Lambs, rams and hedging our bets

PUBLISHED: 11:31 21 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:31 20 February 2013

Lambs, rams and hedging our bets

Lambs, rams and hedging our bets

What is in the stars for springtime on the farm?

Lambs, rams and hedging our bets

What is in the stars for springtime on the farm?

Apart from the Plough, Orion is the most recognisable constellation in the northern sky. The name Orion comes from Greek mythology and with its distinctive three star belt many people are able to find it in the night sky. While it is visible all winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it is not until the turn of the year that it is visible in the early evening. Rising in the east, it sits above my house as I walk home from the lambing shed.
We are due to start lambing in March, but will have a few in February, thanks to my neighbours errant ram. All our ewes have now been shorn, the first time we have tried this in the winter. It is supposed to boost lamb birth weight and of course, without their wool, we will be able to fit more sheep in our shed. They will now have two months before they are put back outside with their lambs by which time they should grow enough wool to keep warm.

With the social month of December well and truly behind us, we use the time before lambing to catch up with hedging and fencing. Fencing is a necessary part of livestock farming, as any hope of managing grassland
goes out of the window if stock is free to wander.

Laying a hedge is the best way to rejuvenate an old hedge. It encourages new growth in the hedge and helps with the overall structure and strength. A well-laid hedge does remove the need for a fence, but by fencing the stock away, any new growth is given the best chance to take hold and thicken the newly laid hedge. This in turn provides habitat for many small birds and here at Risbury Court the yellowhammer is a target bird. This winter I am laying a hedge next to a wild birdseed strip, this should provide habitat and food for this and other birds.

The annual Young Farmers hedging match takes place at the start of February near Bromyard. Every year we try to find a hedge on the side of a well-travelled road, so that as many people as possible can see the hard work of our members. The match is hotly contested by all clubs, but especially the local rivals Craswall and Longtown. No doubt this year will be no different and it is great to see so many young people taking part in this ancient craft.

The recent Oxford Farming Conference went very well. I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in the debate, which centred on the rising global population and food security. It is an interesting and thought-provoking topic, prefaced in the day at the conference by Professor Aubrey Manning, the well-known zoologist and broadcaster. As a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, he takes this difficult issue very seriously, and spoke for the need to have a smaller global population. It is a frightening issue, whatever your viewpoint, and one which will become more relevant as the world population continues to grow.

Richard Thomas farms with his father at Risbury Court in Herefordshire and is a past county chairman of Herefordshire Young Farmers Clubs and a past West Midlands Area YFC chairman.
He is the fifth generation of his family to work on the same farm and the fourth generation to breed Hereford cattle.

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