Bryan and Liz Griffiths farm 131ha at Burrington, Devon. 12ha of rush pasture is in a Countryside Stewardship agreement and the rest of the farm is in the Entry Level Scheme. The farm carries 850 March-lambing ewes, finishing all the lambs by Christmas. About 70 yearling cattle are bought each autumn to be finished at grass the following summer.
Day 17 of lambing and just 30 ewes left. Nearly two weeks of unbroken sunshine has done us more good than all our vaccines and doses put together. However, ironically the sudden appearance of the sun prompted two in-lamb ewes and a ram to get stuck on their backs and expire between my morning and afternoon inspections.
Any lambing time has its moments of trauma and disaster, but this year although we fed big-bale silage for three months we have not lost a single sheep to listeria. I only wish I knew what I had done differently. I must thank Bristol vet students Amy and Nicole. Any shortcomings in experience were more than made up for in cheery enthusiasm.
The early sown nitrogen worked its magic and couples have gone out to grass without the need for supplementary feed. I have smashed up high magnesium blocks and scattered numerous pieces among each flock.
Thomas was home for Easter and was keen to do some tractor work. I got him ploughing the root field, rolling silage ground and trying out our new soil aerator – a job that appears to hold all of the thrill and excitement of flat rolling, but with less speed.
The field adjacent to the roots was used as a run back all winter and was badly poached. I have given it a dressing of lime and broadcast ryegrass and clover seed in the hope of rejuvenating it without need of ploughing.
We are determined not to repeat last year’s fertiliser folly. Our meanness led not only to less grass, but poorer quality resulting in the need for more finishing concentrates and pressure to reduce flock size. With stock prices as they are, this is not the time to be cutting numbers.