FARMING MATTERS: Effects of the mild winter

A farmer feeds his cattle on a winter's day
A farmer feeds his cattle on a winter's day

As a country we may have a reputation for being preoccupied with the weather, but for farmers it’s a vital ingredient of everyday life and work.

And this mild winter is unusual to say the least. Normally at this time of year my husband is wearing five or six layers of clothing, thick gloves and a woolly hat, but this year his gloves are nowhere to be seen and he’s managing with only three or four layers.

In the garden, crocuses and snowdrops are flowering, and in the house we’re managing to keep warm with just the log fire and an occasional short blast of central heating.

Out in the fields, although the grass has stopped growing, on a warm day there is a little bit of growth which is an extra treat for the sheep on top of the hay and feed blocks my husband delivers to them.

Of more concern are the cattle being wintered indoors. Whereas normally they would welcome being inside, with weather like this they are feeling the heat, as they have thick winter coats. Some farmers shave a line along the back of fattening cattle to let the heat out a bit. The hope is that if the weather changes, it is gradual rather than sudden, so that the cattle have a chance to acclimatise. What we don’t want is a sudden change from a hot humid day to a very wet windy cold night.