May your herds increase

Spring was even busier than usual with lots of awful paperwork to sort out linked to CAP reform. We took on more land to make sure it was registered, then, after 5 deaths and few calves (owing to Crunchie’s incapacity) bought more cattle to cope with the excess grass. Lily did her best to make up for a low calving rate with a pair of twins, named Lemon and Lime in honour of our fruit-importing landlords (plentiful supplies of the biggest mangos, avocados and bananas you've ever seen). Unfortunately the heifer, Lemon, is a freemartin, and thus infertile. We must be mad expanding when all around us livestock farmers are giving up because of increasing bureaucracy and poor returns. We hope for better times for traditional cattle ahead as the new Environmental Stewardship schemes come in and their value for conservation grazing is more widely recognised. The EU has just approved payments for traditional cattle grazing under ES, so this should increase demand for our kind of stock. Meanwhile our beef production will increase significantly next year and we’re contemplating expanding into farmers’ markets. Maybe one day we’ll break even.... At least the results of all our and the cattle’s hard work have been rewarding, with several sites improving dramatically in botanical diversity and attractiveness to birds. We heard the only drumming snipe in the Avon Valley at 5 am on May Day on the farm next door to one of our sites—so we hope to have them and other waders breeding again soon.

The Wild West comes to Fordingbridge

The Invasion Repelled Another of those early morning calls... We were just looking forward to fetching 900 bales of hay off the field, when a neighbour’s herd of 40-odd cattle forded the river and invaded our heifer field (just to add to the confusion they included several British Whites). A happy morning was spent sorting them all out and chasing the invaders back across the river, then dragging a bogged older cow (the one with the white face in the picture) out of the mud and returning her to the other side. The owners kindly repaid our trouble by helping get several hundred hay bales in. All well in the end—but it seems their Limousin bull had been reconnoitring on his own account, and we think we may get one or two extra-spotty calves next year...

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