December on the Farm (2019)

Footpath along the southernmost Parish Boundary near Stuchbury

Richard Fonge writes:

December has continued the wet weather of the past two months, bringing the land to saturation point. This continual wet weather has resulted in very little winter corn being planted in this parish and indeed nationwide. It is estimated that only 40% has been planted. As most wheat is Autumn planted and that is divided between feed and milling varieties, it points to a shortage of bread wheat next winter. So look out for bread price rises.

Up to the late 1970’s all bread making wheat was imported mainly from Canada, but then our agricultural botanists at the time produced wheat plant varieties that were commercial here. So today we are normally self sufficient in milling wheat.

The ewes have gone from the field off the Stuchbury footpath, and will return with their lambs in March. They have returned to the home farm at Greatworth where they will have been scanned for pregnancy. This is a vital management tool for the shepherd, as it tells him the numbers of lambs each ewe is carrying or if they are empty. He can then feed the ewe accordingly, and especially in the last six weeks of pregnancy. So the one having triplets is put on a higher plain of nutrition to the one having a single for example with those having twins (the majority) in the middle. By dividing them up accordingly the shepherd has much better control of their welfare during this critical period.

The field where the sheep graze is permanent pasture, but next year they will be grazing a section of the field above. The bottom third has now got a food plant of grass sown last August with the remainder of the field to be sown an arable crop in the spring.

So we end the year with a totally sodden countryside that does not bode well for a good harvest, which should be a concern for us all, as we rely on the land to feed us, something we take for granted perhaps more than we did.

A Happy New Year.

Richard Fonge

PS: By way of compensation for the awful walk along the footpath shown in the picture above, the last Sunday of 2019 ended in this wonderful sunset as seen from the Helmdon Road near Stuchbury:




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