Farming diary - Baling up as heifers bail out

Kevin and Melissa secure the bales of hay before they are taken to the barn

Kevin and Melissa secure the bales of hay before they are taken to the barn

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Richard was left in charge when Ian and Jenny went away for the weekend.

Fortunately, on this occasion, all went smoothly, except the young heifers managed to escape from their field and get into an adjacent wheat field, luckily not doing too much damage.

We are very grateful that a gentleman travelling along the motorway noticed the escapees and called in to tell us. We soon rallied the troops, persuaded the heifers to return to their field and mended the electric fence, which had lost power due to a short some distance away.

Kevin spent the early part of the week moving large bales of hay from some fields at Bowood to a storage barn a few miles away.

I accompanied Melissa when she delivered sandwiches for his tea and was delighted to see hares playing in the grass, crouching down so they were barely visible when they spotted us.

Hares, unlike rabbits, live permanently above ground, where the young are born active and fully-furred. They have long, black-tipped ears and long legs which enable them to travel at speeds up to 75km per hour.

On Stowell Farm, Kevin has been cultivating the fallow ground with the terra- disc. This will kill broad-leaved weeds and encourage weed seeds to germinate, so they can be killed using a herbicide before crop planting.

The job of cleaning out the barns, which housed sheep and cattle last winter, was also completed.

On Manor Farm, we have replaced a worn-out tractor and loader, used throughout the year to feed our cattle. Richard and Ian have been wondering whether to also replace a 24-year-old sprayer. It recently passed the sprayer MOT, but maybe it would be better to get a more up-to-date model before it starts to cause a problem.

Regular checks have been made on our fields of winter barley, which have been ripening rapidly. It is time to prepare a temporary storage area for grain in a barn and the combine harvester has been collected from winter storage on Stowell Farm.

We are in the ready, steady, go position; as soon as moisture falls to below 15 per cent, the combine will roll.

Richard and I joined the NFU South West Regional Dairy Board for a visit to the Muller/Wiseman milk bottling plant near Bridgwater.

We were told about the factories and milk-fields, but also how they hope to develop the business in the future.

The particular challenge is to have a multi-functional plant, where they can switch easily between a large variety of milk products. This will spread the risk when coping with price volatility. Apparently, the UK is 70 per cent self-sufficient in milk (the same as China), of which 58 per cent supplies the liquid market. We have the ninth largest dairy industry in the world.

From Bridgwater, we drove on to visit Adele and her family on Chuggaton Farm in North Devon and arrived just in time to help get the cows in for afternoon milking.

Then Adele and I, Bethany riding JJ, and Bouncer the dog, went for a farm walk.

Dominic went for a cycle ride – with Richard taking his exercise on the quad-bike – leaving Steve to the milking.

We saw their fields of wheat and maize, which are looking very well.

Just to finish this week, I must mention the starlings. We seem to be seeing them everywhere on the farm this summer, with large numbers of youngsters flocking together in the fields.

Especially annoying are the ones that sit on the roof of the house, dropping cherry stones on the conservatory.

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