During lockdown the footpaths through Robert Hodgkins’ farm in Hertfordshire, England, saw an influx of walkers escaping their confinement.

It has been a whirlwind of activity here. We are finally getting the sheep started on the path to maximising their return. We are certainly not there yet but confident we are putting in the right steps.
First the genetics of the flock are just getting better and better. The Nithdale injection of Myomax across the flock has certainly started to see a lot more shape into the lambs. If this lambing is anything to go by, it certainly has not affected lambing ease, which when farming in the public eye is a vital requirement.
Boy are we in the public eye at present with old mate Boris introducing lockdown over lambing the footpaths going through the farm have been rammed, choked and blocked with people.
I can’t really blame them if I lived with a wife and two kids in a small block of flats with no garden and was in lockdown… I would be walking bloody miles as well. Trouble is how many of them seem to think they know everything about sheep/countryside and even worse are quite happy to stop me on my rounds and tell me what I am doing wrong.
As an illustration of the problem at Youngsbury, a 90-hectare block of unimproved parkland holding 340 of our performance recorded ewes, I swear we must have had 200 walkers go through the middle of the sheep everyday. I seemed to spend half my time on local social media Facebook site (“I love Baldock,” “spotted in Hitchin”) etc deflecting questions and accusations of animal cruelty.
It does make me smile that the first these people know about Elderly Ivy in the flat above being dead is five weeks later when the smell gets pretty bad but if they think they have seen a lamb with joint ill they are raising a petition to have you hung and started a Just Giving page for its lifetime treatment in a swanky private vet practice in Switzerland.
Perhaps the highlight of the lambing was a social media comment about a coughing sheep, and if the sheep should be moved from the fields into “lockdown” in barns to avoid giving the virus to walkers.
Anyway, ignoring all the madness farming has continued much as it ever has, we had a nasty outbreak of abortion in one of the dairy sheep groups which has ended up costing us. (We moved that group away from the public eye pretty damn quick).
Vet advice was to let it run its course and then disperse all that group of ewes across the rest of the flock so we can gain some immunity to it next lambing.
So with genetics I think we are making progress, but as ever that is only half the story. The environment plays a huge part, to that end I managed to borrow the arable side’s big drill for a few days and managed to direct drill 120 acres of clover into some existing swards.
While I was in a borrowing mood I decided to also borrow a slug pelleter and reseeded another 70 acres of ground under solar panels with clover seed as well. True to form with my luck it has now been three weeks since planting and we have not had a drop of rain with none on the long range for at least another couple of weeks.
I hope the seed will just sit there until some moisture comes along, grass covers are certainly struggling and we have started splitting the paddocks up into smaller areas to start a rotation going.
As usual the plantain and clover mixes are thundering along despite conditions – we lambed the ewe lambs on them, the lambs coming out are second generation Myomax so there will be some double copies floating around – they look fantastic, we are looking forward to Ashley and Jo from Zoetis telling us what they are like.
Now we are in year two of our
recording programme, after the first year was weeding out the crap, we hope the next two to four years will be starting to get our SIL scores and focusing on improvements to the flock that will see some real financial returns.