Winter weather has left the farmers scrambling for feed

An unseemly scramble for spare hay and silage available to buy,

means that farmers are struggling to ensure sufficient feed for stock until there is enough grazing to turn their cows out.

The silage clamp was cleaned out two weeks ago and we have been buying sacks of silage in at inflated prices.

Same for hay. With no fresh bite, the flock requires hay taken to them to ensure they maintain a good milk supply for their lambs.

The grass has just not grown. It has been too cold although the forecast is for warmer weather.

Land is still wet underfoot and John is having to check that the sheep’s feet are not suffering from the unseasonable conditions.

Sticky, wet soil has halted our drilling for spring barley. John is hopeful that, with a drying wind/breeze he can finish the land work and has been able to spread fertiliser on that land he was able to drill last week.

Barley drilling has had a huge impact on ravenous pigeon predators. Suddenly they are not interested in the rape fields which they continued to attack despite the aerial threat of our pair of peregrine falcons patrolling the skies.

Now with barley seed on offer all over the place the pigeons have changed their feeding habits. Good job. The rape was looking distinctly raggy.

Fleets of tractors on the roads now impact on drive times for other road users.

I cannot complain as we are as much to blame as the next farmer, but suddenly, out of hibernation, tractors have appeared on the roads, slowing everyone down as they trundle from field to field with back ends swinging an assortment of tackle. It is as if every farmer in the land is programmed to respond to a dry day in spring by sleepwalking to the tractor shed and digging out seed drills, mole ploughs and set of discs to just get on. Fortunately our sheep have all lambed. They would get short shrift now.

I have been left with four pet lambs to feed and if I did not feed them they might go hungry.

We have had extra staff on this last week with a nephew staying who has an interest in farming through his conservation work for Natural England. One minor hiccup though. Sent out to make ash stakes in one of the coppices, he has cut down a sycamore tree.

That’s experts for you.

Our hay and silage shortage is a direct result of the lousy weather last summer. Not enough silage or hay made.

Plus the fact that we had to bring the herd inside far earlier than usual because the cows were just poaching the grazing and paddling grass into an inedible mulch.

Every cloud has a silver lining however. Bringing the herd in earlier meant that we weaned the cows earlier too.

Consequently the bullocks in the bull yard have been fed hard over winter and finished for market a week or two sooner than previous years. Those sent in this week topped the market.

Very pleasing. But not for them.

Mrs Downs Diary