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We did it, bought a farm...


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As the topic title says, we actually did it and bought a farm. We can call it ours since the first of January, and can still hardly believe it!

 

The amount of land belonging to this farm is a staggering 2600 hectares (that is 6425 acres for the non metrics among us).

I must say this is an Icelandic thing, this huge chunk of land is mainly highland, not cultivated, and not fenced in, the sheep forage there over the summer (ours and any of the neighbors that wander in). On it are two mountain lakes that allegedly contain arctic char, we will investigate with fishing nets this summer...

 

The farm itself is on the coast, and directly surrounded by about 40 hectares of potential hey land, of which about 15 hectares is in culture. Fencing is pretty okay considering there hasn´t been farmed on it in about ten years (neighboring farms have been harvesting hey on it, a very good thing).

Our coast line is 3 kilometers long.

 

The house is pretty good, relatively recently build (in the eighties), and what is more, well build.

 

The sheep barn can house about hundred sheep over the winter, smaller than we are used to here at the place we have been renting the last seven years, but there are possibilities for expansion. We are running 115 head this winter, but there are some marked for culling, also we have at this moment more rams than we need.

It does need a significant amount of work, new flooring, probably dig and cement a deeper manure cellar underneath.

 

There is a horse stable that can accommodate our current six without problems. Of course after we haul over the interior.

 

Both sheep and horse stables are attached to a pretty big hay barn, that has a lot of potential for all kinds of stuff because we don´t need it for hay (round bales in plasic keep fine outdoors). Good spaces for a workshop, and facilities during lambing time to name a few.

I will also need to find a good place for an all year dog kennel. I have kept the dogs till now in the washing room of the house, but this will not be possible at the new place. There is much planning in process right now!

 

We will not move untill the end of lambing season (end of May), because we won´t move our sheep before that (would be crazy). And also because a neighboring farm, friends of us, are using the sheep stable for about 70 of their sheep. Of course we are not kicking them out before they have lambed.

 

So yeah, we are not going to be bored any time soon....

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Dear Smalahundur,

 

Wonderful news. Congratulations. I know nothing about Icelandic farming but wonder if instead of a manure cellar you might adapt a system I've seen in French Canada. In winters they remove manure from the barn with an elevator (gas or electric) to a pile outside which they spread in better weather. Some nitrogen loss but I'd think it's be Easier and cheaper than digging a cellar.

 

Donald McCaig

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A manure cellar? I'm not familiar with that. Are the stock kept on slats and the manure and feces fall through to a collection room below, or do you scrape soiled bedding and drop it down there? Does it help provide heat to the stock above? Curious to know!

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How extremely exciting for you!!! I'm thrilled on your behalf (and also jealous). Beware - if I ever do make that trip to Iceland I've been longing to make, I might just find myself driving by!!!

 

We're still deep in the throes of getting our house ready to sell. No farm to move to yet but hoping for luck on that score. Getting our current house ready to sell has certainly more than filled my "pain" quota for the moment....

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First off, everybody thanks for all the good wishes! It is really appreciated.

 

And Alchemist (and anybody else for that matter) if you are in the neighborhood (that is the north east part of Iceland), drop me a PM and I am sure we can work something out ;) .

 

As for the question of gvc border, will we expand the herd, probably in the long run yes, but not straight away. The sheep stable can house about the size of our current flock. But there are possibilities for expansion.

 

As for the questions about the cellar and the general winter sheep management, that could be quite a long story, I´ll try to keep it brief.

Funnily sheep housing has come full circle here. In the old times sheep were kept over the winter in primitive stables, on "tað" a mixture of manure and not eaten hay. In those days there was usually little hay/winter feed so the sheep were as much as possible put out to forage. Hard times.

 

After introduction of tractors and other machinery the trend went to stables with a flooring of slats, with the feeces and urine dropping into the cellar below (as Sue rightly concluded) . All kinds of variations, cellars that are accessible for tractors, shoveling it out, other systems pouring water in and pumping it out.

In both of these kind of stables sheep are fed on "garðar" this is a modern example: http://malmo.blog.is/album/hlunnindaferd_/image/841017/

Most people give their sheep in such stables twice a day (we do too).

 

But the most modern way to go is to keep the sheep again on "tað" but now using bedding, mostly barley straw. Sheep in these kind of stables are usually fed ad lib, whole round bales saving quite a lot of work.

An example; http://hysi.is/hus-og-hurdir/fra-hugmynd-ad-veruleika/fjarhus/fjarhus-egilstadakot-i-floahreppi/

The walls are typically easily removable, making the removal of manure/bedding easy with machinery.

Very important is good drainage in such a system. If you have too much moisture it can become pretty disgudsting. So if it word-'ks well it is really good and comfortable for the sheep, but I have seen cases where it did not...

 

Both methods have their pros and cons, for ad lib feeding you ideally need very "light" hay with little nutritional value, especially first part of winter, or else your sheep will get too fat. Also feeding them as we do, two hay meals a gay apart from giving more control over the amount of hay and eventual extra feed, you also follow better with the sheep. You notice for instance at once if one of them is off her feed.

 

The sheep stable at the new place is of the first type, half of it with a not to deep concrete cellar, designed so manure can be pumped out with water, the other half (don´t ask me why) very undeep designed to lift the flooring and shoveling the shit out by hand... :wacko: This will have to be altered....

 

The hay barn has possibilities to be used as "tað" stable. The bottom is gravel not concrete, so most likely good drainage. The roof would have to be isolated (or else it will rain condensation water on the sheep making a real mess of things).

 

So much to plan, design, ponder, and decide. But we will take our time, not everything has to be done at once. Most likely we will renovate the sheep stable and see what we do in the years to come.

 

If interested in Icelandic sheep stables put "fjárhús" in google images and you will find a lot of examples.

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Thanks for the explanation! We used to keep out dairy goats on a bedded pack of discarded hay in a well-ventilated barn. We'd only clean it out annually.

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What is your maximum stocking rate?

Interesting question, difficult to answer.

Also I have to admit, I had to google the term as it is not in use here.

It means the number of stock per hectare. As far as I can tell it means how many stock does one hectare grazing pasture support (correct me if I am wrong).

 

As stated to this farm belongs 2600 ha hillside country, where our sheep graze over the summer, (and beyond, no fences remember?) So yeah, such a vastness can support quite a number of sheep. actually so many that it is not the limiting factor (there were more farms and consequently sheep in this area in earlier times).

 

The limiting factors are in the first place winter housing. The sheep stable can hold comfortably (and legally, there are rules about minimum requirements) just over hundred head (it is rather small).

When the hay barn would be stocked maximally (this is not very realistic) it would take over 150 sheep easily (and a spell of bad weather in lambing season would be a nightmare). So roughly 250 head?

 

Then the next thing to consider is the amount of winter feed, hay the farm can produce. At the moment the hay land around the farm that has been kept in culture is about ten hectares. As it was taken into culture sown in etc ages ago, this is not the best quality hay but it is good enough for horses and sheep. The amount from such an area is enough for our current flock plus horses.

 

There is an additional 30 hectares that have been used (years/decades ago) but it would be possible to take it into culture without any big problems,producing higher quality harvest land (with bigger yield).

If one would do that this farm would probably (and this is a very inaccurate guesstimate!) be able to support a 500 head or so.

But only if I would win the lottery and be able to build bigger winter quarters...

 

That is the thing here, though you can keep sheep outside in the winter, even letting them forage, climate is such that you have to be able to house them, sometimes extended periods, because of heavy weather (and the occasional volcanic eruption...)

 

So our current plans (which are more or less in a state of flux), are to keep about the same size flock next winter, likely housing the rams and maybe the yearlings in the hay barn, and the main flock in the stable, utilizing the rest of the hay barn in lambing season.

After that, who knows, we are dreaming of slow expansion, we will see how things works out.

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Yes, my question was basically how many sheep your farm could support.

 

I recently moved from an area where you really did need a barn for bad weather in the winter, so I can understand that.

 

What kind of sheep do you have? Was there a time they were raised without barns?

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We have Icelandic sheep. And though I really like the breed this is not by choice; here in Iceland it is simply the only breed available.

As far as I know they have never been raised without barns of some kind, but there are people who keep them mostly outdoors over the winter. No problem, they are hardy and have a kind of fleece that is well weather resistant, but you do need at least some kind of housing for emergency conditions.

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Digression to anyone in the US who has not tasted Icelandic lamb: If you have the opportunity to buy some during the short season in the fall when imported Icelandic lamb is available, DO IT! You'll be glad you did.

 

Return to topic: Congratulations, Smalahundur!

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Congratulations! It sounds wonderful.

 

I'm heading to Finland at the end of May and we almost booked a side trip to Iceland for 3 days- unfortunately, it didn't work out. We've decided that we might meet up in Iceland in a couple of years instead.

 

Enjoy your new home :) - I'm sure you will get years of pleasure from it!

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A hearty congratulations. You are living my dream. Ah....one day...

 

When I was up in Hokkaido (Japan's north Island) in December visiting relatives I was looking at land. I need to do some research on raising livestock in deep snow areas because where I want to be they get SNOW..!! How is it where you are?

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We had lots of snow in January, in the drifts here sometimes more than a man´s height. Luckily a lot of it thawed away last week as we had a spell of unusually warm weather; a storm from the south/west blowing relatively warm air towards us. Means I can put round bales in the barn again.

The only thing I know of sheep keeping in Japan I read in a book called "a wild sheep chase" by Haruki Murakami (so that is not very much...).

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