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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Farmers' diary: Rain, lambs and skylarks

Despite the drama of foot-and-mouth, life on the farm continues, writes Warwickshire farmer Adam Quinney in his regular diary for BBC News Online.

Rain, rain and more rain is the order of the day at Reins Farm this week. Of all the years to have a wet spring it would have to be this year when we have far more stock on the farm than we planned.

The hoggets (young sheep) that should have gone for slaughter are now outside as we are running very short of feed.

This will have long-term implications for us as they are in the fields that should be empty of stock to allow us to cut a bumper crop of grass in June for next winter's feed.

Over the years we have developed an extensive management system that relies on grass for grazing and providing winter fodder. This system collapses if stock numbers reach a high density leading to damaged grass plants and lower production.

Normally at this time of year if we thought that we might be running short of grass over the summer we would rent some extra grass land.

Frustration

Adam Quinney's farm
Muddy fields: Running out of feed
Unfortunately with the ban on all movements of stock on farms close to confirmed out breaks of foot-and-mouth we will not be able to do this putting more pressure on our grass land.

As yet we have not heard from the Intervention Board when the animals that we have applied for under the welfare scheme will go for slaughter.

After many phone calls they cannot confirm that they have received my vet's fax. On average it takes over an hour to get through to the IB, which leads to more frustration and anger.

The main flock of ewes have now started to lamb, although the lambs are slightly smaller than normal, no doubt due to the poor weather this Spring taking a toll on the ewes body condition.

Small lambs


One of the joys of lambing outside is the skylarks

The lambs though a bit small are full of beans and seem to be mothering up well to the ewes.

It some ways it is good that the lambs are a bit smaller as small lambs need less milk and give the ewes an easier time at lambing. As the spring gets going hopefully the grass will improve and the ewes' body condition will improve along with their milk supplies. It is vital that the lamb gets a good supply of milk in its first few weeks.

If the lamb is small after six or eight weeks it will be a small lamb when autumn comes and then a small light lamb at 10 months of age when we sell it next February or March.

Mother nature

One of the joys of lambing outside is the skylarks. It's not only the wonderful song that they sing but also how the hover high up in the sky, fold their wings, then drop like a stone for 30 or 40ft, a quick flutter of wing and they are hovering and singing again.

We also have buzzards this time of year soaring over the farm. When I was a child, buzzards were never seen over Warwickshire. Now they are quite a common sight.

Last year we counted eight birds soaring over the farm. One took to sitting on top of the straw stack and when we removed the bales with the tractor a shower of bits of rabbit landed on the windscreen!

One thing is certain, even with foot-and-mouth restrictions mother nature's watch keeps ticking, so I had better leave the warm dry office and get back out to the sheep in their muddy fields.


Previous diaries from Adam Quinney:

  • 4 April: Tough decisions

  • 29 March: An Anxious wait

  • 22 March: Staring ruin in the face

  • 12 March: A farmer's fears

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