Richard Thomas - Images of March

PUBLISHED: 12:06 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:53 20 February 2013

Richard Thomas, past county chairman of Herefordshire Young Farmers' Clubs and a past West Midlands area YFC chairman, farms with his father at Risbury Court in Herefordshire

The month of March conjures many images, lambing, flowers, springtime and the run into summer that is soon to follow. Hopefully, March will be kind to us this year; a bright, dry month makes lambing much more fun.

On the subject of sunlight we have done some fairly serious pruning in the garden this winter. The trees that line the bank to the south of the house have grown up over many years and block out a lot of light. The shelter provided by the willow and sycamore we have pruned was welcome, but they had become too big. It is amazing how much more open the garden
feels already.

We have started lambing in earnest, which is the best way. It is better to have the bulk of lambs in the first two weeks, rather than have it drag on for the whole of the month. However, I suspect we will have a few that hold out until April, meaning more late nights for dad and early mornings for me. Most of the first ewes and lambs are turned out into the orchards, which provide plenty of shelter in the event of bad weather. Once the lambs are a couple of days old and they are getting plenty of milk, they are pretty hardy and strong enough to manage outside. The cold doesnt normally bother them, but sustained rain can be too much. Thats the thing about farming, you can make all the plans in the world, but you cant control the weather.

We have finished pruning our apple trees, an annual task that is necessary in a productive orchard and it provides some welcome firewood. We have also planted some new trees in gaps in our oldest orchard. In order to preserve the varieties we have on the farm, we try and replant with the same varieties planted on the original Bulmers planting record, dating back to the 1930s. Along with replanting and laying our old hedgerows, this is done in line with our stewardship agreement. Hopefully by the end of the decade this work will have a positive impact on the farm and the wildlife that
lives here.

Thankfully, the recent cold, dry spell has allowed me to spread some well-rotted farmyard manure on the grassland as well as our spring barley ground. It is a very valuable by-product of livestock farming and needs to be used to maximise the benefits. Spreading manure in the late winter or early spring means that the nutrients are more likely to be utilised, reducing the risk of leaching and diffuse pollution. With the price of ammonium nitrate fertiliser so high, we must make the most of our farmyard manure as well as the poultry litter we buy every year. I am not sure where the recent Government report on global food security puts a typical Herefordshire mixed farm. The report says that the food production system needs to be radically changed. More food, produced in a sustainable way. Im sure it will be a challenge, but I think the industry will rise to it.

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