Anyone with a lawn of some description will have noticed over the last month that the grass is growing, rapidly. As temperatures stay fairly firmly fixed in the mid 20's, we have turned our attention here at Buckmoorend Farm to harvesting our grass crops. Our best grass paddocks were shut up to livestock back in April, and they have been left to grow until recently. As temperatures rose, so too did the height of the grass, and at the first sign of good weather the mower was dusted off and brought out of storage, a familiar feeling to those with a lawnmower tucked away at the back of the garden shed (unless you're like my neighbour and you buy a new one every single year!)
First cut was the grass destined for baling, wrapping and storing as silage. The grass has to be cut at the right time, when it is packed full of natural sugars and at its most nutritious, just before the seed head appears and it starts expending all its stored nutrition into producing viable seeds. It needs to be cut then because, after being baled, it is wrapped, producing a naturally acidic condition which effectively 'pickles' the grass. It is imperative that air is kept out of the bale, and the result is a highly nutritious and palatable (to livestock, personally I hate the taste!) source of food for the winter months when grass is more sparse.
As days get longer, and the certainty of extended periods of dry weather increase, we get into hay making. Farming really gets stressful then! Grass is cut in the same way as silage, however the goal is to get it as dry as possible for storage. This generally involves looking for a spell of 4 - 5 days of good dry, breezy weather in which the grass can be mowed, spread and turned until its dry, baled for hay and then stored under cover, all before the next showers come. We are currently about half way through our hay making with some long days and late evenings behind us yet still with plenty to come.
Although a lot of time is shifted towards these activities, the livestock still need daily care and attention, not least the sheep. The increase in temperatures is met with disdain as they struggle with the burden of rearing their lambs and coping with the warmth. Removing their wool fleece is the least we can do for them.
As synthetic manmade fibres become readily available, wool prices are nothing like they used to be, and the cost of shearing the animals is barely covered by the wool they yield. However some people would regard it as a welfare issue should sheep not be shorn. With this in mind, we call in the professionals who spend half a day making an exceptionally tricky and difficult task look really quite easy.