Livestock Farmer Focus: John Bainbridge finds curlews and lapwings illusive

As I write, the fields are still snow-covered, with winter certainly outstaying its welcome. The lapwings and curlews that often appear by the end of February have been illusive as yet.

After initial talks with Natural England last summer, I had every intention of going into a joint ELS/HLS, and had a Farm Environment Plan carried out by an independent young lady who was impressed by the bird life. However, a change of staff at Natural England meant a new list of negotiations, and apparently “I was wasting my time producing food on the hills.” So a possible ELS with UELS will be more attractive at this time – if those new maps ever appear.

The environmental aspect on our farm also has to incorporate a certain amount of military training, and with both sons wishing to continue to hill farming, cutting numbers is not an option presently.

Moles have been hard at work making a real mess. Attention is given to catching them especially in our meadows, as it is important we reduce the risk of soil contaminating our silage. Usually we manage to catch about 400 moles in a year, but there never seems to be a shortage the following year.

Our ewes are sorted into their lambing groups and the earlier lambers have moved on to an 18% premium ewe nut. Our big square bale sheep silage is of mixed quality this year after the wet summer, putting more emphasis on concentrates.

Some ewes are due their clostridial injection. This year we moved onto a broad-spectrum vaccination against clostridial diseases for ewes, with lambs treated using a different clostridial at 4-6 weeks old. Let’s hope the weather improves before the lambs start arriving.

• For more columns from other Farmer Focus writers

Gallery: Lambing 2021

One of the highlights of the farming year, lambing season is a challenging but joy-filled time for Britain’s farmers. View our gallery and share your lambing photos!
See photos