Well, the back end of the year is definitely here and it is cold and wet. We are currently trying to finish off tailing and dipping the ewes, but the weather here is playing havoc with our plans by bringing what must be the wettest stretch we have seen since February.
It all helps my decision-making process as the temptation is to get tup lambs out with ewes early, but they are almost definitely better off going out when both the weather improves and when there is plenty of ewes coming into season.
There is nothing worse than looking at a cold Leicester tup lamb sheltering behind the wall with no girls to keep it company.
We turned our cows in on October 13 in a bid to conserve grass for the ewes at tupping, something we always try to do. They were looking miserable as we drove past the field, so we opened the gate and they obliged by walking home.
It sometimes feels early to house them in October but there has barely been a day since then when they would have been better off outside. Such is life at Garrigill.
Sales season is pretty much over, with the last of the Swaledale tup sales at Hawes this week and, overall, there has been a great demand for good breeding stock. No doubt this is in part due to the firm prices we have all been getting for our finished lambs, but also potentially because of relatively low numbers of hill breeding stock on the market.
The continuation of hill de-stocking through stewardship schemes drives the cycle of decline in production and while solid prices buoy confidence, fundamentally, sheep farming businesses are being forced into a position where they are questioning their own viability.
Nowhere are these problems more stark than on commons where many have struggled with the bureaucratic nature of stewardship and the strict criteria which makes it impossible for every member of a common to either agree on, or even to live with.
The dreaded stewardship design principles of ’income foregone’, whereby we are paid not to farm, need to be replaced with a system which rewards the genuine public goods that sheep farming brings.
And while nobody is going to endorse the overly high stocking levels of decades gone-by, it is clear that much of what the tax-paying general public desires to see when they visit the countryside is provided by active sheep farming.
Successive rounds of de-stocking hint at an acceptance among some who design our agri-policies that a level of ’highland clearance’ of both livestock and people is necessary to achieve their aims of rewilding by stealth.
It then begs the question about what is the aim of stewardship, or Environmental Land Management in future, is it conservation of heritage and biodiverse habitats or large-scale land use change?
The award of UNESCO world heritage site status for the Lake District places a huge value on the tight bond between farmer and landscape and therefore supports the former, all the while illustrating why the rewilding lobby have got it all wrong.