It’s the time of year when we are busy selling this year’s crop of lambs. They are born in April, and will be ready to go to the butcher when they reach about 42kg in weight. The best of them will hit this weight in July, the majority will in September and October, and all but a few runts should have got there before Christmas in a good year.

You may have heard in the news that this has not been a good year for farmers... We galloped from an extended winter with the “beast from the east” in March, to a drought by May with the hottest and driest weather recorded in my lifetime this summer. To top this we have been shut down with TB since January which caused major problems with us not being able to move our yearling cattle to their summer grazing.

In order to minimise the problems of overstocking that would have resulted at Trill, I took the decision to move most of the ewes (about 180) to another piece of land that I rent at Turnworth in Dorset. They lambed here and did remarkably well during lambing, however I did not plan for the plague of ticks they would encounter at Turnworth, which hit them before the lambs were strong enough to be gathered and treated for the problem. By the time the lambs were 3 weeks old and I was able to round them up without doing more harm than good, the damage had been done, with many of the youngsters suffering from “tick fever”, an infection of the joints that is spread by ticks. Although most of the lambs survived and now look well, they are certainly not as well grown as they should be and it is likely that a good proportion of the lambs will not make the grade before Christmas and will have to be sold in the spring as “hoggets”.

Back to the cattle and during the winter we took the very difficult decision to stop keeping cattle at Trill; we are still not clear of the TB problem (with 4 reactors at the last TB test) which is making our options for selling them very limited. It is likely that a large proportion of the herd will now be sold straight to the abattoir, although we are still hopeful that we will manage to get our favourite cows through a TB test successfully in order that they may go on to live out their days on another farm. When farming is going well it’s the best job in the world, but to be honest it’s been the most challenging year I have had to deal with so far in my career. However, we still look to 2019 with enthusiasm, determined to get things back on track.

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!