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Farm diary – Autumn 2018

Since our last update earlier this year there has been much happening on the Farm.  Following the long wet Spring causing a lack of feed and bedding, it seemed the Country was blessed with a hot period early Summer.  However, the temperatures soared and the hot weather then caused its own difficulties as the grass didn’t grow due to the lack of rain.  Here in north Devon we fared better than most as we farm on clay which holds moisture so our grass never scorched.  Many of the visitors to our caravan touring site here on the Farm were amazed to see green grass pitches as everything was brown in their home towns.  One of our calves even has sunburn to his ears and we had to apply sunscreen!

The combination of a long winter/spring and then an extreme dry spell has made the feed situation on farms short throughout the country.  It will be a challenging winter for many as some farmers had to feed their winter rations in the summer to keep their cattle going.  More on this subject later…!

If you have read our previous diary you will know that we were under a cattle movement restriction due to an inconclusive TB reading.  As you can imagine, it is a nerve-racking time each time the vet arrives into the yard and then commences his testing.  The test is performed over two visits.  The first visit the vet clips the hair on the side of the neck of the cattle and makes two injections.  It is the second visit a few days later that is crucial.  If the cattle have reacted to the vaccine then it forms a lump.  This lump is measured, if it fall outside the parameter the animal is either inconclusive (and tested again) or a reactor.  During this second visit everything is crossed and is usually a fairly quiet time as we await each cow’s reading.  Bovine TB is prevalent in our part of the world and we have been very lucky never to have had a reactor, only an inconclusive reading.  Two inconclusive readings are enough to ‘shut you down’ from any movements and this is what happened to us. Thankfully, we went on to have two clear tests, which is what is required before the restriction could be lifted.

Once we were able to sell our cattle we took our 24 ever growing yearlings to Exeter Market and were delighted to top the market that week! (For the second year running!) Richard had spent a great deal of time with these calves and it paid off as they were very quiet in the ring which is what buyers like to see.

During the time we spent on TB movement restriction we had to make the hard decision that sadly the beef herd at Headon Farm was not commercial enough.  Events such as the herd fertility, weather and TB have a huge impact on a small herd such as ours.  To sustain even one of these challenges would be difficult but all three were impossible.  It is a chapter that has closed in the life of Headon Farm but gives the opportunity for another to open.  Watch this space!

We were pleased to sell the remainder of the cows and calves as one group to a local farmer who we knew would look after them.

Now then, going back to the national feed situation on farms!  As we had no cattle after July we took the opportunity to make as many silage bales as we could (the big black wrapped bales you will see if you go for a walk down the lane from the caravan touring site).  We will be selling them to farmers who are short of feed throughout the winter.  There’s always a silver lining of you look!

We have had a wonderfully dry autumn so far and Richard has been busy cutting the hedges on the farm.   Many farmers don’t bother as there isn’t a return on the time and expense of doing this but we like to make sure this job is done each year as it makes the farm look tidy.  In addition to this, it ensures the hedge thickens out at the base and this acts as better stock proofing.

Long may this dry spell continue!


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