December on the Farm

Richard Fonge writes of December farm activities such as housing the animals for the winter and hedge trimming and laying. See “rest of this entry”.

 

Steers comfortably housed for the winter

 

All the cattle in the fields around the Village have now been housed for the winter, or have gone for slaughter. All these animals are steers (male calves that have been castrated soon after birth). They are in general ready for slaughter for prime beef at between 24-30 months. Inside they will be fed on silage and cattle cake.

The sheep should now be safely in lamb. For the better management of them, scanning for pregnancy can take place now. By scanning they can be fed and housed accordingly. Whilst 75% or so will produce twins, the remainder will have a single or triplets. By knowing what each sheep is going to produce, it is possible to adopt a triplet onto a single, so making two pairs. Not fool proof but very advantageous when successful.

The other main activity in the fields is the trimming of the hedges mechanically, and the laying of a hedge by hand (see photos below). Both examples can be seen up the gated road. Hedge laying is an old traditional skill, where by cutting and laying you make a stock proof hedge and then repeat the process again in ten years or so. The work was always measured in chains. A chain being 22yards, as is the length of a cricket pitch. By trimming annually the maintenance costs are far less and you are left with a neat compact hedge. The one downside is that potential young saplings are not recognised. Our present hedgerow trees (mostly Ash) are there today because the hedgelayer at the time left the young saplings to mature. Hedgerows are great wildlife corridors, connecting with the woods and in our parish the railway line. They are a unique feature of the English landscape thanks to the enclosure acts of the eighteenth century.

Wishing you all A Merry Christmas.

Richard Fonge.

 

Tom Hirst of Edgcote follows a family tradition of hedging in the winter and dry stone walling in the summer:

 

The traditional billhook used by his forefathers is replaced with a chain saw……

 

….small trees unsuitable for laying are felled…..

 

….and the stumps cut off at ground level.

 

…..carefully selected saplings are cut and laid in such a way as to preserve enough bark for the sap to continue to nourish the living hedge.

 

The finished hedge with stakes driven in at intervals and small saplings twisted and threaded to keep everything in place.

November on the Farm

October on the Farm

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