Farmer Focus: Lambing done and most crops in the ground

Lambing is largely finished. The ewes were remarkable, especially one group of 100-odd ewes that became stranded on an island for almost two weeks when the water level rose and washed away my sheep bridge.

The weather broke and we got a reprieve – for a few days we even managed to drive across fields. In the latter half of the month the weather closed back in just as the ewe lambs started lambing.

As part of the AHDB’s “challenge sheep” programme we are recording parentage of just under 400 ewe lambs and will be tracking them and their offspring for the next seven years – I am confident we have the foundation of a tremendous flock.

The unseasonable spring has also meant Jo and I have experimented with role reversals (it’s not as exciting as it sounds).

For a few days I had to switch to arable as the contractor’s big Fendt and 8m cultivation gear became bogged – our little Massey could reach places others couldn’t.   

See also: High lambing losses likely to support fat price for longer

Big thanks go to Dan Livings for stopping his drilling and running across with a Cat Challenger to rescue the contractor. Also, thanks to Trevor and Ralph, who donated/sold me various bits of small lightweight cultivation gear.

Over three days we managed to get about 25ha of barley in the ground as well as 10ha of grass seed – although with our drill having no tramline system or markers, it won’t be the prettiest job.

Highlights for me are the knowledge that the local Indian takeaway will deliver to a field gate at 9.30pm (free fork) and that trying to ratchet-strap a bailer to the front loader to help the front tyres grip does not work.

Our drilling window has probably shut, with about 100-120 acres of peas still sat in bags. Cheap forage mixes for the lambs could make use of these fields and, with a bit of luck, we can salvage the situation by finishing lambs earlier than normal.

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.