Here in Craven Arms, the ‘Beast from the East’ was particularly challenging last year. In comparison, we’ve had a very healthy spring this year - everything was just so much easier. The lambs were healthier; the weather was better, so they went straight out to the pastures and really started to improve from the word go.
We are making some changes to our herd health plan this summer. Last year we castrated our bull calves with rubber rings when they were born. This year we are not doing it - I wasn’t happy last year. I felt like it held them back when they should be up having that very important colostrum in the first few days of life and ultimately held back growth rates.
However, waiting until housing isn’t ideal either. After speaking to our vet at Marches, we’re now going to castrate when we have our annual TB test, which falls in August so the calves will be about five months old. This way, we’re not castrating, weaning and housing all at the same time and causing the animals stress. By castrating in August, they can go back onto the pasture with their mothers, get over that and a couple of months later, we’ll wean and house. We’re aware this approach carries other risks, such as fly strike, but we are vigilant and work with our vets to stay on top of it.
Elsewhere on the farm, we’ve just purchased a new loader, which is on its way. I’m looking forward to that, it’s always exciting to have a new bit of kit in the shed.
I think the biggest challenge now, not just for us, but for the whole of agriculture is just the toxic political situation. Nobody seems to know where they’re going or what they’re doing. Agriculture is a superb industry - we just need to know the direction we’re facing, and then we can produce what we need to. We just need clarity from the top first.