February 2014 on the Farm
It was so exciting to see the first snowdrops appearing on the ground last month. This time of year can be unpredictable; with an early mild winter, all we can do is hope that a late frosty snap doesn’t drive the first signs of spring back underground. February tends to either be soaking wet, bitter cold or sometimes even warm and sunny. The weather might not matter too much to everyone else, but to us it can affect everything.
A long winter challenges all creatures, such as bumble bees I find tucked into heather plants in my garden. It's difficult for birds to find seeds and for the hunted and the hunters alike to seek sustenance. It's challenging for us too, as we hope to relieve our silage stock with grazed grass, and ova fur crops which prefer drier, less waterlogged roots.
As farmers, we do what we can, and then we wait and trust in the weather and Mother Nature to work her magic and encourage growth. It's a resting time for crops, everything waiting for the year to turn. At the moment, the crops are looking wet, and we would benefit from a cold blast,, killing the mildew and mould that like these wet and mild conditions like these.
Last year’s late spring meant we went into the winter with less silage to feed the animals than we ideally wanted. This year we’ve prepared ourselves for a similar weather pattern and bought in additional stock, so we’ll have plenty to see us through. It can be a hard balance to keep, but it’s better to have too much than not enough.
In the wet weather the cows have been up to their hocks in mud, but seem contented enough, growing great shaggy coats, looking like hairy mountain cows. They gaze at us, too busy with negotiating the next beet plant to pay too much attention.
Our current focus is on the grass and asking ourselves if we’ll be able to turn the milking cows out early. Will the ground be dry enough or will hard frosts come and stop the grass from growing? We watch the forecasts, the fields and the silage clamp with eager anticipation.
We always aim to put the new born calves onto grass as soon as they are drinking healthy amounts of milk, so that they remain hardy and grow into strong new members of the herd. It’s an exciting time year, waiting for spring to burst onto the horizon.