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Giles Henry

19 July 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk, in the Scottish

Borders, which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

A WEEK into July and it appears that summer may pass us by. It is understandable that very few people now make hay. If they dont have a silage pit, then wrapped bales are now the norm.

I wonder at times if the expense that silage baling occurs can be recouped, but I suppose if the only option is poor hay then the cost is probably something that is not a high priority.

I decided back in June, when we should have been on first cut silage and the ground was waterlogged, to wait and make one big cut in July. Certainly the crop has bulked up well and even though grass will be past its best, the amount of clover in the sward should hopefully make for pretty reasonable quality.

This silage sward is in its second year and 40% red clover was included in the three-year mixture. I imagined that the clover content would tail off, but I think it is the ryegrass which is dying out so I am considering oversowing some ryegrass into the silage aftermath.

Clover swards in most grazing fields are looking well, although a lot of grazing potential will have been lost through poaching and grass is actually fairly slow growing with all the rain weve had.

We have just ploughed a 2.4ha (6 acre) block of our steepest land and will sow it with forage rape in the next few days. The locals tell me that this part of the field hasnt been ploughed for at least 50 years. It is actually beautiful red soil, which should grow a good crop. It is probably some of the best soil on the farm, just a shame it is at more than 45í.

Our two stock bulls went out to their respective cows on Jul 1 and are already getting on with their work. Cows and calves are looking well in their summer coats, with calves probably looking as well as we have had them. They certainly have not suffered from the wet, another good reason for keeping a hardy native breed. &#42

Giles Henry has put bulls in with the cows and with cows looking in excellent condition he hopes they will quickly get their job done.

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Giles Henry

21 June 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk, in the Scottish

Borders, which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

MAY has been as wet as April was dry; we only had two dry days in the whole month. If this is the result of global warming then some farming practices may have to change.

I know of people who have not yet put cattle out, and some who have been forced to rehouse them to stop poaching. Diversification projects readily spring to mind; ark building and pipeline construction to the drier arable areas in the east would fit in well with the present climate.

Our poultry enterprise, however, does not seem to be affected by the weather. Hens are out on the range in all weathers and production remains static at about 90-94% eggs/hen a day. It is the first time in my farming career that I am not worried about the weather reducing production or delaying a specific operation. How nice. Even the financial side is on target which is the most important part.

Stuart has finished his standard grade exams, so we had a few days away before he starts back in fifth year. We went to Beef 2002 at Wooler which was a most enjoyable day and it was nice to catch up with friends from far and wide.

It was a good venue and benefited from being under one roof, so to speak, with nothing out on a limb as can be the case at a farm venue.

I have been in need of another collie for some time and it was fortunate that I mentioned this to a friend from Cumbria, as it turned out that he had one to sell. So Stuart and I had a trip to Cumbria to see the dog run and came home with him.

The SAC sheep group, of which I am a member, visited New Galloway to see Marcus and Kate Maxwells flock of Romney sheep, run on an easicare system, which was impressive.

I used to AI ewes for Marcus 10 years ago, so it was great to visit his farm again and see the changes he has made in the intervening years. &#42

Catching up on the latest in the beef world… Giles Henry made the trip south to Beef 2002 at Wooler, in Northumberland, last month.

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Giles Henry

24 May 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk, in the Scottish

Borders, which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

WE are 14 days into lambing with 80% of ewes lambed. May has started rather damp and we have had more rain already this month than we had in the whole of April.

My neighbours tell me it is raining because I am lambing. It is the first time the weather has been good for April lambing for many a year. However, this weather has usually been the norm when we have been lambing in May.

Although it has been dry and quite warm through the day, we have still been having frosts at night, which is not conducive to grass growth. Grass seems to have grown more in the last couple of days than it has over the last few weeks.

Lambs are of a good size and ewes are milking well. It always amazes me how little spring grass it takes to steam up ewes before lambing. I dont think I could return to lambing earlier and having to feed ewes before lambing with concentrates. We are told to reduce costs and this must be an area which flockmasters should look at.

Cows continue to calve well, although we are having a run of bull calves. Numbers currently stand at 20 bulls and 15 heifers. It is unusual for us to have more bulls than heifers, so heres hoping heifer calves catch up.

Spring barley is coming through well, as is our field of arable silage, but as this field is some 91m (300ft) higher and has heavier soil, it is not as far on as barley. We have sown a permanent grass mixture into arable silage and will sow a grass catch crop into spring barley when we go through it with the tined weeder.

Bed and breakfast cattle that we have been wintering have now returned home. Most of our cattle are away at grass with only some smaller calves still inside, but these will go out over the next few days.

Larger calves were put on the wood-chip corral to save straw, once in-calf heifers had gone to the hill. The corral has worked well and has been dry, even in the wettest days of winter. &#42

Calving is going well on Giles Henrys farm, although he has had a run of bull calves.

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Giles Henry

29 March 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk, in the Scottish

Borders, which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

WE ARE now well through March, but signs of weather drying up sufficiently to allow us to get on with field work seem pretty distant. A few dry days are followed by a deluge of rain or even snow.

I would have liked to have spread slurry on silage ground and farm yard manure on fields that will be grazed by cows and calves this summer. Hopefully, things will change shortly and my frustration will give way to manic activity.

Cows and heifers are due to start calving in early April and appear to have wintered well. They have just been treated with a pour-on insecticide to prevent lice.

Ewes will probably spend another week in winter sacrifice fields on their silage diet, before being moved into the fields that will hold them for summer. Early spring bite is sufficient to grow lambs and boost milk production, prior to the start of lambing on May 1.

But I may sell yearling steer calves, so grazing does not come under too much pressure in the summer. The alternative is to rent grass for them away from home. In the long run, it may make sense to sell them now as the store market is buoyant.

Our hens are up to more than 70% in lay at 23 weeks, so are on target to be over 90% by the end of 24 weeks. It is rather nice to have something to sell so quickly after the initial set up. We are working pretty hard to keep floor eggs to a minimum and I have employed someone for a few weeks to stir birds up and get them into nest boxes. This should hopefully pay dividends in the long run.

Egg weights are increasing in line with management figures and bird weight. The shed is working well, though we have netted off the corners to prevent smothering. &#42

Cows have wintered well on Giles Henrys farm, but yearlings may have to go to conserve grazing.

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Giles Henry

1 March 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

THEY say a problem shared is a problem halved and I must thank Mr Deans who telephoned me from Canada to tell me how he overcomes the problems of frozen pipes in temperatures far lower than we will ever get.

He uses the earths own heat to stop his water pipes freezing. Very ingenious and cost efficient. Now, does anyone know how to stop fields getting poached when it continues to rain every day?

I have just returned from the Luing Cattle Societys annual pedigree sale at Castle Douglas. Overall it was a terrific sale with many buyers unable to secure the cattle required. A new record was obtained for a Luing bull at 5200gns. I sold 10 bulling heifers, which were not of the standard of last years, but still averaged £621.

It was really good to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. A group of Irish buyers who had been at the sale looked in at Oakwood Mill in the evening, firstly to see two young Luing bulls I am looking after for one of them and also to inspect my Luing calves. They thought my heifers were in great form and should make a decent lot to sell at Castle Douglas next year.

We stocked our poultry house with Hy-line 17-week-old point-of-lay pullets at the beginning of February. We are already collecting in excess of 120 eggs/day and hoped to be at 10% of daily egg numbers by the end of this week. A lot of time is being taken just now to walk the birds, so they get used to going into nest boxes.

The shed is working really well and has not been damaged by the relentless gales of the last few weeks. Even the wind-powered generator has stood up to all the buffeting.

The next job will be to erect an electric fence around the shed so the birds do not range too far and have their statutory 2ha (5 acres) in which to roam. &#42

Does anyone know how to stop fields getting poached when it rains every day? asks Giles Henry.

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Giles Henry

1 February 2002

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

WE had a very cold and snowy start to the New Year, with 10cm (4in) of snow falling on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year onto already frozen ground. Then temperatures plummeted over the next few nights to as low as -14C at night and little over -3C during the day.

This meant extra work thawing pipes to keep stock watered. But I let the cattle in the woodchip corral out into a field for them to get water from a burn and to prevent them mucking on the snow covered frozen chips, which of course could not seep away.

We did not have many problems with frozen water down to about -5C, but the temperatures were low enough to freeze everything, including well insulated pipes.

I enquired through the internet about heating systems for pipework, but I am still waiting for a reply. Maybe they think that now things are mild and wet, I will not be interested.

Milder weather saw tups gathered from the ewes on Jan 20, having been out for 35 days. Cheviot and Blackface ewes have now been returned to the hill, where they will receive no supplementary feeding unless we get a lot of snow. Crossbred ewes are in two lots running in stubble fields and being fed silage.

Our ewe lambs are running fairly extensively and are being fed a blend of beet pulp, dark grains and wheatfeed at 0.35kg/head with the snacker. They will be offered hay if the snow returns.

Cows on the hill are in good form and are receiving the same blend as ewes at 2.3kg/head. Even when snow comes, cows are left to forage for themselves.

The changeable weather has not been the best for cattle inside. We have treated an odd beast for pneumonia, but luckily are not experiencing some of the problems faced by our neighbours.

Our poultry building has arrived in kit form and the building gang will start at the beginning of the week.

This will probably mean I will be the talk of the valley (whats new?) and the locals will not speed past as fast as usual as they watch the progress of the building. &#42

Cows on the hill are on good form, despite cold weather, says Giles Henry.

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Giles Henry

12 October 2001

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

COMBINES have not turned a wheel in the Borders area for two weeks.

Our harvest is not spoiling yet, but it would be nice to get our barley cut and straw baled. This would allow undersown grass to flourish in time to give us some back-end grazing for sheep. I had hoped to be feeding some barley to finishing steers and as calf creep feed, but I might need to buy some in before we start cutting ours.

I spent a couple of weeks in September looking after the drier for Mertoun Estates. This was a pleasant change from ones own solitary work at home and also some extra income. Lord Haskins recommends part-time work on a more permanent basis, so large arable units could provide work at certain times of the year to benefit all parties concerned – skilled stock labour on arable units and vice-versa. It would certainly be an option when there is no BMW factory in the vicinity.

Timber has been chipped and then levelled for our new cattle corral. Chips are a good size and have given us an 46cm (18in) bed depth. Timbers for the feed barrier are ordered, electric fencing is required to contain stock and, with only water to plumb in, corral completion requires just a couple of days work. The cost for 40 cattle is going to be £32 a head and with no bedding costs or poaching of ground the benefits are tremendous.

We have weaned ewes in the last week and lambs are as strong as we have had them for a number of years. Many are in a forward condition and, hopefully, will be fit for sale by the time we obtain our full organic status at the end of October.

I will sort through ewes, although we should not have many culls as we are working with fairly young ages. All ewes and ewe lambs will be dipped and then ewes will go to the hill until mid-November. At least with the relaxation in local movement restrictions we can walk them up the road to the hill, which saves the hassle of loading them on to vehicles to move. &#42

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Giles Henry

14 September 2001

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280

acres) of heather moorland

near Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders which is in organic

conversion. Cropping is

mainly grass with 14ha (36

acres) of spring barley. The

farm is stocked with 450

breeding ewes, 85 hoggs

and 50 Luing cows with

followers and finishers

JUST when we thought Scotland was going to attain foot-and-mouth Provisional Free status, news came that a producer from one of the Northumberland infected farms had recently visited several farms in the Border area.

These farms have now been placed under Form D restrictions. One step forward, two back, but let us hope nothing further develops and things continue to return to some sort of normality. This event was a timely reminder of how things may develop when restrictions are lifted too quickly.

We reseeded an old grass field in August, and grass has established well, benefiting from warm days interspersed with rain.

Our two fields of barley have ripened well, but it will be mid-September before the combine moves in, so I am hoping the Indian summer, people are talking of, becomes a reality.

We have taken second cut silage, which yielded better than I expected and quality should be good as clover content was tremendous. The pit was well rolled, as I believe this helps quality no end.

I roll the pit as our contractor fills it with a forklift. We roll for a time after filling, but I like to sheet the pit the same day and have all tyres on with every one touching. I then seal sides by draping the sheet over pit walls, nailing on batons and taping the sheet to walls down both face sides. This minimises waste.

We have dug out an area to make a woodchip corral, where we will winter bulling heifers. We already had a concrete pad where we wintered heifers in the past, but they made a mess of the field it was in. So we have dug out an area of about 450sq m (540sq yd) adjacent to the concrete, which we will fill with large woodchips.

The concrete will be used as a feed stance and scraped periodically into a lagoon which we have dug at one end. The estate is providing timber and we will hire a chipper and blow chips directly into excavated area. This will provide a drier lie for cattle and save 4ha (10 acres) from yearly poaching over winter. &#42

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