Trill Livestock in the Summer

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

I know I’m writing in the summer, but I’m going to use the opportunity as therapy about the trauma of the recent past. What a relief that the nightmare winter of 2017-18 is now firmly behind us. I think I and many other farmers would not be farming for long if we had too many winters like that in succession.

Our problems started last summer when a young bull we had purchased ran out of steam in the hot weather at the end of June. We purchased a second bull at short notice, “Plan B” we could call him, who turned out to be infertile, which meant we finally borrowed a 3rd bull “Plan C”!

This has meant that after our usual calving period in late March and early April (Plan A’s progeny), we have had to wait until now for Plan C’s progeny as I write at the beginning of June. Going from a very tight calving pattern to a very long one in the course of one season is somewhat frustrating.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the winter’s problems. After failing a TB test in January, two of our cows were taken away and slaughtered by Defra, including our favourite cow, Snowy. The TB also meant that we couldn’t move 45 yearling cattle from Trill to Turnworth Down for their summer grazing in March, leaving Trill heavily overstocked with cattle and running out of silage.

Next came the “Beast from the East” which froze the water supply, meaning that all our cattle had to be turned out to drink from the streams. The heavy clay soils of Trill Farm do not take well to cattle in the winter, and it was wetter than ever this year. I think all these problems have made it probably the worst winter we have witnessed, with some fields still looking muddy and sorry for themselves in March and into April.

As I write, it is green again and dry - I hate to complain, but too dry! There is still a fair bit of rolling and harrowing to do to repair the winter’s damage to some fields, tricky when the ground is baked hard like a rock, as it is now. So it is not all plain sailing and bucolic bliss for once, but as it is often said, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

Turning to more positive thoughts, we are now heading towards the summer solstice when the grassland flowers are at their best. Trill has a mixture of old pastures and more recently planted grasslands. In the best of these we can find a range of grassland herbs and flowers including common spotted orchid, birds foot trefoil (sometimes known as eggs and bacon for its appropriate full-english colours), black knapweed, the tall and recognisable oxeye daisy, black medick, pignut and the wonderfully named corky-fruited water dropwort to name but a few.

Even in our more recently planted pastures, you will find a mix of red and white clovers, plantain and chicory, so budding naturalists should keep their eyes peeled for these and the many invertebrates that enjoy them.

Jake runs his cattle and sheep at Trill to manage and support our wildflower meadows. Through his business, Wessex Conservation Grazing, he also keeps herds on National Trust land. Mariel and Romy are very grateful for his and Neil’s support caring for our small flock of Gotland sheep too!

Categories