Farmer Focus: January goes ballistic now we have sheep

January is always a long, dark month, especially for livestock farmers.

In my pre-sheep life, January was the best month. No productive work was required, so we did end-of-season shooting, followed by curling up in front of the fire with a glass of wine.

About the author

Rob and Jo Hodgkins
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Rob and Jo Hodgkins run 2,300 ewes across 210ha of grass and have 566ha of arable in Hertfordshire, producing lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys. Subsidy-free sheep farming means ewes must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.
Read more articles by Rob and Jo Hodgkins

However, life is now about spending Sundays stood on the side-lines of the rugby pitches watching the kids triumph.

Then it’s a race back to cook dinner, settle everyone down in front of a film before war breaks out and get a bit of housework done (not the cleaning type, the renovating type) before Monday comes round. 

See also: Essex arable farmer tries out easycare sheep

And the blows keep on coming. Obviously, we’ve all been digesting the situation with the fertiliser price.

Now the electricity price is rising, collections of lambs are becoming problematic, Countryside Stewardship shows no sign of being paid and bank managers are getting tetchy.

We are also chasing the Rural Payments Agency for part of our Mid Tier payment.

We have a dairy to build and staff to sort. Then our head shepherd handed his notice in – he loves the job, but misses home –  and we both got Covid-19.

So, we have researched solar panels and are getting quotes – watch this space. We have ordered a nitrogen seeker, plan to take soil mineral nitrogen cores and ordered a supply of Twoxo – an endophyte to help nitrogen absorption.

We are also in talks with a local butchery company to supply it directly.

I have resubmitted the planning application for the dairy and ordered the building, so keep your fingers crossed.

I’m about to start research on facilities to make ice cream so we can store spare product, and we have been interviewing for staff.

We decided to advertise for the dairy shepherd and the trainee flock manager roles together.

We have had some fantastic applicants and have selected two who we believe will be capable of mastering their roles and help take our business to the next level, so there are exciting times ahead.

On the plus side, it has all meant we’ve been inside a lot in the office, rather than putting up electric fencing in the cold.

There will be plenty of time for that next month, along with scanning and finding houses for everyone.