Spring has sprung…

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy Saint David’s Day and the first day of spring! After what is probably the warmest February on record, rain is returning tonight but what a week we have had, putting ewes and lambs outside has been a pleasure in glorious sunshine.

Quick lambing update; Lambing over 1500 ewes in total. January lambers, mainly Texel crosses (which are normally sponged but this year we used Cidr Ovis), scanned at 165% (average 1.65 lambs per ewe) and all lambs are strong and growing well out in the fields. February lambers scanned at 190% (average 1.9 lambs per ewe) and, after a slow start, have nearly finished. The Epynt Hardy Speckled ewes (native breed) have begun lambing outside and pretty much get on with it themselves, I love that breed!

Epynt Hardy Speckled

So much has happened since my last blog, I am now Monmouthshire NFU chair (man/lady/person), Monmouthshire RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) media secretary, Senior Fellow with the University of South Wales, trained as a mental health first aider and we have made our first Perry (pear cider) on the farm which is delicious! During February we had college visits and three Kate’s Country School lambing courses. I often wonder why, on top of the lambing mayhem, we decide to do this but of course the busiest time of year is the best time for people to learn the ropes.

On a final note, (sorry its the ‘B’ word), it is a very unsettling time for sheep farmers in the UK, we invited our MP on farm to explain how a ‘no deal’ scenario would put many businesses at risk. We’re also still awaiting clarity from Westminster to ensure that imported food will be produced on a level playing field – to the standards to which British farmers are required to adhere to. We will watch this space…

Right, enough of politics, I will leave you with this beautiful double rainbow on the farm, apparently a sign of transformation and good fortune, I’m an eternal optimist!

Hopefully a good sign of things to come…
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Kennel Club, Kingfishers and kids!

Following a slow start to the lambing season, the new moon brought in the Chinese year of the sheep in style, with lambs popping out everywhere just in time for our lambing courses.

There were plenty of skinning techniques, adoptions, stomach tubings and mal-presentations to sort out. You can learn some aspects in the classroom, but nothing beats real hands-on experience. Well done to all our lambing graduates, it’s been a busy season! We’ve finally finished lambing with a total of 1350 lambs.

lambingemma

Another great educational resource is television and in March I swapped amniotic-fluid-covered overalls for clean clothes and a hotel room for a four-day lambing break, filming at Crufts.

What a motley crew!

What a motley crew!

Covering a different canine topic each night, Friday’s film helped launch a new initiative from the NFU and The Kennel Club who have teamed up to produce a sign (to be put up around public footpaths) encouraging responsible dog walking in the countryside, advising walkers to worm their dogs and clean up after them to reduce the spread of infection to livestock. More detail can be found here. We have many footpaths through the farm and although the majority of walkers are great, there are always a few dog walkers that cause havoc. Only this week gates have been left open and “dog size” holes cut in fences where lambs can fit through. Hopefully these signs will help.

Our countryside is beautiful and is currently coming to life. Trees are greening up, our Kingfishers are nesting and the first swallows have arrived on the farm, it is a lovely time of year. I wandered down the river this week and was rewarded with this wonderful photo. Farming and wildlife is a natural combination.

Think I've been spotted….

Think I’ve been spotted….

It’s encouraging to see how many keen youngsters there are in the farming industry and local YFC clubs are thriving. However not all farm kids want to continue the family business and it would be unfair to put pressure on them to do so. Daughter Cel has no interest in agriculture as a career. She’s extremely talented in music and the arts and has just taken her options at school with future plans including university. Son Sam on the other hand, hates school, loves farming and with only a few weeks to go before his GCSE’s it’s been very difficult keeping him focused on schoolwork. Every time revision was mentioned during the Easter Holidays, he disappeared chain harrowing. As a result our farm is now looking like a golf course and Sam has been offered work on the back of his impressive straight lines which were spotted from the road. This is on top various other agricultural jobs he’s already juggling. Maybe I’m worrying unduly about his education as he has a great work ethic and driving ambition, not all 16 year olds have that. Like all parents, we just want both kids to happy with whatever choices they make in life.

He's very proud of his straight lines!

Sam is very proud of his straight lines!