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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

By the Barn - October

Each month, we bring you a snippet of country life in our magazine by Angela Sargent of Baldfields Farm. Angela sends us much more than we can possibly include, so we are making her full articles available to read in their entirety online.

Autumn's here and don’t we know it. Luckily for us, we had just finished getting the barley straw in when the winds and rains came. What a change, at last we have green grass!

We are hoping to resume Megs training now- we’ve done a little bit of work with her and our older dog, Ben. They work well together- she does the running and he does the watching. Meg tries hard to do it right, even if the commands have to be repeated when she goes the wrong way. At the moment we use voice commands, but hubby is just starting to introduce the whistled instruction (I can’t, so I use a whistle if I have to!).

To send her to the right we use ‘away’, to the left ‘come-by’, ‘sit’ and ‘lay down’ as you would expect and ‘move’em on’, meaning to just walk them forward. At least that is the idea, but we also use hand signals to point out which way, to help her. When you use whistles, you have to get enough distinction between the different orders and you have to be consistent with the sounds. Soon we may work her on her own, occasionally. She won’t always have Ben to rely on when a sheep gets a bit bolshy!

Field work is carrying on, our field beans will be combined soon, if they haven’t already and then we will let that field overwinter with just the stubble. Pheasants, Partridge and other birds will be able to feed off the dropped seeds and we will work it down in the spring. Most of  our other fields have been ploughed and harrowed and sown with winter Barley and Oats.

Next year sees the end of one of our environmental schemes- Countryside Stewardship. We were paid to carry out environmental options, like changing arable fields to grass, taking 6m strips out of production all the way round our arable fields and allowing them to grow naturally etc. The payment was in return for income foregone (i.e not growing crops, that we could possibly have sold). As we are a tenanted farm, we have to replace that income by doing something else, so some land may have to  be ploughed up and put back into production or we might increase livestock numbers, but we’ll need more feed/bedding and more room for housing if we do that, so there are quite a few options and we must decide over the next few months which way we are going to go. Whatever we do we need to make a profit!

Many farmers are in the same predicament as us and are having to make hard choices, not least the dairy farmers who will be hit hard by the new regulations on nitrate vulnerable zones (water quality regulations) which mean extra storage for slurry, which means extra costs. These come in from the 1st of January and all farmers will have to comply.

Our Bees have had a reasonable summer and the summer honey has been taken off and now they are being fed sugar solution to help them survive any bad weather that comes along this winter. I’ve noticed quite a few rabbits hopping between the hives, so there isn’t much activity at times.

The cattle will be coming inside when the weather turns for the worst over the next few weeks and so we are also trying to finish any repair work on sheds, gates and inside water troughs before they do so it is a very busy month for us, not helped by the shortening of the days- it seems easier to work whilst it is still light- oh dear- I can feel SAD disorder coming on!

Angela Sargent,

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