What a year it has been for our farm, The Mead. A particular highlight of 2023 has been the continued developing, cultivating, and harvesting of bespoke trial crops for clients.
2022 saw a hot and dry summer, and we were lucky that these favourable weather conditions largely continued through early autumn, allowing for winter and cover crops to be drilled and, with the help of some much-needed water and favourable soil temperature, established favourably ahead of the winter dormancy period.
The herd of cattle that call The Mead home remained outside, grazing on the 180 acres of land that is permanently set aside for them until late October. They were then housed in our purpose-built cattle shed for the winter period which were fully occupied by late November.
Christmas came slightly early with the great news that our application had been accepted for the Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship scheme commencing 1st January 2023 for 5 years. This provides funding that allows us to propagate our farmed areas to be beneficial to the surrounding environment and wildlife, whilst also improving water and air quality.
The wet start to spring meant that drilling for barley and oats had to be delayed until the ground conditions became more favourable. Some of our neighbours had ventured out into fieldwork in late February, which made us wonder if we should have done the same. We ended up drilling in mid to late April, which can potentially lead to compromise on yields further down the line at harvest.
Thanks to the late spring and slow grass development, it was well into May before we started to empty out the shed and return the cattle to grass. Our muck generation is an important part of our farming cycle, so keeping them inside and cosy, making up more, wasn’t the end of the world. The aim is for the cows to produce around 1200 tons annually, which is then spread onto the arable land the following autumn helping reduce our input of manufactured fertilisers.
Thankfully, the crops, on the whole, grew well and moved through the growth stages in a timely fashion. This did mean some applications of sprays and fertilisers were tricky. However, we predominantly hit the right time frames despite our concerns that this year's crops would be later. The crops hit maturity within a similar time frame if not slightly earlier, in the case of winter barley.
Linseed is a tricky crop to reap, so for 2023, we invested in a stripper header to aid with the harvesting of Linseed. However, when the crop was at optimum for harvesting the weather didn’t allow us to progress. By the time the weather picked up, it was too mature, and we ended up using a local contractor to conventionally cut the crop. Lessons have been learned on Linseed harvesting, so here is to third time lucky in 2024.
The crops were all dried, stored and moved in a timely manner after harvest as the cycle has already started again! This autumn's weather has been slightly challenging thanks to unusually high temperatures and a steady hammering by storms… but we will cover that in next year's report.