Matt Baker: fending off the cold on the farm

Brrr February can be a chilly month, Countryfile presenter Matt Baker tells us how he keeps his livestock warm on the farm

15th February 2017
Sheep

Everyone and everything around the farm is wearing a winter coatto keep out the northern chill of the last blast of winter. Pavlova the mini donkey foal is sporting the thickest, looking more like one of my daughter’s teddies than a real donkey. 

This time of year is the bleakest on the farm – trees and hedges stark against the grey skies, and what little grass remains
is worn and brown. Mud is the predominant feature everywhere. 

Many a welly has been lost in the mud vacuum of a gateway – the welly stays where it is, and your foot carries on, suddenly landing in the cold squelching brown sludge. Not the greatest feeling, I can tell you. 

Of course, the dogs are constantly splattered with mud and seem to take real pleasure in redecorating the house every time an outside door is foolishly opened.

An unplanned lambing has been underway since the beginning of December, again not an ideal situation in such dreary weather. At least the flock are happily warm and dry in their agri polytunnel. It turns out an old tup [ram], who was supposedly in a different paddock, had been visiting after dark…  

Hampshire Down Sheep are able to breed almost year round, meaning the warm summer nights of July have a lot to answer for, as does the wily old tup! Finally caught out, he was banished to the woods, but too late to stop a Christmas spent in the lambing shed.

The long feed

The winter feeding routine around the farm is daunting. Feed in the correct order with the right amounts or you will certainly hear about it, with barks, neighs, bleating, crowing and braying all demonstrating disapproval. 

The flock get organic pellets and ancient meadow hay, with selenium licks and mineral vitamin blocks available at all times. Pony and donkeys get their hay, and a chaff and coarse mix. Poultry get an assortment of layer pellets, rearing pellets, and chick crumb – don’t get them in the wrong order either! Pups are started on high protein food, four cairn terriers get adult rations, Annie the lab and Bob the collie get a mix of high protein and working dog food and the older dogs get OAP rations. Wild birds get their seeds last. 

Finally it’s time to feed yourself. There’s nothing better than eggy bread washed down with a mug of coffee, toasting your toes up against the wood burner. Maybe winter isn’t that bad after all.

 

Image: Getty

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