Four Seasons in One Month

06 March 2021

February delivered every season in one month – from some truly miserable wet to crisp snow and the coldest night time temperatures for 10 years, ending the month with warm sunshine and blue skies. Managing our livestock outside during this time was “challenging”. From heavily pregnant ewes coming into the shed for lambing – they need to be dry before housing to prevent disease, but ideally not frozen! To the out wintered cows whose water pipes were frozen daily and needed some imaginative solutions to getting water to them at -7 degrees.

The last two groups of cows have finally come into winter housing just as they begin to calve. Our plan to out winter 300 cows on stubbles and bale grazing has had its challenges, but has been a success for both cattle condition and health – Not to mention the cost savings which include the automatic dung spreading which they performed free of charge. The land is now being ploughed in preparation for organic cereals and we will harvest the nutrients which the cows produced.

The first group of cows which were housed last month are about 50% through calving and since the sun has shone and land dried up – we have turned them back out onto grass fields. Always keeping one eye on the long range forecast – March is a fickle month and we are keen that the cattle remain close to buildings, should the snow return.

Lambing as also sped up somewhat in the last week – Ewes were due to begin lambing on 1st March, but looking back at the diary, when the Tups went out with the ewes last autumn, they must have spent the first week on “small talk” as there were very few ewes marked after 7 days. However – the “small talk” must have been effective, as the following week, almost all ewes were marked. The lambing team are not convinced about my diary records as the lambing shed is somewhat hectic at the moment.

Regenerative Agriculture is a recently popular term used to describe the process of farming where we return more than we take – simple in principle – surprising to realise we didn’t already do this. However, with increased interest in the principles, we are lucky enough to have a collection of farms in the locality who are on the same path as us. By meeting on each other’s farms and discussing issues, practices, concerns and successes, we have benefitted from peer to peer learning and made some excellent contacts for future ideas and developing the process. Agriculture can also be an isolated industry for many reasons, so the wider network is essential to help mitigate stress when things don’t always go to plan.

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