Following a straightforward lambing and turn out onto good grass in the usual reserved fields, we waited like everybody else to see whether rain and warmth would arrive in time for the next move. In many ways, the dry and cold was ideal for the lambs, but the ewes would have liked an easier time with good grass regrowth. The arrival of rain and warmth at the beginning of the month has saved the day. Like most other people our haylage crop last year was well short of the norm in volume terms (but quality was excellent). For the first time in 30 years we had to buy hay in December for the singles. By the end of lambing, we were down to 4 haylage bales!
The overwintering hoggs have also been saved by the rain but are actually in very good condition and have grown well. We are now closing up fields, something I would have liked to have been able to do in early April. I am always surprised how much the hoggs actually grow during the winter months, as they have not been on particular good ground. We are heavy clay and the wet late autumn and winters we have had lately, followed by cold springs is far from ideal. Anyway, they came back from winter grazing in late January as continuous floods forced their early return and most of our land is not subject to outright flooding. The result is that our land did not get the rest I would have liked. I wonder increasingly if all us farmers need to start planning for the more extreme weather becoming the norm. I fear so.
The sheep market has remained buoyant to say the least. I wonder how many farmers will take advantage of these high prices and how many gimmers will go to slaughter. It appears that lamb prices have also been very strong in Europe. I am told by arable friends that an increasing number are starting to bring grass into their rotations and will be looking to put sheep into their business model. With shearling prices at Carlisle (the last of the big Lleyn sales last autumn) ending the season on a strong note with nothing sold under £178 and 18 pens over the £200 mark (plus commission), if the weather behaves, this sale season is likely to see continuing good demand.
Let’s see what the summer brings, but there certainly appears to be a lot of confidence about. We will be hoping to sell our usual crop off the farm again this year, so as usual will welcome both existing and new clients. Video footage of the shearling rams and of course their EBV’s available on request. Please note that over the last number of years buyers have started their selective search in the early summer.