Short Days and Long Shadows

12 December 2022

November was generous with one thing – rain. We recorded over 130mm during the month, with an average annual rainfall of 670mm. After the long dry Spring and Summer – we are now back on track. Given the conditions, our livestock being outwintered are doing surprisingly well. This is the first year we have outwintered all cattle. Staring in 2018 with cows and adding a younger class of animal each year until we now have all of our 2022 born calves, weaned and grazing in one group across young grass.

A recent quarterly visit from our vet Ainslie – form Eden Vets, was a fantastic opportunity to pick his brains and discuss concerns, ideas and compare results with the team. His parting comment was clear – “This is possibly my most mentally challenging system to advise on – with the seemingly most simple system”. At least all of our head scratching is endorsed by Ainslie’s experience and although it looks like we are just grazing grass – there are so many variables in a system which relies more on nature than nutrition.

The first frost at the end of November provided a timely reminder to check all water pipes, shut off unused supplies, lag exposed pipes and have a few spares in stock. We can become complacent quickly when mild conditions are prolonged – but the damage from frosted pipes can be severe and we always remember a little too late.

Hedgerow planting has been the order of the day, with another 16,000 hedge plants being delivered earlier last month. We have reduced the quantity planted this year as concerns over labour shortages to help meant we were not confident to place a larger order than we could safely plant. Instead we took the chance to experiment with more environmentally sustainable guards, some made from starch and others from cardboard. These guards are almost twice the price of standard plastic tree guards, but it is hoped that a reduction in costs for future removal and disposal will almost cover this.

Having thought we may be short of labour, one of our East Neuk Estates neighbours who is hosting a large Ukrainian family, got in touch as the family were keen to work. Suddenly, we are flying through the planting and wish we had more plants ordered.

Hosting 100 primary school children from the East Neuk at Bowhouse last month through RHET we were able to provide a one stop food and farming shop window for the children to learn about anything from honey to flour and sheep to oak trees. The opportunity to be involved with RHET is a fantastic chance to explain our industry and bring alive subjects like maths, biology, chemistry and technology. Its amazing to watch children realise that what they are learning at school is useful in later life.

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