Diseases need tackling but Stowell Farm lambs thrive
Another weekend of bright sunshine led us to believe spring had truly arrived, but the week ended with a chilly feel in the air and unpleasant storms.
The storms, however, were often accompanied by beautiful rainbows, brightening up the dark, cloudy sky.
Richard and I decided a trip to Chuggaton Farm, North Devon, to visit Adele and her family would be a good idea, while it was warm and sunny.
Steven was doing the milking, with help from Adele, Dominic and Bethany, as Jane, their relief milker, was not on duty.
Between milkings, Steve was busy clearing manure from one of the covered yards, using his new toy, a teleporter, able to reach every corner of the barn.
Previously some manure had to be moved manually, using a fork, so Steve was delighted he would no longer have to undertake this tedious chore.
Alistair, a young man who works for them two days a week, was using a trailed tanker to remove slurry from the large store, spreading it on to fields.
The spring flowers, looking a little ahead of the ones around here, were so colourful on the banks and along the hedgerows.
There were clumps of primroses, celandines and stitchwort, yellow brimstone and peacock butterflies were also making the most of the warm sunshine.
I attended an annual farming forum for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
During the evening, three speakers gave presentations on opportunities for different forms of renewable energy, while also informing the farming audience of the dangers of working near overhead power lines and buried cables.
We were told of a pilot project looking at a range of pressures in the Cotswold catchment, including land use, to develop a locally relevant scheme integrating food production, the rural economy, landscape and wildlife.
The Cotswolds AONB goes from south Gloucestershire just into north Wiltshire and has many attractions, including three national nature reserves, 400 flower-rich meadows and 3,000 miles of public footpaths.
Richard and I walked the crops on Manor Farm with our agronomist. We noticed there was quite a lot of disease in the winter barley, caused by a fungus called rincosporium, which thrives in mild, wet conditions such as over the last winter.
It is prevalent in the South West and West of the UK, causing yield reduction. Rincosporium causes scald-like lesions on leaves, sheaths and ears, often coalescing to form large areas of yellowing, which can kill the affected leaves.
The winter wheat was showing signs of another fungal disease, septoria trtitci , which can lead to large yield reductions. It can be seen as brown patches on leaves, which are covered in tiny black dots.
The crops were relatively weed free, with only an odd cleaver, speedwell, cranesbill, chickweed, thistle and dock.
The wheat and barley will need to be sprayed with a fungicide and manganese, which was showing deficiency in some barley. Manganese is often deficient on high pH soils; plants appear paler and flacid.
Two fields of wheat will need rolling, to ensure roots are in better contact with the soil.
On Stowell Farm, at least half the flock have given birth. The remaining 90 lambs, born last spring, have now been graded fit for sale.