After a wonderful autumn, ground conditions finally forced us to house all the cattle in the first week of November, thus beginning regular winter chores.
They had grown considerable winter coats and so the first job was to clip their backs and apply a pour-on wormer.
Nearly all of last year’s intake has gone to slaughter as I cannot justify keeping fat cattle clean and bedded, with straw at more than £60 a tonne. The average sale price was £65 up on the previous year, while this year’s replacements cost £90 a head more for similar cattle.
Here in north Devon, fields tend to be small, while hedges are substantial, often more than 2m wide in the top. This makes hedge trimming a protracted affair, resulting in a bill equating to more than £3/acre. After years of keeping everything cropped and tidy, this year we instructed our contractor to leave some hedges in the more exposed fields to grow. Hopefully, the extra shelter for stock will compensate for any problems in drying the first rounds of crop and, if necessary, in a few years’ time we can hack them down to size with a shape saw.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Eblex’s man in Paris, Remi Fourrier. He is doing a sterling job in promoting British lamb with the obvious help of a favourable exchange rate. Eblex would do well to spend less on glossy literature pointing out the obvious to the slow learners among us, and invest in men of Remi’s calibre who will sell our produce across Europe and the Middle East.
This month sadly saw the passing of Liz’s father, Bernard May, a gentleman of great kindness to whom we remain forever indebted for the start he gave us.