Farming diary - Lambs signal spring’s arrival

This Is Wiltshire: Painted-on number codes keep ewes with their new lambs Painted-on number codes keep ewes with their new lambs

Things are looking up. The barograph reading, over the last week, has been recording a pressure consistently higher than any since Christmas.

We also started and ended with sunny days, which has made a refreshing change. On looking back at January and February, we had a staggering 352mm of rain, with only eight days clear of any precipitation.

Through the three winter months, we had 505mm; well towards what we might expect in a year.

On Stowell Farm, lambing is now gathering pace. As the ewes give birth, they are penned individually with their lambs for about 48 hours, to make sure that all is well and that the lambs are suckling properly.

If any of the ewes have more than twins, the extra may be mothered by ewes that have had a still birth.

If this is not an option, the lambs will be kept in a nursery and bottle-fed, along with lambs that are occasionally orphaned if an adopted mother is not available.

Mid-week was time to start putting some of the ewes, with earlier born lambs, out to pasture.

However, Melissa had a problem with the scanner used to record details of all the new lambs before they are turned out in the fields. It had been loaded with a beef programme, which was not going to be any good.

Once this had been rectified, lambs could be tagged with individual flock number, family group and birth weight. But Melissa was still not very happy, as the programme would not allow her to put a decimal point in the birth weight.

The ewes and lambs ready to go out were colour-marked into their family groups and a number written on each animal. The number on each ewe is written on her lambs, so that when sheep are checked daily, a lost lamb can quickly be returned.

The ewes and lambs were then ready to be transported to the park. Ewes were put into a trailer, to which was hitched a second carrying lambs in full view, to prevent them becoming stressed.

Later in the week, Richard and I walked across fields on Manor Farm, to see how our crops of grass, barley and wheat were looking.

We thought they all looked well, except for one of wheat, which had suffered badly from the wet conditions and poor germination.

Our agronomist walked the crops the following day, reporting much the same as, saying the crops looked clear of weeds, with just a few red dead nettles, speedwell, cleavers, chickweed and the odd thistle, but grass and barley could do with an application of nitrogen fertiliser.

He said we had managed to greatly reduce the amount of blackgrass, using appropriate cultivations, crop rotation and herbicide.

When they have had time in the last week or two, Ian and Matt have been doing some hedge-laying. In a paddock, near to the dairy, they are in the process of laying about 100m of rather old hedge, containing a number of small, dead elm trees.

It has not been an easy task and will probably not have a picture postcard look about it when complete, but it is a great improvement.

There are different hedge-laying techniques around the country, but their aim is the same: to reduce the upright stems of hedgerow trees. The wood is cut from one side of the stems, which are then bent over to a near horizontal position, so the sap can still rise.

Smaller shoots are cut away, upright stakes can be used and the hedge can be bound with hazel, willow or birch to hold it securely.

We now have only five cows left to give birth to their calves and, at last, spring seems to be in the air.

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