Organic Farmers and GrowersOrganic Farmers and GrowersBritish Farming Awards
Loading cart...

Category Archives: Farmer Dramas

Farmer Dramas

All the hallmarks and forebears of a good summer give way to what has been a challenging hay-time, an old tractor gives cause for concern and summer calving gets off to a good start, albeit short lived…20150813_151217

Every year we wait for the first curlew to appear and mark this on the calendar, likewise the first swallow arrives and again gets recorded, this is not something we use to build a record of arrivals but rather something we have that spurs us on with a little confidence and hope that summer is just around the corner. Well what a start we had, curlews earlier this year than last (what was that about a record?) and swallows soon after, add this to what is becoming a yearly pattern of May gifting us with some fantastic weather and the excitement builds – only trouble is in our organic system we cut rather late, and once everything has gone to seed. This allows all our migratory visitors to rear their offspring and makes sure everything has fledged – so this fantastic May weather is a welcome distraction but one that has us frustratingly waiting for seed to set and wondering how long the spell of weather will last. Once ready to cut with all the late flowers like Meadowsweet gone to seed our almost thrice daily ritual of watching three separate weather forecasts commences and the Atlantic lows keep on arriving.

To say this year has been a difficult hay-time is somewhat understated, not a whisper of hay in the barn but a lot of expensive wrapped haylage sat outside, and you could say that even some of this has been on the wetter side of damp. We console ourselves with the knowledge that at least we got it in and at a great quality considering the conditions, even if we are still smarting from the cost of wrap.

Now we have a rather old girl here on the farm (not referring to one of our ladies here) and at a spritely 21 she is only marginally older than our oldest cow. This particular lady is a rather worn out 100HP tractor that we keep promising to replace once she finally gives up the ghost. Only trouble is she seems to just get better year on year, even when Nephew Sam sent out a distress call from bottom meadow to bring spanners as the engine is dropping from the tractor… a few turns of spanner and as good as new she is. It only goes to focus the mind as to perhaps how well some things were built when comparing them to the complex modern electronics of today, we cannot now even change gear with a stick but rather have a button instead!

On a perhaps more serious note we had recently one of our older ladies calve and although birth and all thereafter were normal she managed to keep pushing until she prolapsed – now an ovine prolapse is something and does need a firm hand, the bovine variant is altogether more complex, upon discovering said lady at around 6 am on a Sunday Ian calls Emma for assistance – Emma having now abandoned milking lands up and Simon the vet (Sunday call-out, ouch!) finds his way to our patient. During what we can only describe as the heaviest of torrential downpours, a lot of pushing, shoving and general heaving, saw said prolapse reinstated and one lucky lady back on her feet within 40 minutes! Simon quipped that it must be serious having arrived to find the parlour abandoned with cows awaiting milking. The not so helpful statement from Simon was “that things like this generally happen in 3’s”, Ian’s reply was that so long as the bill only came once we would manage!


Farmer Dramas

IMGP0064As the days grow longer our thoughts are turned to getting the right nutrients back into our soil, we watch as the Curlews and Lapwings pair and nest and a helpful neighbour returns two lost lambs…

It’s funny but the farming year is always planned four seasons ahead and we often find ourselves in the bleakest depth of winter thinking of hay-time and the next harvest and of course the next winter! It is a perpetual circle that must be allowed to revolve unhindered – open a bale of hay on the coldest of winter days and the smell takes you right back to last summer, the smell and the flower seeds trapped in every bale. The thing is, we have to get the growing conditions just right to ensure not only a good crop but also the sensitive management of some very old wild flower meadows that would not take to being covered in man-made nitrogen or slurry. We use well-rotted bedding muck that we compost and spread and in turn this slow release of nitrogen does not affect the more sensitive plants in our meadows but gives a six week window of growth so getting it on at the right time is really key. This method of feeding leaves our soil alive and does not affect micro-organisms and all the good things like our trusty worms and this should set the scene for a good hay-time as long as the weather plays ball.

Another thing that this time of year brings is our seasonal visitors and the first Curlew although alone not constituting a spring, is a great moment because at least we know we are the right side of winter. This is another good reason to have our hay meadows as they provide a fantastic nesting habitat for our Curlews and Lapwings alike. Elsewhere on the farm we are well into lambing and spring calving so maternity and paediatrics are stuffed to the rafters at the minute, it’s a great time of the year with all the new arrivals even if some have you up at all hours making sure that miraculous event of birth goes without problem. Lambs are resilient and get up and go very quickly after delivery but due to the great British weather we opt to lamb inside making sure that ewes are properly fed and that the odd breech birth or lamb with its head back get the best chance of arriving safely. We then await a spell of good (or better) weather to turn out ewes and lambs giving them the best possible chance, the odd straying lamb or separated sheep is swiftly sorted on the morning rounds. During the last low pressure a band of rain gave us a good and prolonged soaking and having been out looking at our still pregnant sheep we return to the lambing shed to load up again and set off round our ewes and lambs only to find a neighbour and his daughter in the shed with 2 lambs that had lost their mother. The best option when someone discovers a separated lamb or pair is to call so we can reunite mother and babies without getting our scent on the lambs and then minimising the chance of rejection by the mother. A few hours in a straw pen and we reunited them later that day with their still searching and anxious mother who was relieved, to say the least, to see her pride and joys again. All we need now is the jet stream to move north and send us some good warm weather to get the grass and these lambs growing…”