Steve Brown farms 200ha
(500 acres) in Co Durham, in
partnership with his parents.
The familys 125-cow herd is
run at Hopper House; with a
200-ewe flock and
replacements on grass at a
separate unit and the
remaining land as arable crops
OUR lodgers, the hill sheep, have celebrated their anniversary. But despite them having to stop longer than we expected, we have been paid for the pleasure of their company.
With our milk sales unaffected by foot-and-mouth, Ive felt a bit guilty accepting payment for looking after them, but Id rather keep my bank manager happy than his.
Our original concern that the sheep would reduce our winter forage stocks has been put aside further by baling some third cut grass silage and more wheat.
The subsequent straw shortage will be partly offset by using up last years round bales. These now have a crispy shell and a few chunky layers, but ultimately a nice soft centre. We will also use more cheap sawdust to dry up loose pens before adding straw.
Cows are still grazing, as the weather is still mild and grass in abundance. But to maintain milk yield, round-baled silage has been replaced at the feed barrier by first cut from the clamp. Apparently, this should be so palatable that they will be reluctant to wander off down the field to graze. However, at milking time 20 or 30 will prefer the outdoor grazing option – unless it is raining, when about 50 will prefer to stand against the furthest hedge they can find.
This applies day and night, but the desire to make the most of grazing may soon be overtaken by a need to have cows available for morning milking and night-time housing will begin.
Winter housing of the remaining stock should not provide too great a shock, as the majority has remained indoors because of movement restrictions.
A sole occupancy licence is hopefully in the pipeline to allow movements to the other farm and Im in search of a licence to move the next batch of beef calves. This application is through my local Trading Standards office, which makes a change from telephoning DEFRA officials in Leeds, Northallerton or Newcastle, depending on which office the others recommended. *
Steve Brown still has grass available for cows, despite hill sheep staying for the whole summer.