For many during lockdown, the challenges have been wide ranging and varied; not being able to see family members and friends; not being able to eat out or go for a drink in the summer sunshine; not being able to work or go on holiday, and so many more. I’m sure we have all had varying experiences over the last few months, and as is so often the case in life, ups have followed downs, and downs have followed ups.
At Barhouse Farm, we have faced our own challenges over the past few months, though in the variable and unpredictable world of farming, the problems and challenges we face, are by no means governed by the restrictions of the day, or by the presence of the global pandemic which has overrun our lives.
This post is not intended to be a whinge or a gripe about how hard done by we are. We feel very blessed to farm the land we do, in the conditions that we do and accept that things do not always go to plan - for us, that is all part of the fun!
Here are just a selection of issues we have faced in the past few months!
The Weather! After one of the wettest winters on record, we moved swiftly into one of the warmest and driest springs! Indeed May was officially recorded as the warmest ever, with the least amount of rain and highest ever number of sunlight hours! Waterlogged fields were all too quickly replaced by dry arid fields, not altogether ideal for growth of crops, nor for the replenishment of the grass our herd grazes so abundantly during the warmer months. Managing grazing patterns proves tricky when the cows clean us out of grass quicker than nature allows it to grow. Not being able to stow away grass silage for winter feed necessitates having to buy in feed from outside sources, at much greater expense! But hopefully things are now on the up, as recent weeks have seen some wetter conditions, and the grass is much happier for it!
The Cows, young and old! At Barhouse Farm, we have cows of all ages, breeds and sexes, and each one brings its own unique and individual character. We try and organise our calving system for the autumn and winter months, freeing us up for more field work when the weather is kinder. As such, we always have a steady stream of heifers coming through year on year to take their place in the Wholly herd! But until they get there, they have some growing up to do! Heifers, the name given to females who are yet to have their first calf (typically up to the age of 2) are notoriously lively, and when they hit the open fields, have a habit of doing whatever they please! No amount of fencing, hedgerows or gateways are enough to stop them when their natural curiosity intervenes. Animals not being where they should be is commonplace, and when they escape from their field, they scatter far and wide, and it proves an almighty job to round them up and return them to their rightful place! But it’s not just heifers who like to escape, the older ones, who should know better, are prone to mischief, too! One Sunday just after the start of lockdown, as we were just finishing our Sunday lunch, we were interrupted by the cry of ‘there’s a cow out in the top yard..!’ On go the wellies, we sprint up to the top yard to try and retrieve this escaped cow, only to find there’s 160 escaped cows. Hour and a half later, having returned them to their field, we assess the destruction they leave in their wake!
The machines! Things break, and why is it that when one breakage occurs, another follows not too long after? Tractors, Tele-handlers, Power-harrows, among others, have all decided to play us up in recent months, each time requiring inspection and repair. Away from the farm, we have had issues with our pasteurisers and the card machine on the milk vending machine! Our kit is not old or dodgy, but breakdowns of any kind are frustrating and time consuming!
As stated at the start, we are so privileged to farm in such a beautiful part of the country. And for all the ‘bad’ days we might have out on the farm, they are far outweighed by the number of good days! We are so thrilled to see so many new customers who have come to us for milk and gelato during the lockdown period, and for the interest so many of you take in the farming side, without which, we would not have any produce to sell!