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By the barn October 20

Posted: 5th Oct 2020

                                         “O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumns being,
                                       Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
                                         Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,”

October brings early nights, darker mornings, maybe wet and windy and, for us, the beginnings of feeding silage to our cattle still outside. A few frosty mornings are always a pleasure but not so much the foggy ones as it makes checking livestock difficult.

As soon as they hear the tractor start up, the cattle are poised and waiting by the electric fence, grumbling and bellowing if we’re a bit later than usual and hindering the tractor all trying to be first to have the best pickings.

As we were late to combine what little corn we managed to grow, we are just finishing off the field work- growing less than previous years and more grass instead. Our fields are mucked with our own animal’s manure- something we wouldn’t be able to do if we had no livestock, our sheds are emptied and cleaned in readiness for when the cattle come in again for winter.

When the seed has been sown or drilled, the biggest job is keeping the pigeons, crows etc off the young sprouts as they come through. There is the old saying of “one for the pigeon, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow”. We use scarecrows (a good way of getting rid of old work clothes!) and occasionally bangers. Some farmers might use automated bird scarers.

This reminds me of years ago- hubby used a string of bird scarer bangers tied onto the scarecrow (he thought it would be double the effect)- it certainly scared the birds, as the first shot ignited the scarecrow, which in turn set off the rest all at once! A case of more bang for your buck!

We have to be careful as to the amount of nitrogen(in the form of manure/fertilizer) we can put on our land, to prevent excess run off into any watercourses but we have no arable fields next to any streams and also we have wide field margins next to ditches just to make sure that there is no contamination risk, ether.

The climate here is ideal for growing grass and 65% of farmland is best suited to it. Well managed grazing produces food and fibre, while keeping ground cover and this improves water storage, prevents erosion and provides habitat for wildlife. If we didn’t keep livestock, using the land to grow crops would risk losing the carbon stored and also mean high inputs of artificial fertilizers to achieve (if it could) a reasonable crop. Of course, certain land, such as the uplands, couldn’t possibly grow crops as the soil is too thin and stony.

We are selling our own bred fat lambs though the market as they ‘finish’ and also buying store lambs from farms where there is not enough grass to feed them, keeping them as long as it takes to fatten them too.

Money spider webs may be seen wafting and glistening with dew on the grass, particularly on frosty mornings and luckily we will see last of the yellow Ragwort flowers (highly poisonous to all livestock) for this year (although most farmers pull it up and dispose of it!)

Posted by: Angela
Categories: Farming

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