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By the barn March 2020

Posted: 4th Mar 2020

Brimstone butterflies glowing against early bright green leaves are a wonderful Spring sight, if you’re lucky enough to spot one this March. The caterpillars feed on buckthorn and Alder and you might spot them along roadsides and hedges.

When out walking, now is the month to spot Hares racing and boxing in the open fields- this is the time they come together, being a naturally solitary animal and, of course, it is to breed. Persecuted by coursing, in which big money is invested, in the more eastern counties, the hare is declining in some areas. Because of successful police action in Lincolnshire, it has driven the practise further afield and a lot of damage is done to farmland at the same time.

Much of our pasture has begun to grow, although some will take time to recover from the Autumn/winter wet weather and farmers will be fertilising and rolling where they can, giving the tender growth some much needed tlc and feed.

Grass is an important crop- the newer varieties being much more nutritious for high yielding livestock- full of energy converted from sunshine, eaten by animals and converted into milk or muscle. We are so good at growing grass in this country- we have ideal weather and a lot of land that cannot grow anything else. Grass varieties can outgrow themselves and then it’s time to plough them up and resow , what we call a ‘ley’. Arable crops do well when they follow a grass ley

For us, it’s turnout time, but not before another retest for Btb, having lost another 4 cattle in January( 3 to failing and 1 to injury sustained during testing, for which there is no compensation) The cattle always sense it coming and get skittish and lively, just itching to be let out into the open. Of course, many farmers will be flat out lambing – we wait until next month for that!

Last month I mentioned that agriculture is only responsible for 10% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions- let’s look at that a bit more in depth. Of that figure, livestock accounts for 5.7%, but if you look further and include carbon sequestration ( keeping carbon locked up) then that goes down to 3.7%. If the global cow population was as efficient as UK dairy cows, it could reduce by about 3/4.

And looking at grassland as opposed to woodland, studies have shown that grass stores most carbon below ground, whereas trees store most carbon in the leaves and woody biomass- if the tree is burnt/felled then that carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Sheep also have their place in the cycle, by eating grass the biogenic carbon is transformed into amino acids of the wool fibre- so grandma was doing her bit for the environment by using a natural carbon storing product- aka wool- for her cardigan!

Posted by: Angela
Categories: Farming

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