It has suddenly become very Autumnal here at Black Horse Farm. August and most of September has been very dry and our grassland was looking a little parched. We have been hoping for a few rainy days to give our pastures one last growth spurt before winter sets in. The rain that arrived this week has therefore been useful – although has meant that we have had to dodge the showers whilst checking the livestock! As the days become shorter, we have to start planning for another farming year. Our hay, straw and silage stocks have been replenished ready for when we have to house our cattle (during the wettest and therefore muddiest months).
All of our sheep remain outside in the winter on drier fields and will be given hay when the grass has stopped growing. The ewes will be sorted into different groups in the coming weeks ready for mating, whilst the older lambs will be introduced to their winter cover crops on some nearby arable land. We grow cover crops as they provide an excellent source of tasty and nutritious feed for the sheep in the winter months when grass is in short supply – they are essentially a ‘salad bowl’ of various radishes, turnips, vetches and cereal leaves. The benefits of growing these crops are not only appreciated by the sheep though. A huge amount of organic matter is returned to the earth, increasing the diversity, fertility and carbon capacity of the soil and so contributing to a more sustainable way of farming.