By the barn April
Posted: 4th Apr 2017
# # April brings lots of work, sowing of spring crops (and the ground prep that goes with it), turn out, if not already done, of cattle and lambs and the fertilizing of grass and crops.
The longer daylight hours are more helpful if carrying out jobs in the fields and hedge-laying and ditch work is finished for now and doing their jobs.
Ditches contribute to ecosystems as well as regulating water flow- they provide food resources in what might be dry, crop areas, help retain nutrients and form a network within the wider landscape. Often tall vegetation grows on the banks, such as meadowsweet and Rosebay Willowherb and it provides food and habitation for farmland birds and insects.
Some ditches may contain water all the time, others only during winter or after heavy rainfall and under the current CAP rules, special care has to be taken near ditches and watercourses, especially if the field is larger than 2 hectares, when spraying.
One of the farming issues at the moment is the threat of banning Glyphosate- a very successful herbicide. This has been classed in the same risk group as burning wood, high temperature frying (look out, you chip addicts) or working as a hairdresser, however, don’t seem to see these banned.
If farmer aren’t allowed to use it, it maybe means mechanical tillage/hoeing will have to be used to kill weeds or stronger/riskier chemicals in crops- a more definite risk to ground nesting birds and mammals. Farmers are under very strong regulation when it comes to spraying and 98% of what you see coming out of the sprayer is water-again ditches must be avoided!
Moths particularly like to fly along these generally straight highways, out of sight and reach of predators and this month there may be a few of the day-flying moths about, such as the ‘powdered quaker’. Small mammals also use ditches to commute to other areas and ours will contain frogspawn in certain places this month.
Field drains, subsurface clay or tile pipes, or more modern plastic varieties, empty into ditches, which helps to keep the field from getting boggy. Drains remove excess water and can be used to control the water table and this helps the productivity of the field. Sometimes they need rodding to keep clear.
Grass is so important to dairy/ livestock farmers- it is the food for the present and the future, it needs to be looked after. The better the soil, the better plants grow and the more abundant the soil fauna and this all helps production. Heavy, sodden soil does not grow plants easily.
Hopefully the weather is warm and our later lambs can go straight out into the fields, making life much easier, but we will be moving our sheep around to take advantage of the fast growing grass. This will give Ted the exercise and work he needs, allowing him to stretch his legs (but he will have to be careful when moving ewes with their lambs- they will turn on him if he gets too close!).
Posted by: Angela