Meet the farmer: Jim DufoseeMy name is Jim Dufosee, and I'm Woolroom's lead supplier of wool for their new Luxury Traceable Organic Wool Bedding range. I was born into farming but my wife Jacqui and I started our own farming business in 1989. Even before I was old enough to go to school I would go on the farm with my father. If I’d been allowed I wouldn’t have gone to school at all, I’d have just stayed on the farm all day instead!
We started on 187 acres with the Longleat Estate but soon learnt it was too small an acreage to earn a living from sheep. We now farm 287 acres with Longleat, another 2,200 with the M.O.D, plus other bits of short term grazing. We started converting some of the land to organic in 1999 to see if we could cope and slowly converted more and more until the whole farm became organic in 2007.
Organic farming: Always striving to do right…My focus has always been on the breeding of the sheep, always striving to improve our quality of wool as well as striving for the best organic farming practices and the highest animal welfare standards. Next year, we hope to breed from approximately 600 ewes, 550 Poll Dorset’s and 50 Dorset Horns. They are the only native breed that can lamb at any time of the year, allowing us to sell new season lamb when others can’t. We also have 500 acres in arable production growing organic oats for porridge and rye for bread.
The best job on the farm is always lambing - although not always the easiest. Not only is it the thrill of new life, but also the result of your selective breeding programme. Sheep are hard work and can be frustrating at times, but they’re also very rewarding when everything goes to plan, even though this isn’t always the case. Our ewes come indoors at night to lamb but would spend the rest of the year outside grazing grass and - in the late autumn - rooting crops. With organic farming, we try not to use too many treatments on the sheep. The ewes are wormed once a year, vaccinated twice and treated with fly strike prevention.
Switching to organic farming has made us more proactive and has helped us to follow a structured approach to preventative veterinary medicine. We co-ordinate with our vet to operate a calendar of healthcare, bespoke to our farm, meeting the requirements of farm assurance whilst improving health and the production of wool.
A typical day on the farmSince our son Joe came home we have expanded the flock and herd, and at the same time improved our cereal output, helped by the enthusiasm of youth. Along with Joe, we employ a stockman, tractor driver and a trainee. We also have a local lad (who’s still at school) in on Saturdays and another young person from Lackham Agricultural college on Sundays. Most of the grazing land with the M.O.D. is unfenced, so a large part of the work on the farm is temporary fencing for the livestock. We do everything ourselves on the farm except clamp silage and the shearing.
An average day for me starts at 6:30am, where I’ll do a daily check up on the stock. Any animals on the training area have to be seen before 8am as we aren’t allowed on when they’re training. Depending on the time of year, if the ewes are running with rams we will have at least 20 groups of sheep and up to 10 groups of cattle. These routine daily checks can often take three to four hours. Then it will depend on the time of year; in the summer I could be combining until dark, working on more electric fencing, or sorting sheep – amongst other things.
Benefits of organic farmingOrganic farming makes for a better product. And as there are so many benefits of organic farming, the sheep are happy, and the wool is exceptional quality.
Wool is an amazing fibre. It’s semi-waterproof and works as extremely good insulation for numerous things such as bedding, clothes and accessories. Most importantly though, wool is natural, sustainable, renewable, biodegradable and now…traceable! Once the sheep are sheared the wool will grow back in 12 months. With this in mind, I often wonder: why are we continuing to try and make second rate alternatives through the use of environmentally damaging materials?
Organic is surely the meaning of sustainable, what you take out, you replace naturally. Wool is exactly that!
Why did we convert our land to organic pastures?We originally went organic because there was conversion aid at a time when our business was in need of some help. But switching to organic farming is the best thing we’ve ever done. We fully embrace the method of organic farming, although you still have to keep learning.
Organic conversion of land takes two years. Livestock have to be not only born on organic pastures but also conceived on organic pastures. All farming takes planning, but organic farming requires more. We alternate our grazing between the sheep and cattle, especially for the lambs, as it helps to keep some parasites at bay. The arable ground needs a good rotation, so you put back some of the nutrients you take out.
Organic wool: 2019 productionBy taking part in the Woolkeepers initiative, we’ve captured both transparency and traceability in a unique wool assurance scheme which traces wool from my farm right to Woolroom’s shop front. The visibility within the supply chain ensures compliance with safety, sustainability and welfare requirements that I must meet at every touchpoint along the way. Each time the wool is processed, a unique identifier is created which traces the batch back to my farm, as well as to Woolroom.
This year, my batch of 1493kg of wool went to Woolroom to supply their Luxury Range of wool bedding.
by Nina Evans
14 Apr 2020