Farmer Focus: We came last in the scanning stakes again

We scanned the sheep at the beginning of February. I kept up a proud tradition of disappointing the wider family, with my brother scanning at 181%, my dad at 180% and me coming in last at 173%.

Having seen pictures from friends in Wales and Scotland who had to deal with 10ft snowdrifts and incredible conditions, I think my tales of 3-4in of snow and the terrible realities of the petrol station coffee machine running out of coffee may cause me some hate mail.

The tractor was kept busy for a few days on the silage run as the colder temperatures saw a lot more silage being consumed.

The trailer chassis split a weld, although fortunately – having watched my father struggle and overcome similar problems – I managed to hold it all together with a ratchet strap to get home.

See also: No money for livestock killed in snow, says Defra

The shed has been filling up with more fertiliser than a simple sheep farmer like myself has ever seen. The spring crops are requiring 100t of solid and another 100t of liquid. With grass growth being non-existent over the winter months, it will certainly appreciate it.  

We have planted hedges for our new middle-tier stewardship schemes. Jo has managed to put in 6,000 new hedging plants. Apparently gin and tonic has been the only cure for a very sore back – painkillers didn’t touch it.

The final jobs still on the list (apart from constant silage runs, sorting animals into scanning groups and moving them into lambing paddocks) are to run 335ha of seed and 100t of fertiliser for the contractors.

I must say a big thank you to John Cherry for letting me borrow his big trailer. If that name rings a bell, he is the director of the Groundswell event, an independent farmer conference looking at soil regeneration.

We will be trying out Clipex fencing this time, using a local contractor to put in corner posts and run a top wire. Jo and I will then go around after and strain up the netting and use a petrol post knocker to put in the posts.  

Sounds straightforward – I imagine it will require a lot more gin and tonics in the evening.


Rob and Jo Hodgkins run 1,500 ewes across 485ha of grass and have 566ha of arable in Hertfordshire, producing lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys. Subsidy-free farming means sheep must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.