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Foaling live! MyFarm to live webcast birth of Shire Horse

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Queenie, the only Shire Horse mare at Wimpole Home Farm [1] in Cambridgeshire is preparing to give birth. And, as part of the National Trusts MyFarm (http://www.my-farm.org.uk) [2] experiment, the birth will be broadcast live over the internet.

The live streaming which can be viewed now – is a key part of the MyFarm project, which aims to reconnect people with the realities of farming. It is the first major birth on the farm since the project started in May, and it was a huge decision to broadcast it.

Queenie
Richard Morris, Farm Manager, said; Theres no guarantee the birth will be straight forward, particularly as Queenie had a miscarriage last year and a previous foal had to be put down due to a deformity. We dont want to hide people from the risks involved – its fundamental to our purpose in reconnecting people with the realities of farming to allow the possibility of lows as well as highs. If all goes well, MyFarm Farmers will be able to name the foal and so on, but not until its a few days old. Id be lying if I said I wasnt nervous, but thats reality.

Shire Horses are increasingly scarce with only 900-1,500 breeding females currently in the UK [3], and while they are no longer a core part of the working operations on the farm, this birth is a significant moment for the entire breed and for Wimpoles work with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).

With no way of knowing exactly when Queenie will foal, a webcam [4] has been installed in her stable and MyFarm Farmers will be able to watch the whole birth as it unfolds, live on the MyFarm website. Infrared lighting is being installed to ensure that viewers will still be able to see the birth, even at night.

In the meantime, Queenie is being carefully monitored by Wimpole Horse Manager, Emma Warner. Emma said: Queenies temperature rose this morning which is the first sign of a horse getting ready to have her foal. We werent expecting her to be ready to give birth until at least the middle of this month, so we are just now making sure she is comfortable and is kept calm, well fed and watered, and well keep our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

Queenie will be looked after 24 hours a day until she gives birth and the farms vet will be on stand by in case he is needed.

To keep up-to-date with how Queenie is doing and to watch the foaling live on the MyFarm website, visit http://www.my-farm.org.uk For the latest news via twitter, follow tweets @MyFarmNT

[1] Wimpole Home Farm is part of the Wimpole Estate. It is one of the National Trusts three farms that is managed directly by the charity. The other two are at Hafod-y-Llan in Snowdonia and Llanerchaeron in mid-Wales. Wimpole Home Farm is currently going through the process of organic conversion. The decisions subscribers will make will continue to take the farm down this route, but that is the only constraint on their input.

[2] The MyFarm experiment which launched on 4 May 2011, aims to connect thousands of people with how food is produced by giving them a greater say in how a real working farm is run.

Based at the National Trusts own working farm, Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire, Farm Manager Richard Morris will set monthly options for subscribers, who will debate and vote on one major issue each month around crops, livestock and wider impacts.

For their 30 subscription fee, Farmers will get a daily behind-the-scenes insight into how the 1,200 acre organic farm operates, the right to make decisions on the farm by voting regularly and a family ticket to visit the farm for a day.

The MyFarm website will include video updates, webcams, live webchats, debates and comment and opinion from both well known farming experts and National Trust tenant farmers.

[3] Figures from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

[4] The webcam in Queenies stable has been fixed in such a way it wont disturb her in any way during labour. The camera is remotely operated so no-one apart from those tending Queenie will be in the stable at any time.

Food and Farming at the National Trust

  1. The National Trust believes in using quality, local, seasonal and sustainableIt matters that we know where our food comes from, how the crops were grown and that animals are properly cared for.
  2. The National Trust helps and encourages farmers to manage their farms to high environmental, animal welfare and food safetyWe work with our farmers to help them add value to the food they produce and to get a better return.
  3. The National Trust is the largest non-governmental landowner in Britain, owning approximately 250,000 hectares of land across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 80 per cent of the Trust’s land is farmed or is dependent upon farming for its management.
  4. Seven per cent of farms on National Trust land are registered as organic, including the award winning Coleshill Organics in Oxfordshire (3 awards in the 2004 Organic Food Awards) and Low Sizergh Farm in Cumbria (Best Dairy Farm in the 2006 Organic Food Awards). This compares to a national average of four per cent.
  5. The National Trust has a team of Farming & Countryside Advisers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who provide support and information for tenant farmers on Trust land – for example, working on Whole Farm Plans which focus on a sustainable future for the farm.
  6. The Trust’s cooks and catering teams look first to their property or estate for produce, and then to their county, theirand from around the UK.

The National Trust

The National Trust is one of the most important nature conservation charities in Europe. The Trust is involved in the whole food chain, with 200,000 hectares of food producing land, over 150 restaurants and tearooms, and historic kitchen gardens, orchards and mills. The charity has community growing spaces from allotments to kitchen gardens at over 50 locations around the country and is increasing these annually. These spaces inspire the Trusts 3.8 million members, 60,000 volunteers and visitorsto think and learn about food. The National Trust is creating 1,000 new allotment plots on its land in the next three years to give local communities the space to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Find out more at: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/food.


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