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G.M.Hunter Ltd.

Tilbrook Grange

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Winner of

Devon Cattle Breeders Herd Competition 2016


January 2018

By jameshunter1, Feb 23 2018 06:13PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

The weather, again, has had an impact on the farm. It has been wet. December & January rainfall is 48mm above the average. Most of the fields are draining well. There are other parts where water is standing & not getting into the drains & ditches. Little can be done to rectify this until after harvest when we shall alleviate the compaction. Some of the problem areas are down to the wet last July. The damage was done at harvest when we harmed the soil structure. We baled & carted a lot less straw than normal, but we need a lot for cattle winter bedding and feeding. The knock on effect is that a lot of other farmers also chopped more straw than usual and now there is a shortage. Consequently the supply & demand has seen a doubling of barley straw price from last year, from £50 to £100 per tonne. But there is not much to trade.

18th January we had the strongest wind for a long time. A maximum 74 mph measured at the turbine. Both turbines shut down, not just to protect the mechanism but also the grid voltage was fluctuating too much for us to safely supply power. We also suffered some damage. (picture attached) Last year we had wood stolen but this time I don’t think anybody will try to get it out of the pond!

The humid air has also caused respiratory problems with some of the cattle. Insufficient good air flow in the buildings caused a few cases of pneumonia. Luckily Martyn soon spotted it, animal temperatures confirmed the problem and fortunately antibiotics soon cleared the infection. All are well again now; no long term damage was done.

A benefit from the wet is that blackgrass is coming through in the fields destined for spring barley. The fields were ploughed in the autumn & then levelled off. Once the blackgrass is large enough & just before drilling, it shall be sprayed off. Hopefully then the barley will be able to smother any late emerging plants. We have been successful with this approach in the past. Traditionally the ground would have been cultivated numerous times to pluck out the seedlings and drilled much later. The modern, scientific approach is much better for the environment. We must now be patient to hopefully get the timing right.

There is Charlock (goose grass) in some of the rape fields. This is detrimental if not eradicated. It is a difficult weed to kill in the rape as it is a very similar species. Conditions last week allowed us to travel with the sprayer and apply a chemical called Fox. Once in the plants the success of killing the weed is dependent on sharp frosts. Currently looking good!

I have been asked to comment on field identification. It is quite simple, all fields have names. Some go back hundreds of years. A lot are simple to recall where the field is. For example the left of the concrete path is “Manor Field” to the right “Football field.” I can guess the village played football there. “Bill’s Field” near Sheppards Holt is where an old chap called Bill lived. He always collected fallen wood & piled it in his garden. There is also “Station Field” next to “Railways.” Some have two or more names as hedges were removed post war to increase productivity. The big field on the hill is now called “80 Acre” The total of amalgamating “Highway and Sixyards.” Highway is beside the bridleway and the spinney at the top was quite narrow.

Finally, Veganuary did just enter my vocabulary but doesn’t call for any comment!

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