Archive for December 2013

A Healthy Herd

Libby has left the farm
Truro market is just like any other livestock market if a little further west than any of the other. A great little cafe where you can get a real cup of tea and enjoy the hum of farmers’ conversations as they wait for their cattle to be sold. The subjects of conversation are pretty similar world wide, the price of cattle, expensive feed, government interference where none is needed and or none where intervention would be welcomed. Or just simple social conversations as many traditional old school farmers get a chance to meet up, no Facebook here! So the most amazing thing was to discover that they have a WiFi hotspot!

Trenderway is here today to sell some stores (Cattle that someone else will buy and fatten), and to move Libby, our 8th cow off the farm. She is not exactly “special” which is not surprising as earlier his year she was identified as carrying Johnes Disease and we needed to isolate her and get her off the farm as quickly as possible. Johnes Is a major problem in cattle in the UK generally affecting weight gain and longevity and because of its nature can remain undetected unless it’s eradication is actively pursued.
Trenderway has been under the Herdsure Healthy Livestock program for a couple of years now, and have been testing clear of a series of key diseases, so it was a bit of a setback to have Libby testing positive.

This is where the harsh reality of the market takes over. Not only are prices slightly down at the moment, but being this far west our prices are generally below the average in the UK. Sale price barely covered the cost of the livestock haulier.

At lest this means that the income from the 5 stores will not have any additional costs attached.

Simple solutions from an Italian fruit grower

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During our recent business trip to Piedmonte in Italy we were introduced to Bepe Distefanis, who farms fruit and vineyards just outside Montelupo Albese. While it’s always fascinating to hear about the experiences of fellow farmers in other countries, Bepe’s story is especially inspiring, as having reduced his vineyards, he now grows a variety of fruit including apples, pears and persimmons (Sharon Fruit in UK stores or Cachi in Italian stores) and sells all his produce direct. He produces a really nice Apple juice and has started drying sliced fruit in a really clever machine built by his brother who utilised used car parts!

The best bit of advice he shared with us is the small item he is holding in his hand. Bepe casts hundreds of little concrete weights in disposable plastic cups and hangs them on fruit tree branches to encourage fruiting and optimal tree shape. He swears that this also improves fruitlet retention and counteracts biennial fruiting. We are looking forward to trying it ourselves

Like many small producers in Italy, he does not press or bottle his own juice, but utilises the services of his local cooperative. This model is used effectively throughout Italy. In the south there are Fratoio’s owned by small groups of Olive farmers that press and bottle their olive oil. In wine growing areas, the smaller producers club together and share pressing, winemaking and bottling facilities. They have worked out how to produce high quality in small batches and we are looking forward to emulating this principle at Trenderway in our apple juice production.