April has been its usual blur of sleep deprivation due to the arrival of lambs and calves. This year we also threw a week of farm tours into the mix instead of the usual Good Friday open farm day. We aim to start the ruminant birthing season on March 25th with the intention that Spring will have sprung by the time the lambs and calves are ready to go outside. A big fail on the weather front this year as the ewes and lambs were only turned out 10 days ago. The suckler beef herd are still indoors requiring continual bedding down and a regular supply of forage from the diminishing reserves.
We still have three cows left to calve, presumably in calf. The chap who usually does the pregnancy testing excelled himself in his usual lateness by not appearing at all this year. It would have been interesting to see if he had spotted the two sets of twin calves. It is the first time we have had twins. Statistically 1 in 100 live births produce twins so we were overdue having had the herd since 2007. It was pleasing to see a successful natural birth for the cow who had a cesarian section last year.
The calves are getting very cocky with being indoors and exploring where they really shouldn't be - on top of the forage feeder. Lets hope the ground dries out soon so they can be turned outside.
The sheep flock have so far had a good year currently rearing 112 from 65 ewes put to the tup. One ewe we had intended to cull due to mastitis has managed a temporary reprieve as she produced twins who appear to be thriving whilst sharing her good side. Lambs aren't usually very good at sharing.
If you go to the Wigborough Traditional Meats Facebook Page
there is a video of the lambs running indoors. The ewes are hanging around the trough waiting to be fed, hence the bleating but this gives the lambs more play space.
It is great to see them outside now and to enjoy the good patch before the effects of the lush grass on their digestive systems encourages fly strike in the warmer weather and the worm burden increases. Oh, the joys of sheep keeping.
Spring jobs on the grassland mainly involve fertiliser spreading, rolling and fencing. There are rules governing when you can cut a hedge with a tractor driven machine with the intention of protecting nesting birds. ( I shan't get onto whether they are EU rules, UK rules or UK gold plated EU rules else we shall be onto the BREXIT topic; suffice to say votes in our household will currently cancel each other out ). Last year the cutting window of opportunity was reduced from between August 1st and March 1st to September 1st and March 1st. This in effect means hedge cutting contractors are flat out on arable land from September until it gets too wet, by which time it is also likely to be too wet to go on grassland without making ruts. The result is a lot of hand strimming and the use of a pole saw to trim back growth which would otherwise stop the electric fencing from working efficiently and a husband coming in for lunch complaining he has 'just walked miles' . Hopefully all is set for when the cattle are turned out as the first thing they do is lollop round the boundaries checking their limits.
A job still on the waiting list is the carting of the muck which the pigs, sheep and cattle have been diligently producing over the winter. All our animals are housed on straw based systems so vast quantities are produced. We have a muck for straw swap arrangement with a local arable farmer but he cannot take the muck if the ground is too wet. A plus side to spreading the farm tours out over a week rather than concentrating on one day as the muck pad doubles up as the car park and in a wet year is not available.
Phil has continued constructing things in the workshop in the evenings. On the right is a fence post holder, currently upside down as it was being painted. Apparently it is really annoying to purchase a bundle of posts which come neatly strapped up then in order to extract a post, the straps need cutting and the posts collapse everywhere; not now. The posts will be neatly contained and stored in their designated box until picked up on the forks attached to the telescopic loader and taken wherever needed. If only such enthusiasm for tidiness could have been utilised round the home in the last 30 years .............. Infront is the pole saw in transport / carry position. On the left is part of the implement which will have spikes attached to move bales. The holes were cut by a specialist machine at a local steel fabricators.
Another new toy appearing in the workshop recently under the premise that Abbot's Autocare will also find it useful, is a plasma cutter. I was called over to 'come and see my holes'. Having recently purchased a mini digger I was preparing to admire some sort of recently dug heffalump trap but no,
two almost perfect circles had been cut into what will be the part which fits the spike attachment onto the telescopic loader.
The finished article.
If only such enthusiasm could have been directed towards home improvements over the last 30 years........