Farmer Focus: Could cancelling Christmas pay for loader?

Our time on the clover and berseem clover ran out and Jo was keen to get it ploughed in and some winter crops planted.   

Having weighed the ram lambs that came off it, all I can say is wow.  

The main group of rams averaged a liveweight growth of 353g/day, with an average weight of 42.2kg. This was for lambs born in April and weighed at the beginning of October.  

See also: Read more from all our Farmer Focus writers

While it has been an excellent year for plant growth, regrowth on that crop was exceptional. With the ever-present threat of flea beetle, this is one crop we will definitely be growing again – this time maintaining and grazing it throughout the winter. 

The lambs have been moved on to some local stubble turnips. I imagine going from a cereal plant to a brassica will check growth for 14 days to about 150-200g/day, with the shorter days and colder nights also taking their toll.

The worst-case scenario will be 44 days to take those lambs to killing weight (48kg). We should have another big draw by the beginning of December, so lots of electric fencing will be needed for the foreseeable future.

Another month, another machine bought, it seems. Our neighbours (thank you Richard and Matt) have been kind enough to lend us their loader to unload our grain stores when required, but a 2017-plate machine frankly terrified me – I was paranoid about scratching/breaking it.

After negotiations with Jo, I was awarded a £10,000 budget for a new loader. We got one for £8,500, but it brings a long list of problems that we are slowly going through.  

I think we will end up throwing another £2,000 at it to replace all the worn parts. Time will tell if it was the right decision. In the meantime I am trying to fill a £10,500 hole in our budget. 

I am overwintering some ewes for a friend (they look great, Colin) and attempting to get all lambs to 22kg deadweight to make a bit more a head.

Another option is to cancel Christmas, which I am pretty relaxed about, but this may prove unpopular with Jo and the children.

Rob and Jo Hodgkins, Hertfordshire, run 1,500 ewes across 485ha of grass and have 566ha of arable, 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.