We had our lovely vet Nanja here to pregnancy diagnose the cows and everyone is pregnant except for two. One who we suspected might not be, she had been suffering minor prolapses so it is a good thing she isn't and the other is a bit of a mystery as she is a young cow. In previous years we had left our bull with the cows for longer to make sure each of the cows had been in season. This seems a good idea at the time but actually in practice it means calving can last a very long time so we decided to take William out a bit sooner this year. So we think this could be the reason she isn't in calve, simply that she wasn't in season when he was in with the herd.
We are well into the winter routine now. The cows are having bales of barley straw, this is a less fattening diet for them as we don't want them putting on too much weight as their calves grow inside them. The younger cows (see above with William) enjoy the more tasty silage and hay as we need them to continue growing so we can start selling them next year. The ewes are enjoying the best of what grass there is on the farm, and the lambs have started their winter diet of being out on the stubble turnips (see above photos). This is a winter food to keep them growing as we are regularly selecting from them now for our customers. They are funny as they eat all the tasty leaves first and it takes them a couple of days to get the taste for the turnip bulbs themselves. If we've had a frost they will taste nice and sweet. This year we were surprised as they seemed to get the hang of munching them quite quickly.
We are busy investigating a system called mob grazing which we have read lots about through being members of the Pasture for Life group of farmers. The aim is to conserve and look after the soil microbial activity and the roots of the grass to make a more efficient and sustainable system for the environment and our sheep. We divide the fields up into strips which the sheep graze for a few days before moving them onto the next strip. The grass is not grazed too short and put under stress and is allowed to recover before the process happens again. What happens otherwise is the sheep nibble the regrowth first and this puts stress on the plant and the root system beneath the soil which the plants and other microbes depend on. In our new leys (where grass is reseeded) we are knitting in some delicious grass plants which are particularly deep rooting, so will help us during future drought conditions which we need to prepare for and will taste delicious to the sheep and make our lamb and beef taste amazing too. Water management needs careful thought but is not going to hinder us putting this system in place. We are really excited about it.
The farm is full of the noises of winter, the quad bike splashing through the puddles, Roly on the tractor doing the winter rounds delivering bales to the cows, chopping wood to keep our wood burners going and at dusk hearing the pheasants going up to roost.
Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Finch and Fly