Hertfordshire farmer Robert Hodgkins has made his preparation for the mess of Brexit, but most British sheep farmers haven’t a market for their lambs, he writes.

Politically there’s been no progress on Brexit and to reward their stellar performance all ministers are having five weeks off which should give them two and a half whole weeks to come to a resolution and get all trade deals in place before we supposedly leave the European Union on October – I think we can agree the shit’s about to hit the fan!

In preparation for this we’ve sold our wheat, peas and oats to a domestic home which buys us time, hopefully, for this mess to be sorted out. Our fat lambs are all assured a home this year and again, hopefully by February things will be more settled.

‘We heard this was the plan about a year ago. We posted it on Twitter and were blasted by fellow sheep farmers that this was outrageous and impossible, well here it is.’

For those not on a supply contract for lambs (which is the majority of sheep farmers in the United Kingdom) the immediate future for their lambs in November/December looks bleak.

The government has promised to take them – we believe to be shot (there’s no specific details yet) and no information about financials. We heard this was the plan about a year ago. We posted it on Twitter and were blasted by fellow sheep farmers that this was outrageous and impossible, well here it is. There will of course be a few used by the domestic market – perhaps lamb could see a revival if there’s a sudden flood of cheap lamb meat?

Meanwhile, we have completed our sheep DNA sampling and have the results, just need to make the time to sift through the results. Time’s been in short supply (again). Our tractor driver moved on leaving us somewhat in the lurch for harvest. Our placement student and Rousy from our shearing gang took on the roles of corn carts, Jo worked the grain stores and some cultivations when there was a spare tractor and no kids in tow and I piloted the combine (35ft New Holland CR9090) – quite a machine to pop my combining cherry with.

We also got a good 500 acres of winter sheep feed drilled – some stubble turnips, some ‘interval’ a kale/rape hybrid, some straight kale and a good lump of oat and berseem clover mixed.

A lot of the ground we graze over the winter before our spring crops is included in various agri-environment schemes, oats and berseem clover is a mix Jo’s developed to suit the scheme restrictions, doesn’t risk green bridging any pests or diseases for our following combinable crops, fixes a bit of N and we get really good growth rates (330g/day) from.

While we were concentrating on combining there was a national outbreak of Barbers Pole Worm – there are very few signs until large numbers start dropping dead – joy! There were so few signs that we sent a lamb for autopsy for confirmation, we had 8000 eggs/gram, others have been reporting 54,000!

Everything was wormed ASAP but we think we’ve lost about 1% of our lambs, combined with some poor average yields and a lot of rain showers it was not our finest hour. The combination left us questioning what are we working so hard for?

Back in June we took a trade stand to an arable-based two-day farming show to sell breeding stock, we really didn’t know how we’d be received as large-scale mixed farming is pretty rare here, but we were well received and sold the majority of the stock we had identified. We still have a few more buyers booked in this week so that’s been a huge success for our first year.

The shearers were late getting to us this year so we weren’t complete until mid-July. We are a very bad area for fly and have been known to treat as many as four times and shear twice to keep it at bay. We treated all the ewes with Dysect (cypermethrin) pre lambing this year – about five weeks earlier than we normally would but it lasted right through until a late shearing without a top up.