No worries for crop just yet

Wiltshire Times: A view across the farm, with a field of oilseed rape in the foreground A view across the farm, with a field of oilseed rape in the foreground

The sun has been shining today, after a night of high winds and an early morning frost.

I have just arrived home following a day at Roves Farm and the clouds have rolled in, followed by some more rain. It is not very much like the Christmas scene we all associate with this time of year.

Here on Manor Farm, Ruth has just left for a Christmas holiday in the Philippines, where she has gone to see her brother and his family.

This means that for the next two weeks Richard and Ian will be doing all the milking, as the cows have to be milked twice a day.

Morning milking starts at 5am, so Richard sets the alarm for 4.30am, to make sure that everything is in place so that milking can start on time. We have recently employed a local farmer’s son called Matt, who works here from Monday to Thursday. David, our student, works on the remaining three days of the week. While Ruth is away the additional labour force will make Richard and Ian’s workload easier to manage, enabling them to spend at least some time with family and friends over the Christmas period.

During the week we have had a visit from David, our nutritionist, just to check all the cattle rations and to make sure we have all the additional food supplements we shall need. Another visit was from our cattle breeding specialist, who came to do conformation scores for the last group of heifers and third calvers, so the right bulls can be selected when they are ready to be put in-calf.

Then Rex, our agronomist, called in to tell us how the autumn planted crops were looking. Richard and Ian were not sure if the recently sown wheat was going to make a crop, but were told that it looked fine at the moment.

The barley in one particular field has a problem with blackgrass, which was present in the oilseed rape crop grown previously. There was also evidence of slugs, even though the slug population has been low. Our other fields of winter barley are looking well, so we hope that conditions for further growth of the crop remain favourable. On the farm we have two fields of oilseed rape planted by a neighbouring farmer. One of these looks very clean, with no weeds or fungal diseases, but the other field was planted following winter barley. This barley was made into wholecrop silage as it was so infested with blackgrass, after which the decision was made to plant the field with rape so the blackgrass could be controlled with a herbicide.

This meant that the crop in this field could not be sprayed with a fungicide at the same time, so the rape is now showing signs of Phoma, Light Leaf Spot and Alternaria. Alternaria shows up as small dark leaf spots and is very common on all brassica seed crops, rape and stubble turnips. Fortunately there is now no sign of blackgrass!

On Stowell Farm the family have been bringing all the ewes from pasture on Bowood and Corsham Park, back into the prepared barns where they will spend the winter ,before giving birth to their lambs in March.

The 36 rams that have been with the 2,070 ewes for the past 10 weeks have now been taken out and will be kept together away from the flock. Among these rams were seven new pedigree Llyens bought earlier in the year. Just over 200 ewes are still out – the 100 that were artificially inseminated and a small flock of older sheep. The ewes now under cover are being fed a diet of maize silage, grass silage and minerals, whilst the small flock outside have plenty of grass. We still have some ewe lambs in fields on our farm and the wethers (castrated ram lambs) are on tack elsewhere.

Now it just remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year from all of us on Manor, Stowell and Chuggaton Farms.

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