News From The Farmyard – January 2013

January 2, 2013



Author: Angela Sargen

Happy new year to everyone and farewell to the old year. In most farmers’ views, one of the most challenging years of late, possibly in living memory.


From the dry start, through the declaration of a drought (we hadn’t had enough rain over the previous few years), then the weather broke and we had a wet end to Spring and into Summer. Then on it was, grab the sun whilst you could and the crops grew and the rain continued to fall, well into harvesting time, putting that further back for most. The quality of the crops were generally poorer than usual and it continued enough to delay planting too.


Flooding was a feature no-one wanted to see, not only fields and flood plains were affected. Of course, some areas of the country experienced different weather patterns- the SouthWest hit particularly badly, whereas others got off a little more lightly.


We wait with trepidation to see what condition the Autumn planted crops will be in during the next few months, but it is thanks to research and modern fungicides/ technology that as much was grown and combined, even if final totals were down.


The weather has affected the small animals and flowers too. Our Bees produced much less honey and were being fed with sugar solution to help them survive. However, they are quite strong now, the queen beginning to lay eggs to increase numbers.The Hives will be treated for the Varroa mite this month, if it’s not too cold. The mite sucks the ‘blood’ from the bee and leaves wounds which are open to further infections, especially as the bee is weakened. It can also be sealed into the brood cells and feed on the bee larvae inside, adding to the stresses the Hive has to endure and can contribute to colony collapse. It can live on other insect hosts (although it doesn’t breed on them) and this is another way it can spread.


We are starting our lambing season in the next days and look forward to the new lives appearing. A lot of work, but satisfying, especially once the lambs are out in the fields. Our pregnant ewes are being fed corn rations to make sure they have enough energy to grow the lambs and, hopefully, to milk well afterwards.


We still have some steers (bullocks) to sell and with the all the cattle being inside, it makes for a busy time. We will also have a couple of new calves this month and care will have to be taken with handling, to avoid confrontations with protective mothers!


Our pasture land should be recovering from the wet weather  and the ridge and furrow has been busy draining the water off. We were intrigued to find out we have a shrunken medieval village on one edge. There are earthworks which date back to early Saxon times (9th century) and also evidence of Norman homesteads, possibly being deserted around the time of the Great Plague (13th century) and what would have been arable strips, reverting to pasture, especially with the growth of the wool industry.


Not far away, at the junction of Willowpit lane and Ashe lane, is what is known as the ‘buttercross’. The remains of a Saxon cross where goods, i.e. butter, were left for the local inhabitants during the plague, so interaction and, therefore, the possible spread of disease, could be avoided. And I just thought it was a rough field!


During the last year the numbers of families the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution supports in Derbyshire has risen from 11 to nearly 30, no doubt partly a result of the pressures from the Bovine TB spread, the Dairy industry price crisis, the drastic hike in feed prices (especially for pig and poultry units) and the effects of the weather. I would ask all farmers to give generously if they can, both in time and money to make this year a happier year  for those families.


And can I wish you all a very Happy New Year and let us hope the sun shines on us all a little more than last year.

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