Miles Saunders farms in
partnership with his parents
on an organic, mixed 370ha
(915-acre) farm in
Oxfordshire. Main enterprises
are 200 milking cows and
followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50
beef cross stores and 70 beef
cross calves. Winter wheat,
barley, oats and beans are
also grown, and sold on the
IT ALWAYS seems like a good idea to spread the workload throughout the year. The only problem then is, you dont have any slack months. March has been yet another busy month, ploughing, cultivating and drilling the spring wheat, and now we are into a rather hectic second week of lambing.
Having had a good year for silage last year, we will have about 500t of silage left over. We have made the decision to plough up a 13ha ley this spring, rather than leave it until the autumn when it was due to come up anyway. This area has now been drilled with Avans spring wheat. Another 14ha of spring wheat has been undersown with a grazing ley, which may be cut for whole-crop silage depending on first and second cut silage yields.
The fields coming out of grass were "Rotalaboured", a machine similar to a rotavator, designed to detach the roots from the leaves; then ploughed, pressed and power harrowed. The seed is cleaned only and planted at a rate of 240kg/ha.
Lambing is currently in full swing. On housing, the ewes were split into three groups, singles, twins and multiples. This allowed us to feed each group according to number of lambs they were carrying.
They are being fed a ration based on the same mix as that of the dairy cows, but the mineral supplement has been changed to a sheep mineral and seaweed. The ration is made of organic wheat, oats and beans, and non-organic molasses, wheat gluten and linseed. All lambs are given 50ml of cows colostrum at birth via a stomach tube to ensure they get a good start.
Ewes and lambs are turned out when the lambs are strong enough to cope with a deterioration in the weather. All individual pens are cleaned out and disinfected between each ewe with the aim of keeping any disease to a minimum.
Early April sees the turnout of the cows. The land is heavy clay and the swards are fairly open and young, so we have to be careful not to damage them by turning out too early. The grass has not been bulked up yet. As I write today (Mar 28), there is about 1500kg DM/ha on the grazing leys. *
With about 500t of silage left in the clamp, Miles Saunders has ploughed up 13ha ley for spring wheat rather than cutting it.