| Charlotte Legge

Take 5 on the Farm in March

Spring is starting to unfurl with the days getting longer, early flowers peeking through the ground and wildlife awakening here at Duxmore Barns Farm. Spring is always a busy time in the farming season, so share our journey with us and discover our ‘farming life’ each month as we take 5 on the farm…

#1 Doing a ‘sunshine’ dance

We, like everyone else, have been praying for dry weather. As farmers, we do always look on the bright side and can (mostly) see the positives in everything, as we know things always seem to come right in the end - but this onslaught of rain that we have had over the past few months (it feels like years!) it is becoming a little draining, to say the least. As well as affecting our general mood, the current levels of rain we have been experiencing means damaged crops which not only impacts our food crops, but also potentially affects the bedding for the cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and pony for next winter.

Our cattle turnout has been delayed too. The herd would usually head out in March, but this won’t be happening yet, meaning the young stock will have to stay inside the barn for a while longer, having the knock-on effect of us having to use up our hay and straw reserves. 

Plus, late lambers usually get to go out on day two of being born, but at this moment in time, it will just be too cold and too wet, so we will keep them in until we see a significant improvement in the weather forecast!

#2 Health checks

We breed pedigree Angus bulls here at Duxmore Barns Farm, which then head off to new farms as ‘breeding bulls’ to bring a new genetic line into new herds. It’s this time of year when our bulls are being given the once over and receiving a health check from the local vet to ensure that they are of optimum health for breeding -  a crucial part of herd fertility management which can help to avoid potential losses due to the use of an infertile bull.

#3 Planning

Farming really is a never-ending cycle and we are always looking ahead so at this time of year, we are already planning next year's breeding programme. We review the genetic lines of all of our livestock to ensure that they are paired with the correct bloodlines for the following year. The decisions we make today will impact the farm for years to come, so it’s always important to take some time to sit down and get this just right. 

#4 Pastures new

March is the month when we move our sheep to new pastures much more regularly. Due to the weather (have we mentioned the rain!?) we are needing to move them even more frequently. We are also working with our neighbouring farms, integrating into their conservation and arable (crop) programmes. This practice is actually quite common on the Island where sheep farmers will work with arable farmers in order to integrate with their conservation work and to help towards putting nutrients back into the soil. 

#5 Herbal leys

Herbal leys are temporary grasslands sown on agricultural land and March is the time when we are selecting which are the best to grow in our fields, matching the plants to the different soil types, and choosing which are nitrogen-fixing and more regenerative for the soil to improve the overall health of our soil. This also ensures longer spells of grazing and helps us adapt to the current weather systems. By inputting herbal leys with varying root lengths, where there are signs of drought, the plants can still seek out water from deeper in the soil, whereas traditional grass with its shorter roots may well burn off.

Meanwhile, we are also getting ready for a spot of Spring Cleaning. 

We get a lot of dust on the farm, so having clean sparkly windows is a real luxury but not impossible thanks to our homemade window spray which is super easy to make - 

Fill a spray bottle with clean water (if you are repurposing an old bottle, give it a thorough clean before using) and then add 10 drops of our Mandarin & Eucalyptus blend (this blend works well as the Mandarin and Eucalyptus are both cleansing and purifying, but if you don’t have it, other citrus essential oils would work too) plus a teaspoon of vinegar (you can use any that you have, any, but white or cider vinegar are best). 

Shake, spray and wipe!

If the windows are particularly dirty, try wiping with just plain water to start, then use the spray and a lint-free cloth to polish

And finally, in the garden this month, we have been enjoying the wonderful murmuration display from the Starlings with wonder and we have noticed an increase in the red squirrel population in our woodland. Spring has definitely sprung.