Craig and Ryan Baxter, Share Farming Partners on the Rural Estate

Our farming blogs often major on the weather, before going on to talk about what is changing and what there is to look forward to – after all we wouldn’t be considered real farmers if we didn’t reference the weather. It is however all with good reason, or rather with two good reasons – the farming cycle is an annual cycle and with changing seasons comes the next wave of change on the farm and secondly in an outdoor and extensive farming system, the weather really does matter! 

So, as we begin to emerge from winter and see trees budding up, in the sheep flock we turn to pregnancy scanning of the ewes. We approached this with much apprehension this year – the hard and hot summer for
grazing animals has impacted scanning results for farmers nationally, as the rams go to the ewes in early autumn which in 2022 followed the tough summer spell. The number of lambs produced is a really important metric for any sheep farm. Thankfully, the extra measures taken over the summer, including supplementary feeding of hay and silage, appear to have done the trick – the results are in and we are expecting just north of 500 lambs from the 300 ewes, this including the Hebridean ewes which are known and expected to be less prolific. A respectable result in the year and whilst of course we always hope for a little more, the experiences of other farms this year tell us that we could have fared a lot worse.

As for the Red Devon cows, the herd expansion in 2022 has continued in the new year, with the first of the early calving cows bought in from Worcester having had their calves in the past week. The female calves are pedigree and will be registered with the breed society, with the intention of bringing them into the herd as ‘second generation’ Nene Park progeny in the future. There is the important job of giving them names to complete the registration – all must start with the letter ‘A’, as the breed society letter for calves born in 2023. The Trust will therefore be seeking suggestions for female names starting with the letter ‘A’ in due course, so watch this space and do get involved! There are a total of 40 cows to calve and therefore name inspiration will no doubt be much needed. 

The increased herd size also prompted the need for a second bull to befriend Admiral – we are pleased to report that we were at the front of the queue and have chosen an 18 month old bull which will join the herd in the spring. More to follow when he arrives with us. 

The hay shed is definitely feeling the hungry mouths of a total of 82 cows of varying sizes and ages, following a season when yield was very much suppressed owing to the summer drought. This has meant that we have not been able to sell quite as much forage to other farms, and what we now have left should see the cows through to the spring when they will return to the Rural Estate. 

So, with a total of 300 ewes to lamb and 40 cows to calve by the end of spring – we look forward to plenty of new life on the Rural Estate. Clarkson’s Farm provides a useful yard stick on the scale of what we are doing on Nene Park – Jeremy lambed around 75 sheep in his first year before moving them to another farm’s care, and recently bought around 8 cows to calve. Whilst we endeavour to farm in a slightly less chaotic manner, with the livestock we have the Rural Estate does become a hive of activity in the spring and there will no doubt be the occasional mishap as is customary in farming!