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Tony Shepherd and John Henderson: Share farming talk a success and spending some quality time with the kids

John and I were invited to Settle Farmers’ Club the other evening to talk about sharefarming (actually, for once, he did the work and I helped out at questions).

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The invitation came way back in the autumn, but turned out to be very timely in view of the recent wave of interest. The club has been going for about 30 years and is well supported. John remembers speaking there in its earlier days and noticed a few differences.

 

While he was delighted to see some familiar faces of his vintage, the average age was definitely younger. But more obvious is in the old days most of those present would have been milking, with some sheep as lawnmowers, and only a few with some beef cattle. Now it is the minority who have dairy herds. If only it were possible it would be interesting to compare the total litres produced now and then.

 

As a result the conversation ranged much more widely and was all the better for it, there was normal reference to customers and markets, previously unheard of, and the questions were good and searching, all of which made for a very enjoyable evening.

Good quality haylage

We have held off feeding concentrates to the sheep until a month before lambing, but made sure they had access to good quality haylage. With the poor weather conditions feeding expensive sheep rolls on the ground outside was not cost-effective.

 

They have all had a pre-lambing fluke and worm drench, as well as the clostridial vaccine booster and most seemed to have held their body condition. The last group to lamb were taken to some ground mid-January which had not been grazed for a couple of months. What a difference some space and relatively clean grazing makes, with the ewes not taking any of the haylage offered but still thriving.

 

Our big cattle are coming to flesh nicely; a packet of 14 went to the abattoir early February, with the difference between the best and worst being 95kg in weight and £371/head in price. Another 28 have just gone which has freed up space to bring the smaller cattle back from away wintering.

 

The kids and I are going to Ellend Road football ground on Saturday to watch Leeds United play and, like all farmers, there is always plenty of work to be done, but what value to put on a few hours spent with the kids - priceless.

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