Friday, 22 February 2019

Farming in Amazement

Ewes Grazing Cover Crops
Farming never ceases to amaze me! This time last year we were gripped in the clutches of the 'Beast from the East' and this year, (at the moment) it feels like the 20th April not the 20th February. Soil conditions are lovely and the first doses of fertiliser are being applied on smooth dry fields. Under the surface the soil has benefited form the dry summer and dry winter, with increasingly good structure being observed every time we dig a hole. The ewes in mid pregnancy now are jumping about like spring lambs every time they are moved from cover crop to cover crop field.
Soil Structure After Sheep Grazing
The pressure is on the grazing girls to eat fast as spring crops need to be planted soon. With dry weather forecast hopefully we will start planting next week, almost 2 months earlier than last year and 3 weeks earlier than normal. First on the planting list will be spring barley, followed by the peas in a few weeks time.
The sheep have a done a great job grazing off the rye and vetch on the hill and soon they will be split up into their grazing groups ready for lambing and its back onto the grassland then. The use of cover crops has some many wider benefits as well as reducing costs in the farming system system. Under this stone on the headland I discovered a fantastic population of Carabid (Ground) Beetles all waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting prey. There are over 350 species in the UK, does anyone know what these ones are? The adults and larvae will feed on other invertebrates, slugs, snails and carrion. Some smaller species will also feed on aphids, so they could be a very helpful ally in the season ahead.
Carabid Beetles In Cover Crops
One slight worry that I have is that we are too dry. There is no water in the ditches and the springs are low as well. Could this be another very dry, drought year on the back of 2018? Time will tell but if we can get our crops established now into good conditions to allow roots to grow, develop and explore as much of the soil as possible we stand the best chance of making the most of the weather ahead.