Farmer Focus: Sheep on track but spring crops struggling

In common with almost anyone reading this, I’m sure, the recent weather is causing us some issues.

Spring cropping has now really started to struggle. Both emergence and crop progression are troublesome.

Things are looking pretty dire and with no rain forecast soon I think yields are going to be depressing. Winter wheats and oats with deeper roots have until recently been looking very well, but moisture stress has now hit these crops as well.

See also: How Borders flock is using targeted selective treatments

We are splitting chemical applications and only spraying early in the morning to try and help avoid any plant stress. I don’t think we will forward sell any more wheat and oats until it’s in the barn now, as I think on the whole yields are going to be down significantly. 

Things are much more upbeat on the sheep side, with shearing completed by mid-May and all docking, worming, tagging and fly control completed on the lambs by end of May.

James the shepherd has been working incredibly hard to not only get us caught up but nicely in front too.

June should be a quiet month with everything up to date, so I think James is planning to spend some time on his pup “Bet”, another excellent dog to expose my own limited skills with dogs.

We are planning to rehang gates, concrete a workshop floor and do some other bits and pieces.

They are the sort of jobs that don’t take long, but you spend three to four years looking at them and thinking you should do it.

I think we will try and put in a couple more handling systems around the place. Both shearing and docking have shown how useful they are and how much time they save.

Sheep are on a four-day rotation to try to encourage grass growth. I think we have just as much electric fence out now as we do in winter.  

Another problem with the heat is it is certainly testing water infrastructure. Sheep in peak lactation and 25C heat drink a lot.

We gave up a large parkland this year because of its water problems. I am glad we aren’t there as it caused a lot of hassle, usually on a Sunday.

See Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ biography