Food, Glorious Food.

07 July 2021

June and July bring an abundance of grass to the farm. With long days and sufficient moisture, the grass, herbs and flowers all race to set seed. Conserving some of this excess for the winter, we start with silage in early June, and what looked like a very small crop in late May transformed into a super crop in early June. We aim to cut silage (green cut grass) when half of the seed heads are visible – a sign that the crop is high in protein and energy. Chopped after a short time wilting in the field, the grass is compacted quickly into the pit with forklift and tractor, before being covered in plastic sheets to exclude oxygen. The resulting feed will be analysed in August when we can find out the quality – but it looked and smelled good – so fingers crossed.

Later in the month we cut Hay, when all seed heads are out. The crop is always a gamble with closely watched forecasts and brinkmanship – when should we cut? Turn? and bale? One thing is always certain – a few extra sunny days are always needed. This year, we were beaten by the lack of wind, sea harr and forecast heavy rain. So after cutting on the Sunday, we baled and wrapped the majority of “haylage” (Almost hay – but not quite dry enough) on the Friday before heavy rain.

Baling damp hay is a recipe for disaster with mould causing abortion in sheep and eye problems in cattle and it can also heat to the point of spontaneous combustion in the shed. Frustratingly, we have been working hard to reduce single use plastic, and bale wrap is one of the inputs we would rather not use – however, when the need arises, we have to secure winter forage and not let it spoil in the fields. The black plastic wrap will be recycled into various plastic products by Solway Recycling who operate a collection service from farms. Some of the products find their way back as livestock handling equipment.

Sophie and Euan have been selecting fat cattle born in 2019 and fat lambs born this year. Having the direct contact with them and seeing the carcases in the chill, we are learning what makes the perfect choice. Plenty of fat is essential and grass fed fat is a fantastic yellow, buttery colour – Helping to protect the meat during aging and it tastes amazing.

On a few of the really hot days at this time of year, the pigs can be susceptible to sunstroke. They have insulated arks which stay cool in summer and warm in winter, but the most effective sunscreen is mud. Of course, when it’s dry, mud is hard to find, so we rigged up some garden sprinklers to keep some soil damp. The pigs clearly enjoy it can be found playing under the sprinklers.

July is a month we spend preparing for the coming harvest crops, with stores hoovered and cleaned to perfection and machine serviced and ready. It is also a month we have our annual estate catch-up, when all of the team are together and plans for future, reflection on past and reminders to keep safe are covered. Health and safety is always a hard topic to cover as it tends to be seen as boring – but one thing which we cannot forget, is the terrible record which agriculture has for accidents each year. So be prepared to stay awake – it matters…..!

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