Farmer Focus: Drought blamed for poor scanning

After a very depressing few months I feel we have turned a corner.

Thanks to the tireless work of FCN (Farm Crisis Network) the arable operation got its full BPS payment, which was most welcome and certainly has lowered stress levels considerably.

The arable operation also got 75% of its middle-tier payments.

Scanning is down 15% to 155% from 170%. We are putting it down to ewe condition after the drought and the fact that a third of all our ewes are shearlings. 

Ewe lambs did much better at 120% (too good really – there are a lot of twins) so in total we will be lambing 2,153 ewes which is slightly above our target of 2,000.

With the warm, mild February weather we have started to move sheep off stubbles on to the lambing paddocks.

See also: How to cut concentrate costs by rotational grazing sheep

It’s a few weeks earlier than usual but grass is averaging 8kg DM/ha growth so we are trying to keep stocking levels low. 

After such a rough winter I really feel trying to cut down on the amount of electric fencing we are doing is needed.

On the arable side, as fast as we are emptying the grain stores we seem to be refilling them with seed and fertiliser.

We have had the cultivator going to mix in some AD waste that we have spread.  

The machinery gremlins have been busy causing havoc. At one stage Jo’s car needed an alternator, both work trucks needed new clutches and the big tractor needed a new oil pump, as well as the usual problems of trailer lights.

Laurence has been “de-livestocking” the Massey ready for arable duties, which includes cleaning, greasing, changing oils and filters, and trying to get rid of the smell of silage in the cab.

We have also bought a complete set of dual wheels for when it has the seedbed tine harrow or rolls on it (if anyone has a set of 16.9 R28 tyres please get in touch).

This is all a far cry from last year when we had to ratchet-strap silage bales to the front of the tractor for ballast – progress is real.

See Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ biography