotating pasture by adapting grazing times and stocking levels as necessary will help prevent serious damage.
  3. Carry out a soil analysis - this will determine the acidity (pH) and soil nutrient levels, allowing for advance planning in the event of a fertiliser application being necessary in spring. The ideal pH for horse pasture is 6.5. Acidic soil (with a low pH) may result in weak, patchy grass growth. Alkaline soil (with a high pH) can result in some elements in the soil becoming unavailable, resulting in grass suffering a deficiency. If a soil test reveals that soil is acidic, an application of lime will help to restore the correct pH. Three other major elements are necessary in balanced proportion for the soil to support optimum grass growth: nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Nitrogen encourages stem and leaf growth whilst phosphate and potash are responsible for root growth and grass health. If these elements are not in balance, it may be necessary to apply fertiliser.

Good fertilising practice

It is important to assess the soil before you apply fertiliser. Overuse of fertiliser leads to a loss of native grasses and plants, which provide important support for wildlife. The growth of dominant grasses - at the expense of native species - leads to a loss of biodiversity.

It is worth thinking about organic compound fertilisers (e.g. farmyard manure) as they contain a variety of nutrients which are released slowly into the soil over a long time period, resulting in steady grass growth. In addition, the organic matter improves soil condition.

In-organic fertilisers (either straights or compound) are released rapidly into the soil. This can lead to rich lush grazing that is unsuitable for horses and ponies as it can cause growth disorders, digestive problems and laminitis. 

Semi-organic fertilisers combine the positive benefits of in-organic fertilisers by allowing accurate rates of nitrogen, phosphate and potash to be applied in accordance with soil analysis results, but with the advantage of being released slowly into the soil due to the organic content. The use of organic fertiliser should be favoured when possible, but when soil test results identify a particular element requirement, a semi-organic fertiliser may be used as a compromise.

Permanent grasslands and their importance

Permanent grasslands that have not been "improved" in the past (for example through reseeding, drainage work or the application of artificial fertilisers) are an important landscape feature and provide a valuable wildlife habitat. Such pastures are in decline across the UK, but through careful management livestock keepers can play a role in maintaining any existing unimproved grassland they control, and ensuring other grassland is not unnecessarily improved. Maintaining low grazing pressure and rotating grazing areas may allow permanent pastures to remain productive without the use of fertiliser.

Spring watch for too much grass growth

We might welcome spring grass growth but it is important to monitor it carefully. For horse and pony owners it is important to watch out for conditions that can cause laminitis.

This condition is known to be triggered by fructans - water-soluble carbohydrates - that are present in grass. Traditional meadow grasses are best for horses and ponies susceptible to laminitis, as they tend to contain less fructans. However, levels can still elevate quickly when grass becomes stressed, for example as a result of drought or frost. Grass stores higher levels of fructans in stems than in leaves. 

Mechanically topping grass or grazing during the growing season with sheep increases the leaf to stem ratio and therefore decreases the fructans available to grazing horses and ponies.

 

Grazing – what are the options?

Grazing systems are all important for your land management and the health of your stock. And good grazing systems need great fencing systems to keep the stock in and everyone else out.

What sort of grazing system you use depends upon a number of factors. There are three main systems, each with a number of variations surrounding it, but the system you choose will give you the amount of control you require over the management of your grazing land. Ultimately, you are looking to match the nutritional demands of the livestock with the right supply of forage.

Set Stocking

Set stocking or continuous stocking is the simplest form of grazing management. This is where the animals – sheep, cattle, ponies, goats, llamas, have access to just one area of grazing land for the whole season. This type of gazing is typically found in areas of extensive farming - such as uplands or breckland areas. While some early grass growth might be wasted under this system, it does reduce damage over the area as a whole. The continuous nature of grazing encourages a close, dense sward that is usually rich in clover. It also means that fencing costs – once the fence has been built – are kept to a minimum.

For set stocking, the best option is a well-constructed, durable fence

For set stocking, the best option is a well-constructed, durable fence

Paddock Grazing

Paddock grazing is where livestock are grazed on a rotational basis within a number of paddocks. This is sometimes called ‘rotational grazing’ and is a more intensive management system. It carries higher costs in fencing, water supply and access routes. Paddock grazing is often carried out on a 20-30 day cycle and allows the farmer to more accurately meet the nutritional demands of the livestock with the availability of forage.

Paddock grazing offers two major advantages to the livestock farmer: stock do not regraze the same area of land on a  day-by-day basis and become susceptible to parasitic worms; and parcels of land can be put aside for hay or silage under this system.

Strip fencing

Strip grazing allows stock to be moved to fresh pasture every day. It is usually organised within a paddock grazing system and animals are controlled by an electric fence. This system is often used when there is excess forage available, such as cover tops that are sown after the cereal harvest, radish and turnips for example. Among the advantages of a strip system is that the animals will not trample and spoil a large area as they are contained within a small area of the field. This system also allows careful management of how much nutrition the animals take in.

The choice is yours

What sort of grazing method you employ will be dependent upon the land you have available and the demands of your stock. You may well mix and match, with some set stocking and some strip grazing. How you fence these areas will also be dependent upon a number of factors – permanence of the grazing, the nature of the stock (beef cattle are notoriously less easily contained than dairy cows) and the budget you are working to. Your fencing contractor will be able to advise you.

The importance of hedges

Among the services we offer at Dodd & Co is hedge planting, cutting and maintenance. This is all part of managing your land and is vitally important for maintaining borders and boundaries as well as the health of your natural environment.

Why are hedges important?

Hedges are important for a number of reasons, they provide a range of services for humans and wildlife that supports the healthy functioning of ecosystems. 

As the most widespread semi-natural habitat in the UK, hedgerows support a large and diverse flora and fauna population. They supply food for invertebrates, birds and mammals and, in areas of intensively farmed areas, they offer a refuge for wild plants and animals.

A neat hedge can complement stock fencing as well as offer shelter and bio-security 

A neat hedge can complement stock fencing as well as offer shelter and bio-security 

For humans, hedgerows can act as regulatory serves, controlling processes such as air quality, water purification and pollination. In terms of the air we breathe, hedgerows help produce oxygen and capture harmful pollutants. This is particularly true in more urban areas.

Creating barriers

On agricultural land, hedges act as a barrier to keep livestock in, sheltered and safe, and human beings out of areas they should not go – such as a field with a bull in it, or where crops are growing. They can also reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilisers and eroded soil from reaching waterways. Particularly pertinent at the moment is the use of hedgerows to prevent or alleviate the effects of flooding as a hedge can increase filtration rates and slow water flow.

Keeping stock safe

One very important effect of good, secure hedging is the prevention of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Hedges form part of the bio-security system around a livestock area. In a study into the risks of bTB to herds of cattle, it was found that ‘hedge-poor’ farms, that is those farms with few hedgerows and large field sizes were at a significantly greater risk than those with ‘hedge-rich’ fields. One of the reasons suggested for these findings is that badgers will stick to the natural hedge habitat if it is there in abundance. Without the hedgerow to act as a buffer, cattle and badgers are more likely to come into contact as badgers will wander into fields where cattle graze.

Looking good

Hedges are also aesthetically pleasing. They can cover unsightly developments, protect people’s privacy or provide pleasant areas for people to enjoy.

All of which makes the growth and maintenance of hedgerows an important feature of land management. In the past farmers have tended to cut their hedges after harvest in the autumn time. Advice from the Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs suggests that later in the winter, around February and March time, is a far better option. This allows the birds to forage all the berries earlier in the year. Any later than this and you risk disturbing nesting birds.

How to...

A flail is the most common tool used for hedge-cutting. Hedgerows might look as if they have been put through a mill when they are first cut, but they recover well and regular cutting will promote new, healthy growth. Hedgerows should be cut in a yearly sequence – side one year, top the next, other side the third year – to allow the hedge to keep flowering and growing. It is also important not to cut the hedge too close as this will weaken the growth of the hedge.

Part of the maintenance of hedgerows includes filling gaps between the plants. This might be necessary because existing plants have died, become spindly tr a natural gap in growth has occurred. Use of natural hedgerow plants such as blackthorn, hawthorn and ash are recommended.

Tree guards offer extra protection against curious (and destructive) livestock

Tree guards offer extra protection against curious (and destructive) livestock

New hedgerows and trees planted in hedgerows need protection. Plastic mesh guards, chicken wire or rabbit wire will protect these young plants, while larger tree guards can prevent deer from damaging the new shoots on trees