Farmer Focus : Bill and Jonathan Metcalfe 11/02/05

WITH ONE farm on the side of a main road between Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale, and despite our boundary wall being mainly straight, we have cars through it about two or three times a year.

It is amazing what difference there is between insurance companies’ attitudes to paying for their clients’ damage. One, supplied with photographs by their client, recently disputed the amount of damage by suggesting the first touch of the wall was the only damage done.

This was despite top stones and debris clearly being scattered well across the field. Only thanks to the persistence of NFU Mutual and the honesty of the driver concerned did we eventually recover the building costs.

We have learned from ADAS how to keep lambs alive at lambing, apparently with a minimum of one man for every 250 sheep lambing being the least labour needed. Whether this was in total or lambing each night was unclear, but if it is the latter could we please employ him and we’ll go on holiday.

Ewes have scanned the heaviest ever, with few geld. The 40 or so Mashams scanned at 250% and are available for sale to anyone who fancies a challenge. The Swaledales were about 170%, with the moor sheep to do in about a month’s time.

Our scanner says fewer sheep with more lambs appears to be the norm, with many flocks reducing ewe numbers. The necessity to keep similar numbers having been removed with the new scheme.

One theory from years ago was that a similar number of lambs would still be produced from keeping fewer sheep on the same ground.

We have just erected more than 1km of fencing to protect new and repaired hedges, together with more rebuilding of stone-faced banking and still more to do. That should keep us out of mischief until lambing.