Curlew Country works closely with farming partners and is delighted that young farmer Rhian, who works with her dad and partner on the family farm, has found time to do a guest blog for us. We hope this will be just the first.
Looking Back on Last Year
Sitting in the beautiful March sunshine, last winter is still a painful, not too distant memory. Winter 17/18 lasted a fair 6 months, consisting of weeks on end of blizzards, snow storms, torrential rain, plummeting temperatures and endless bleak, dark days. For the farmers amongst us, it meant hours upon hours of defrosting water tanks, battling to keep roads open to reach our livestock and fighting depression just to carry out our daily tasks.
The lambing season was to spare no mercy either, I know I’m not alone when I quote that it was the worst lambing we had experienced. 2013 wasn’t far behind, but for us, it was like something out of a horror film. The poor ewes spent months in their soggy, frozen fleeces, to then have to face giving birth to their baby lambs. In many cases, lambs were being born onto a bed of cold mud or snow… even inside sheds! Many ewes were so knocked about that their colostrum was lacking quality, causing lambs to be set for a poor start in life too. Calving was not much better come late April/May too.
Anyway, as the sudden turn around from Winter to Summer occurred, we were delighted. The dry spells quickly turned our sodden fields into green grazing to raise the young stock. Lambs and calves had a beautiful turn around; they were playing! They were growing! Before we knew it, the land was too dry in many places, but we didn’t dare to complain!
So, as I said, looking back on last year from where I’m sat now, I would certainly rather be here! The winter has been blissful in comparison, the livestock have had life pretty easy. We have cut our ewe numbers to less than we’ve kept the last few years and due to this, along with the kind winter, they’ve had hardly any silage or hay to eat. The doubles have been corned 2lb per ewe per day for several weeks in the build–up to lambing and the singles hardly 1lb per ewe per day for the last few weeks to maintain weight and condition and build their protein ready to give birth and supply good colostrum for their lambs. It has been whilst feeding the ewes in the mornings that I have heard the curlews drive in. I heard and saw the first pair on the 27th February and the second pair come in 1st March and have seen two pairs of Peewits in the first week of March too, which was lovely.
We’ve also kept around 65 cows out during the winter on our dryer land; 25 with calves at foot. I absolutely love being able to winter cows out. We believe that the cows being kept out also helps provide habitat for ground nesting birds by building a wonderful environment of gently potched surface.
We can only hope that the glorious weather continues to grace us throughout the rest of the birthing season, and nesting season for the curlew! Time can only tell. I’m sure that as our newborn bleats and baby calf bawls, we will be listening to the curlews’ call also. Lambing always brings a chorus from the curlew, by the time lambing is over, the curlews are hopefully quieter, and the wait begins. I really look forward to seeing what the upcoming months hold.
I hope that those left, still to lamb ewes and calve cows have a successful season and hope that the curlews manage to nest safely and productively. Fingers crossed for both the baby lambs and the ground nesting birds that predators don’t destroy the new lives or eggs! I look forward to writing about how our lambing season went in a few weeks‘ time,