November on the farm (2019)

Cattle cudding in the shade on a hot afternoon

Richard Fonge writes:

November has been so far very wet, following on from an abnormally wet October. The result of which is that a lot of land has not been planted. Most winter wheat varieties can be planted up to February, as long as the plant has a period of vernalisation. Vernalisation is when plants are subjected to some frosts, without which they would not flower and therefore produce fruit.

The countryside that surrounds us may not be spectacular, but it has a natural beauty and serenity of its own, which can be appreciated so much more as you walk the many footpaths that radiate from the village. The countryside is in the main formed by those that farm it, which in turn is defined by Government policy, and at present we are having to balance the need to produce high quality food and environmental concerns.

Here in Sulgrave we have wild flower meadows on the Barrow Hill footpath. Grass margins around arable fields, a disused railway and plenty of permanent pasture, especially on the walk down the bridle lane to Weston. All these features encourage wildlife diversity. Grants are given to landowners to take land out of production and put it into an environmental scheme, which will have its own rules and monitoring from inspectors.

This balance between the two elements is vital for our well being. Indeed one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat locally produced food, and reduce the food miles where it is at all possible.

An interesting fact. In 1946 there were 41 million dairy cows producing milk for 150 million plus Americans. Today 9 million cows do the same thing for 350 million and the ratio is much the same for the U.K.

Cattle with their four stomachs have the ability to re-gurgitate their food and chew it again, an action known as cudding, which produces gases proven to be detrimental to the environment to a greater or lesser degree, but the numbers above show who has done more damage, I would suggest.

There is nothing more pleasing and satisfying for a farmer, when looking round his animals, whether that be cattle or sheep, than to see them lying down cudding. Their contentment tells  all is well with their world.

Richard Fonge.

Click here to see an updated map from the “Village Walks” page on this website showing the footpaths and bridleways referred to in Richard’s article. A further click on the map will show a bigger version.



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