Winter in 2017/18 was really hard work. It started raining in July just as the school holidays started and did not stop until the middle of April. At times it was so wet I could not drive the quad bike out across the ground to feed the sheep as it would just get stuck. Walking the ground was almost impossible. The cattle were brought into their winter shed a month earlier than normal and as a consequence I had to buy in extra feed and bedding both of which became very expensive as farmers across the country struggled to get the straw off the ground.
I like to muck the sheds out several times during the winter and store the manure in field heaps ready to spread on the land in spring, but this became impossible as we could not drive on the fields. it means that muck builds up in the sheds or out in the open on the concrete yards creating pollution issues if not managed very carefully. I was getting really down about this as one of our farm goals is to farm as sensitively as possible and polluting the environment or damaging the soils on the farm is something I really want to avoid. Although our operation is comparatively small compared with many farms we are well informed about pollution and soil management so with this in mind I contacted Devon Wildlife Trust who are looking at ways to help reduce agricultural pollution in the River Yoe catchment. Since then and in conjunction with the National Trust and DWT an application to roof our loafing yard has been made and hopefully if this is successful it will help with winter runoff and allow us to feed some of the stock under covered shelter.
Just as spring and lambing approached we had the first snow of the year and it really did snow. Dani and I sat in the Kitchen watching a full on blizzard set in. All the water and pipes in the stock sheds froze and so we had to bucket water to the cattle until we could set up a hose from the house out to the cattle sheds needless to say at first we didn't have a hose long enough and we couldn't get out of the road to go and buy one. I can't remember how many buckets of water we filled each day but 30 cattle and 200 sheep drink a lot!!
The sheep were due to lamb at any moment and I was starting to panic about where we would put everyone.
In the end I decided that the cattle would have to come out of their sheds and be fed outside on the fields. Ironically during the snow you can get tractors out onto the ground to deliver large silage bales without damaging it to much. The sheep then came in or at least had access to the barns to get out of the worst of the weather. Some sheep were still out at Arlington and I did manage to get a big bale of silage to them just before the snow came. I had to walk the 2 miles to go and see them each day up to my knees in snow. It was amazing, but incredibly tiring.
The first snow almost disappeared and there were a few really warm days but as the old saying goes the snow was just lying about waiting for some more and sure enough we had another dose just as the first lamb was born.