Down on the Farm with Colin Williamson - March

Another good month of winter, obviously every good day puts us nearer to spring.

Last Sunday really brought us back down to earth, with sleet and snow and rain and cold.

I was soaked to the skin three times by lunchtime, and just to add insult to it the scrapper tractor decided it wasn’t going to start, even towing it off didn’t work.

I should have lost my temper with it earlier and cracked it one with the hammer, (not recommended by most mechanics) and it started straight off, well it saved me scraping the cubicles out with the hand scraper on Sunday night.

We have had 10 or a dozen calves this month, mostly Friesians, after nearly a year and a half of putting most cows to the beef bull, and them doing very well.

We felt it was time to breed them pure again – the milking herd will be deprived without heifers coming in to replace some older cows and we always get some that either don’t want to hold in calf again or simply decide that they have done their bit and think burgers are a better option.

We have been looking at a state of the art new milking parlour as some of the metal work in ours is starting to disintegrate, but they are a hell of a price but milking in half the time has to be looked at.

We will have to weigh up all the options and then decide, but with my daughter having just lost her job, she and her son Charlie are coming back home to help me out, she could milk before so will soon get back in the swing of it.

We are at the moment half way through our routine tuberculosis test, where all the breeding females and bulls are tested.

Our own vets at Clevedale Veterinary Practice are doing the test.

They will be back on Friday to check each cow and the bull again for any reaction.

We haven’t had any reactors before so we should be ok, but if there is they will have to be taken out of the herd and slaughtered as soon as possible.

With the dry weather for the past month continuing, field work has now started with the chain arrows over the grassland which was spread with farm yard manure a month or so since, this will help to break down the bigger lumps of muck that come out of the spreader, also the harrows will level any mole hills that have appeared over winter.

The spikes in the harrows pull and tug at the tufts of old grass, which encourages the grass plant to tiller more.

After the harrows we will take the heavy roller over the fields to flatten everything down and hopefully send the small stones down into the earth so we don’t smash grass cutter blades on them when silaging.

But more so the roller does a similar job, to the harrows as well, which is to break the growing tip of the young grass, which encourages the plant to tiller out more, when the bag fertilizer is added later.

Everything in the farmyard is thinking it’s spring; the cockerels are fighting for supremacy and also which of them can start crowing the earliest on a morning.

Most of the geese are paired up now with the older geese having been laying for over a fortnight now, but they do only lay every other day.

I have four or five geese laying in two different nests, so I keep taking the eggs away.

At the moment I have set two incubators going with 30 odd eggs apiece. It’s certainly in the lap of the gods how many will turn out.

We have just filled up with a batch of pullets hopefully they should be laying a few by Easter but the price of these has jumped dramatically this last year because of feed prices and overheads.

So unfortunately for the first time for four or five years we are going to have to put the price up by 10p a dozen.

l Don’t miss Colin’s next Down on the Farm column – it will appear the third Friday of every month.