Farmer Focus: Sheep dairy almost at planning stage  

Reading last month’s column, it doesn’t feel like we’ve achieved much this month.

We’ve only managed 100ha of drilling and it’s just started raining again as I write this. Fingers crossed next month when we write we are all drilled up.

We have got our new 2050 RTK GPS receiver from Trimble on the tractor with a second receiver on the drill, in preparation for better hoeing and the result is so perfect and straight it’s scary.

Our new trainee arable manager and his wife have arrived from New Zealand, which is a relief to Rob, as without Monty he’d be the last man standing in an otherwise female team.

See also: Northern Covid restrictions pressure beef trade

Holly has been working locally as a part-time contract shepherd while studying at Shuttleworth College. She graduates in the spring and is going to join us full time to run the sheep dairy.

I’ve been getting building designs for the dairy ready to go to planning permission soon, so fingers crossed.

We’ve moved three groups of sheep on to turnips – about 500 ewes and 600 ewe lambs. The rest are eating excess autumn grass covers down before they go on the oat and clover leys on the arable ground.

About half the prime lambs will be gone by the end of this month. They’re all still on herbal leys and we are trying to finish them all this year to avoid any growth knocks from changing diets.

Holly and Hannah put a mob of smalls (<32kg) on some clover-for-seed ground a few weeks ago, put them all though the scales last week and they averaged about 360g/day – not so small anymore!

Rob and Holly assisted Stuart from Signet with our backfat scanning. These scores have been over to New Zealand and contributed to our ram scores ready for selection this month.

Our best ram score is just over 2,700, so good progress is being made on our breeding programme (last year was 2,200). Condition on the ewes is brilliant going into tupping, so we are hoping for good things. 

I know some students have had their placements cancelled because of Covid. If you are able to offer a placement for a few months, please do get in touch with the placements team at Harper.

See Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ biography