This month is quite a contrast to 12 months ago, when we had nothing but misery and mud. Although we have had our fair share of rain, things have always dried up soon after. The drains are keeping up and things are unusually firm under foot.
Rainfall levels have a habit of averaging out, and I cannot decide if there is pain to come or Mother Nature is squaring up with us after last winter?
February began with one of our hen sheds being emptied out and the clean-down beginning. The constant uncertainty around bird flu and its impact on our business is a worry.
We are in a restricted area and our birds are to be housed for the foreseeable future to help keep them safe from wild birds and potential exposure to disease.
Although indoors, the birds still live a ’free-range’ life with scratching areas, low stocking rates and toys to amuse them. The birds are only inside under ’doctor’s orders’ and I feel it would be extremely unfair to downgrade the eggs. I hope consumers and retailers are supportive and understanding.
All of our sheep which have been away on dairy grazing have now returned home. The girls are in good order and are happily tucking into the fresh grass which appeared while they were away.
All the ewes have been fluked and vaccinated for footrot, which is an expensive treatment but worthwhile. We did not vaccinate for footrot last year and we felt the difference, so it is back to the old routine.
The leanest 10 per cent of the flock have been housed and are happy to be out of their usual pecking order, enjoying an armchair ride towards lambing. Having the weakest sheep out of the main groups has meant everything looks good, even those lean girls inside.
All ewes are being fed ewe rolls through the snacker and I have been able to leave feeding later this year due to some good winter grazing and some pretty good silage. The savings high energy forage can bring certainly focuses the mind on getting the most from your grass.
The only downside to high-quality forage for us at the moment is the amount of weight our Salers cows are piling on. They are mainly eating from the top of the pit, but even that is too good for them as they gleefully demolish the next helping served up.
We have begun feeding the girls some wheat straw. If that fails to alter their condition, I will need to call in Slimming World for some help.