Spring: March, April, May
Spring is often seen at the first season in the farming year,
but in reality the work is so continuous that it is difficult to
define any beginning or end to a year on the farm. All the same,
spring brings with it new life in the form of lambs. Lambing starts
at the beginning of March, with a few also being born in February.
By this stage all the sheds are prepared for the new arrivals.
All 1000 ewes lamb under cover in a system whereby they are kept
in pens holding around 50 until the lambs are born and are then
immediately transferred into an individual pen so that the mother
can get to know her off-spring without any interference. Once they
have been in this small pen for around one and a half days, they
are then transferred to another shed where they are again put into
a larger pen of around fifteen ewes until the lambs are strong
enough to be transferred outside. This all happens over a period
of two to three weeks from start to finish so is a very busy period.
Lambs and their mothers in the larger pens
Meanwhile, on the arable side, drilling around 200 acres of spring
barley gets underway in early March and takes a few weeks, the
barley is sown with a combination drill where the land
is both cultivated and the seeds sown in one pass with the tractor.
Once the fields have been drilled the soil is firmed by rolling.
Later at the end of March and the beginning of April, the grass
has fertiliser applied so that there is enough growth for when
the animals are put outside. There is then a lot of work in checking
the animals and ensuring that they are fed properly. Kale is often
also sown at this time of year to provide feed for the sheep in
the early winter.
Summer: June, July, August
June brings with it the silage and hay season. Grass for silage
is only given one cut and the silage is chopped while it is being
baled before being wrapped in black plastic. Hay is cut a little
after silage when the grass is a bit more mature. The grass is
cut and then left to wilt for around five to seven days before
being baled and stored inside. We try to move the grass as little
as possible while it is wilting as this seems to help stop it rotting
if the weather goes bad. June also brings sheep clipping.
Regular weighing of lambs, weaning and fly treatments take place
in July and August
July is without doubt one of the quietest months of the year with
most jobs up to date and only a few preparations for harvest needing
to be made. Harvest starts in earnest around mid August for us,
as we do not grow any winter barley or oilseed rape which matures
earlier. Harvest usually continues until mid-September when all
the cutting will have been done and all the straw baled.
The combine cutting wheat
Autumn: September, October, November
The winter crops are drilled at the beginning of October so time
is spent before this preparing the land by clearing the fields
of straw and ploughing. It is only wheat that is drilled with us
in the autumn although we used to also grow winter barley and oilseed
rape which was sown in the autumn.
After this flurry of work, things quieten down and it is mainly
day-to-day tasks which need carried out such as feeding animals
and checking that they are all alright.
Winter: December, January, February
Winter is by far the least liked season, it brings with it long
dark nights, cold weather and difficult working conditions, although
this is helped by the Christmas festivities!
Most work involves preparing the sheds for sheep being brought
inside at the beginning of January to be ready for lambing. Other
tasks include general maintenance and the filling in of paper work,
although this is a year long, never ending task. You would not
believe the number of records which need kept and the number of
forms which must be filled in!
Cows eating straw whilst inside during the winter
Animals also need constant attention at this time of year as there
is little food in the fields so they need to be fed with the baled
hay, straw and silage. This takes us back to spring where the whole
process of looking after the farm is repeated.