From mid November and probably till the middle of April ( or later ) we will be winter feeding. The grass has no goodness in it and the stocks of silage and hay grown on the farm over the summer months are dwindling. Normally it is just silage we feed to the deer and cows, but the dry summer last year meant we got quite a lot of hay too. Bonus, hay is cheaper to make ( no expensive plastic silage wrap ) and the cows love it. All the cows are kept out over the winter, they have thick coats to repel all the bad weather and with some shelter and hay they will fare well through any conditions.
The red deer and fallow deer are getting chopped silage. The round bales of silage are put through a ‘chopper’ and then filled into long feed trailers that get taken up into the fields. By chopping the silage there is much less waste, deer can be picky!
With the Tomintoul Distillery just down the road we also feed the deer draff, a ‘left-overs’ of the barley that is used to make whisky. Locally sourced and mixed with barley we grow and bruise ourselves here on the farm, we certainly don’t have any ‘animal feed miles’.
The iron-age pigs are fed daily regardless of the time of year and once a week along with their normal rations of sow rolls and bruised barely we collect ‘flour’ ( another by-product from the distilling process ) from the Distillery too and give this to the pigs. Not a feed you want to give the pigs on a windy day, it gets everywhere because it is so light and literally like flour!
The soay sheep are only fed when the weather is really bad, deep snow or very hard frost. Like the deer they are better fed the chopped silage, less waste and some hard feed poured on top. They live out on the hill all year round, found shelter in an old tumbled down house and in the river bank.
And finally to the reindeer here that spend the winter on the Cromdales. While the daily routine of winter feeding happens here at the farm, the reindeer are left to their own devices. Highly adapted to cope with extreme winter conditions, they don’t need a daily feed and tough it out on the high ground, surviving on digging through the snow for lichens.