I was incredibly fortunate to be awarded a bursary by the Alliance of Registered Homoeopaths to allow me to undertake the Homoeopathy at Wellie Level (HAWL) course in early 2019. My husband and I farm cattle and sheep high on Dartmoor. The farm is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and the farm tenancy has passed down through my side of the family. My parents were strong advocates of ‘modern farming’ and they spent their lives battling natural processes which in turn broke them, unsurprisingly. The farm is about 180 hectares of heather, wet pastures and hay meadows, all this fantastic habitat sits on top of a huge scheduled ancient monument designated for a medieval strip field system, tin mining remains and Bronze Age settlements. As tenants we do not own the land and so our only assets are machinery and livestock. We are very mindful of the issues of climate change so we try to keep our fossil fuel to the bare minimum. This means that most of our capital is in our livestock so their longevity, health and welfare are of key importance to us. We also operate a closed system so that the only animals we import are breeding rams and bulls to ensure that we reduce the opportunity of bringing in diseases.

The archaeology needs to be kept visible for people to enjoy now and in the future. Sheep are the best tool for this and we farm very hardy Icelandic sheep to nibble around and keep the grass short. The valley bottom is dominated by wetter areas which need cattle, who graze with a ripping action, which creates a mosaic for plants and insects to thrive in. Our farm is accredited with the Pasture Fed Livestock Association so the animals only eat grass or hay throughout their lives. We are also the first upland farm in the UK to be accredited by the international animal welfare organisation A Greener World. This combination of high nature value and high welfare farming means that we are very keen on our livestock being in optimal condition, living healthy and vital lives in as sustainable a manner as we can achieve.

We are constantly seeking new ways of improving our farm for people, biodiversity but most importantly our livestock. The chance to attend the HAWL course has been a real turning point for me. The course was run at the Duchy Home Farm at Tetbury, a glorious setting to learn about a subject so close to the Prince’s heart. The animals on the farm are kept extremely well but it was incredibly useful to look at them through the eyes of a very experienced homeopathic practitioner.

We were told to look and then to look again properly to see the tiny details and nuances of being and behaviour, and to really make time to watch animals as individuals and as a group. It was interesting and humbling as I realised that I really only half looked at my stock before and that was usually on my way to rush to another task.

I found the course hard, the days were long and packed full of information. The delivery by a range of truly inspirational teachers was fast paced and packed full of practical ideas. There was homework and I found it to be a really exciting journey.

The combination of the course and the online support group afterwards has been increasingly useful as my confidence progresses. I have taken the 5 months veterinary medicine records from April to September 2017 and 2018 (to compare similar years) and for the same time in 2019 so this includes the time I was on my HAWL course. For the same time period I have a 64% reduction in antibiotic use, which I am thrilled with. My main use of antibiotics was after a difficult lambing (26 in 2017, 34 in 2018) when intervention was needed, this was replaced except for two young ewes, with Caulophyllum 30c. We also get foot rot in the sheep in wet years so we used to trim and use antibiotic injections, this has been totally replaced by the use of trimming and Hepar sulp 30c. My husband is still a non-believer in homoeopathy but I often find him using arnica, and my favourite instance was when he suggested I could use ‘that carbo veg’ on a half dead lamb and him telling other farmers that it is a miracle cure. I think that the rising cost of medicines will encourage many more farmers to embrace homoeopathy.

My own farm assurance schemes have a preference for homoeopathy over other forms of medicine and I think this will become more mainstream in time. The use of online support groups is very positive, but not without cost, as they act as a way of enabling farmers to be supported in their transition when they finish a course and it helps to bed in the knowledge so that it becomes the first remedy they look to.

HAWL has particularly good speakers who use suitable language and terms to enable understanding. A standout reflection for me is that there was an obvious mutual respect for the skills of course attendees and I really liked that. All the sessions are fast paced and make you think constantly as they build from the basics to being able to reportise and use the basic Materia Medica.

I think my use of antibiotics and other conventional drugs will continue decreasing as my confidence using homoeopathy grows. Financial margins in upland farming are very tight and I would not have been able to afford the HAWL course if I had not been awarded the bursary. However long term I can see that the investment in the course would be wise as it will save me money. I would like to thank the Alliance of Registered Homoeopaths for the bursary and the fantastic people at HAWL for such a great opportunity to give me the potential knowledge to make the lives of my animals so much better and healthier. I truly appreciate it.

Guest blog by Naomi Oakley, a cattle and sheep farmer who reports success after HAWL course