Farmer Focus: Winter jobs are fencing, water and cutting flock

Infrastructure is a winter job, and this includes ongoing improvements to our fencing.

Four-wire electric fences are a fast, cheap way to divide fields and they generally work well as a temporary measure – but the goal is to replace them with permanent fencing.  

We use an eight-wire net with a high tensile wire at the top and an electric wire above it.

The electric top wire enables us to chap (hit) in strainers without stays, and posts are generously spaced out – up to 6m apart. 

We use only creosoted posts, to avoid replacement. In the past, cheaper alternatives have been disappointing, lasting only five years. 

See also: Tips to survive and thrive amid falling BPS payments

About the author

David Girvan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer David Girvan and family run a 140-cow Stabiliser herd and wool-shedding crossbred ewes on a 3,000ha upland farm west of Inverness. Finished stock are sent to Woodheads. Diversifications include pumpkin picking, wind turbines and a biomass boiler.
Read more articles by David Girvan

Another winter job is to improve water distribution. Dividing fields over several years means getting water to stock is more complicated. 

We now have water pipes supplying most of the grazing areas from either ponds or mains. Some fields don’t yet have permanent water troughs, so we make do with temporary setups.

Sometimes we have to leave the gates open into the last grazed field to give access to water – which defeats the purpose of rotation. 

We have put in a few new troughs this winter, which will save time in summer. A bit of groundworks to dig the pipes in and these should be functional. 

We had also planned to extend the farmhouse garage this month to create a workspace and packing area for Barbara’s cut flower field diversification.

The frame is up but the roof work was postponed because of snow and frost.

Recently, we had our vet fertility-test four 20-month-old bulls that will be for sale. One failed on motility.

We used him as a yearling and he worked well, so it’s possible the sample was stale. Once he gets more active, we should get a better result, and we’ll retest the next time the vet’s here.

Establishing a good relationship with our local vet practice has become key to managing livestock here. We try to have the same vet from the practice whenever possible. 

Being familiar with our farming system, she is more able to give advice as we look to be more preventative than reactive. 

We are currently reducing sheep numbers by about 200 head this year, in part to save on inputs – but hopefully a reduction in medication will follow.