Farming diary - Making hay while sun shines

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Farming diary - Making hay while sun shines Farming diary - Making hay while sun shines

The continuation of fine weather, forecast for the beginning of the week, allowed us to continue making silage and a few small bales of hay.

On Saturday evening Richard started to mow about 80 acres of second-cut grass for silage.

By late Sunday afternoon, all the grass was lying in rows wilting, with the forage harvester due to arrive early Monday morning.

It was a warm sunny day so the rake was soon gathering two rows of grass into one, ready for the forage-harvester to pick up, chop and deliver into one of three trailers hauling it back to the silage clamp. By teatime all the grass was in the clamp, rolled to drive out the air, covered with a plastic sheet, which was sealed and weighed down with tyres.

The next job, before the storms arrived, was to make small bales of hay from grass that had been cut in a small paddock.

These few bales are now safely in store. The next day Ian and David spread slurry from our store onto some of the silage fields, which will add nutrients to encourage the fields to produce a third cut of grass, if the weather is favourable.

Later in the week, Ian removed an electric fence that had been keeping the young heifers from one of the silage areas, so they now have access to the whole field.

Some feed troughs have been taken to the field so that the heifers can be given a concentrated feed, as the grass is now not so nutritious.

More trimming has been done under electric fences to ensure they work properly, as well as cutting back some hedge corners by gateways onto the road, so that vision will be better when tractors and trailers are hauling grain at harvest.

Natalie carried out a milk recording session during the week, collecting individual milk samples for analysis. We have recently had some low butterfat readings on our bulk milk sample, but it is now rising steadily. A few cows’ hooves were trimmed after milking one morning, before Richard repaired one of the cow brushes found not to be working, so the cows have the use of two brushes once again.

On Stowell Farm, both family and dogs have been working hard. The week began the weaning of this year’s lambs. For this, all the ewes and their lambs had to be gathered together into pens, from where they were separated.

All the ewe lambs went in one field, the single wethers (castrated ram lambs) in another and the twin wethers kept separate in another field. The ewes were then all taken to Bowood, where they were sheared a few days later.

The shearing was done by four shearers, two from the UK, one from Australia and the other from California, with two people packing the fleeces into sacks supplied by the Wool Board.

The shearing took two days, with an average per person of 260 fleeces removed each day. Wool producers were pleased to hear that the 2013-14 selling season was much better, with good prices throughout the season.

This will probably mean the prices will be even better this coming year, as clearance rates over the past season were up to 100 per cent at British Wool Marketing Board auctions, so there is no carry over.

There has been increased demand for all wool types, with wool being seen once again as a useful commodity.

To maximise the value of the wool, it is essential the shearing technique is good and that the fleeces are packed into the wool sacks in tidy, compact bundles for onward transport, ensuring optimum use of vehicles.

What a great year it is for a wide variety of flora and fauna. We have many species of butterflies and moths here on Manor Farm, including a recent surge of tortoiseshell butterflies and six-spot burnet moths, and the unusual appearance of a number of orchids.

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