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downonthefarm

Down on the Farm

by Angela Sargent

April 6th 2020

Now we’re into spring it would be nice to feel the warmth of the sun and see blue sky more often than we have over the last few months.

The results of the wet Autumn mean farmers will be trying to get more Spring crops in to make up the shortfall.

But, to get the best results, the soil needs to be drier and crumbly, not wet and sticky. Unfortunately for us, having red clay, we’re not likely to be able so we’ve opted for a grass break- using grass as a crop. This means though that come next winter we will have no home grown straw/ corn and will have to buy in.

We start lambing this month, having been feeding the ewes since February ( the lambs inside grow most in the last part of pregnancy). They will graze outside during the day and be brought in at night( more for ease of checking).

How do we know when a ewe is starting to lamb? We have brought them closer to the farm for a week or so now and have got into the habit of checking every hour so we recognise their normal habits, such as what part of the field they graze at what time, when they rest etc. If a ewe starts to do something unusual, like go off on her own or stand looking uncomfortable, then we know she is likely to lamb that day. As the birth becomes imminent she will keep lying down then getting up and sniffing the ground until she lies down and starts to undergo contractions.

We will be keeping an eye on proceedings from a distance so as not to upset her, but close enough we can dash in to help if needed. If she doesn’t progress we will bring her inside( with all of them if she won’t come on her own) and catch her and investigate.

I will be getting all my bits and pieces together now- lambing rope, iodine/surgical spirit mix for umbilical cord dipping, gloves, lubricant, marker, castration bands and applicator, feeding tube, dried colostrum, lamb milk powder ( and this is roughly the items we use for calving( but bigger and stronger obvs!) as we have calves due now too.

Please remember to keep dogs on leads when walking through fields of lambs- there have been horrific cases of dog attacks on sheep and lambs- please don’t let yours be one of those statistics. And the same applies to fields with calves in- but if you feel threatened, let your dog loose as it can outrun a cow as it is usually the dog she is worried about.

The ground nesting birds( along with all the others) will be courting ready to breed and we have a few partridge about( growing a crop for their food/ habitat especially). They make difficult parents, especially the indigenous grey partridge, laying many eggs which are often predated.

It is often said that livestock and dairy farming is bad for the environment- well this is incorrect, certainly in Great Britain. Livestock manure helps soil health and fertility, without which inorganic fertiliser would have to be imported in greater quantities. There are strict rules and regulations here as to how much, how and when manure/slurry is applied to the land.

Also grazing animals help habitat formation in SSSIs, critical to the lifecycles of other mammals, insects and birds and it is estimated that the value of the contribution to biodiversity in England might be as much as £1.2bn.