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Farm Diary January 2020 1 Feb 2020 (Farming with Nature) Ultimately, everything revolves around the weather - and what weather we have had...

2019 ended with three and a half months of rain and the new decade has yet to see any change.

The calves, aged 9 to 10 months, have now been weaned from their mothers. Our Aberdeen Angus cows produce one calf per year and the cow’s dual purpose in life is to suckle their calf whilst grazing and maintaining our biodiverse pastures. Their presence, as an Organic herd, supports a raft of wildlife. During the winter, they are housed in open strawed yards; producing much needed manure…they are my fertiliser factory! Ensuring that the soil is replenished with nutrients and organic matter. From the worms to the insects, to the birds (who pluck the cows moulting hair to line their nests) these munching ruminants keep the eco system healthy whilst preserving the carbon sink pastures.

My vet gives good news, that his ultra-sound scanner confirms all bar one cow is in calf… well done bulls!

Gestation is similar to that of humans. The bulls join the cows on 2 June (my birthday) a treat for all and the first calves of the year will be born in early March.

The cattle yards are frequented by numerous birds in winter, feeding on the tiny seeds that fall from the opened hay bales, the timber slats in the hay barn allow easy access to a safe, warm roost.

Whilst walking across the waterlogged fields towards Eynsham, on my way to inspect the water level of a newly constructed pond, I see that the pied wagtails have already claimed it as their own. It will be interesting to see which other species colonise the pond this year.

Flocks of linnet rise from the oat stubble and descend in to one of the many large hedges whilst a small murmur of starlings perform their aerial display before roosting.

We grow only spring sown cereals which, after the wet autumn just passed, is a blessing. My neighbours have struggled to establish autumn sown crops.

The overwintered stubble harbours many insects and, being organic, also harbours many weeds. Amongst them, on the lighter patches, is speedwell… the earliest plant to flower and set seed. Speedwell is a lifesaver for small birds, when other sources of winter food are exhausted.

February beckons, the nights are noticeably drawing out and, as twilight descends, two pied woodpeckers hammer out their last reverberating message of the day.

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