Complaining about the weather is standard practice for most of us and although I’ve tried to avoid the subject when writing these articles, the recent cold conditions are making it difficult to look past.
April was cold from start to finish and the relentless frosts, which were often well below zero, made checking lambing ewes outside first thing in the morning a daunting prospect.
May is always the light at the end of the tunnel, indeed in my March article I suggested that spring sometimes doesn’t reach us until then.
Little did I know that would be wildly optimistic as the first week of May would easily go down as being as bad as January, with snow every day. Things were bleak, but now that we’re told to expect an improvement to slightly below average temperatures going forward it feels like we’re being spoiled.
Looking back it’s hard to see how the vast majority of lambs handled it so well and although it has been a bumpy road, we now find ourselves with too many twins and little prospect of getting the cattle out onto good grass.
Miracles do often happen in the second half of May when it comes to grass growth and we could do with one before the end of the silage stack forces them out.
With so much young livestock in the fields and cattle being turned out to pastures, many will be worried about the end of lockdown restrictions and the apparent surge in public dog ownership over the last year.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) recently conducted a survey of farmers who had reported dog attacks in the last year, and over two thirds of respondents reported an increase of sheep worrying with an average of seven sheep worried.
This coincides with claims that many dogs, which have been acquired to help pass the boredom of lockdown, are now simply unwanted and many untrained. It has always been a problem but it’s easy to see things getting worse given current conditions.
Farmers Guardian’s Take the Lead and NSA’s #leadon campaigns are doing their bit to raise awareness, but changing attitudes will require help from the top down.
We are told that as part of the new Sustainable Farming Initiative we will be encouraged to make the countryside more accessible to the general public.
It therefore seems to me that at every opportunity we need to bring the conversation back to what, in return, Defra is willing to do to remind the general public of their responsibilities as dog owners and visitors to what is a working environment.