Farmer Focus: Coping through cold weather and machinery woes

The pedigree ewes decided that the lovely weather in the first week of February was too nice to lamb in.

Instead, we had a real challenge when lambs came in the second week of the month and started to freeze in minutes. Ensuring they were dried and fed quickly minimised losses.

The second clamp with 2020 first-cut clover, grass and maize silage was started on 30 January.

We didn’t have the analysis for a week. In that time the cows showed us just how good it was. In order to settle their digestive system, we have now diluted it with 50% haylage.

See also: 10 tips to improve physical resilience at lambing and calving

However, the ewes are loving it. They must be milking extremely well as the lambs look to be really blooming.

We took blood samples from some twin and triplet commercial ewes to check protein and energy levels, at the same time checking body condition.

They are spot on at the moment in the middle of February, with two weeks to go until they are due to lamb.  

Now that the lambing of pedigree ewes has slowed to a trickle, we are getting ready for the commercial ewes.

Any hurdles used for the pedigree ewes have been steam-cleaned and set up in the straw shed.

We have loads of hurdles, but there are never enough in the middle of the night when the ewes are firing lambs out.

My hopes for an economical winter went the way of many other great plans. Five punctures on the Land Rover and a burst tyre on the old tractor drained the contingency money.

Then, in the worst of the cold weather, the old tractor stopped working.

My limited mechanical knowledge quickly ran out and an expensive repair eventually got us going again. 

I must admit I panicked a little while the tractor was out of action as the complete-diet feeding system we run here relies on everything working well.

We hope the lambs have a tremendous summer, so we can hopefully meet the challenge of improving on past performance.

The commercial sheep are dependent on the rented ground, so we have to get a return without subsidy on that land. Can we sell 25 40kg lambs a hectare?

James and Belinda Kimber farm 850 commercial and pedigree sheep and 30 pedigree Simmental and Charolais cattle in Wiltshire across 95ha (45ha owned) with the help of their children, Josh, Izzy and Richard. James also runs a foot-trimming business and Belinda has a B&B.