Fifty-two Weeks' Farming
September: 1st Week
The first job of the autumn is to order seeds. Indeed, this ought to be done just as soon as the cropping is decided upon.
Order at the following rates:
Wheat: 3 bushels (180 lb.) an acre Oats: 1-1/2 cwts. (1 sack) an acre. Beans: 2 cwts. (1 sack) an acre. Oats and Vetches: 2 bushels an acre and 1 bushel an acre (for silage mixture) Barley: 3 bushels an acre.
Reduce by 25 per cent, if to be sown by mid-September, in good seed-bed of high humus content.
Get the disc harrows into the stubbles just as soon as possible -- and whenever the opportunity occurs.
You will probably tackle one or two fields first, and it is probably wise to concentrate on a proportion of the farm in the first year.
Choose a field in good heart, with a topsoil containing ample organic matter as indicated by its crumbly friability. A corn stubble, or the ground from which the potatoes have been harvested, is a good place to start. If possible, choose a field that has had no chemical manures in recent years: for this will contain more of the soil organisms, earthworms and fungi that are an essential part of nature's own cultivation and nutriment of the crop. The more earthworms and fungi (the white threads which surround a healthy root development) the more successful will undisturbed soil be.
If there is not ample evidence of organic matter in the soil, either apply a dressing of compost or well-rotted farmyard manure, or sow a green-manuring crop such as rye, mustard or lupins. In either case, the first operation after clearance of the previous crop should be twice working with the disc harrows. If the surface is too hard and dry for the discs to make much impression, the field is probably not fit for a trial of ploughless cropping. But once or twice over the field with the fixed-tine cultivator will bring up sufficient soil to make the disc harrow workable. The only danger in using the cultivator on soil lacking organic matter is that it will bring up clods that quickly bake and harden in the wind and sun, and must then await rain before the field can be prepared for drilling. To avoid this risk, no more should be cultivated each day than can also be worked immediately after with the disc harrow. In later years, when the soil is rich in humus, the cultivator will never be necessary, and the disc harrow will do all that is needed to prepare a first-class seed-bed.
If a green-manuring crop is sown, allow it to grow as near to the stage of flowering as time will allow before sowing the main crop, for the nearer to maturity the green-manuring crop is the more valuable will be its content. Then work it into the surface soil with the disc harrow. If the discs are sharp enough and the harrow is well weighted the green crop can be cut up so finely that the corn drill will run freely at sowing time. I have chopped up on the surface in this way a stemmy crop of kale five feet in height effectively enough to follow with the disc drill, sowing oats.
Sow the seed at the normal rate of seeding on soil of average fertility, or, if the soil is rich in humus, up to 25 per cent less may be sown. A thin seeding on soil which offers the ideal medium for germination, tillering and growth, will produce a much heavier yield than a heavy seeding on the same soil. The sowing of individual seeds in soil which offers a guarantee of a 90 per cent or more germination, as soil managed naturally would, is of course the ideal which will be practised when a suitable drill is available. For in undisturbed humus-rich surface soil nothing is likely to go wrong and the usual margin of heavy seeding rate is not necessary. My unploughed wheat crops often look so thin during the winter that I feel sure they will have to be patched, yet they are often too thick by harvest time.
September: 2nd Week
At least one piece of early wheat should be sown for grazing in the early spring, or even late autumn if growth is good. The oats and vetches for silage-making next May should be sown as early as possible after the end of August.
Where any lime deficiency exists, now is a good time to apply ground limestone, to be worked into the surface soil during cultivations before autumn croppings. It is not necessary to have a soil analysis in order to decide whether lime is needed. And the fact that your land may overlie chalk does not mean to say it will not benefit from an application of ground limestone. It may be that the calcium in your soil is in a non-available condition. It may be that you have a chalk subsoil which is locked away from the topsoil by a hard ploughpan. It is wise then to try a strip of land with a dressing of ground limestone and note for yourself the effect.
Indicators of a need for lime are the soft mat-like tread of an old pasture and the appearance of any of the following plants in profusion: red sorrel, silver weed, yarrow, ragwort; and a general tendency to excessive weediness.
If a subsoiler can be hired and used on the fields to be limed, lasting benefit will be derived from the work. But subsoiling will be unnecessary once deep-rooting herbs have been included in a ley on each field.
Rates of application will vary according to the type of soil, but an application of three tons to the acre of ground limestone or natural chalk can usually be reckoned to be beneficial.
Lime the fields that are to carry one of the following crops if you must limit your liming to a part of the farm: clover ley, barley and sugar beet, oats and vetch mixture, and lucerne. Crops that will tolerate acidity are wheat, oats when sown alone, linseed and potatoes. Fields that are to carry these crops may be limed in a later year.
September: 3rd Week
Catch crops sown now or as soon as possible after harvest will store soil nitrogen for the coming spring. Fields that do not need to be cropped at once should be sown with mustard for green manuring. Sow at the rate of 20 lb. an acre, broadcast, after discing the surface. A month to six weeks of growth will give tons of green manure; if the mustard can be allowed, by earlier sowing or longer growing, to become stemmy and approach or reach the flowering stage, the amount of bulky organic matter available to disc into the topsoil will be greater.
Lift potatoes and clamp them under straw. Cover with earth before winter frosts come.
Take the last cut or grazing of lucerne in time to allow the leaves of the plant to grow again before the winter; it may be grazed again in late winter or early spring to discourage predominance of grasses.
If there is a flush of grass and clover on the leys that is not likely to be cleared up before the winter comes, cut it for silage. On the lighter dry soils it may be left for winter grazing. The needs of the animals will be greater in the winter.
Autumn-calving heifers and cows will be approaching due dates, and should be watched more closely and given rather more feeding than usual. They should calve down in healthy blooming condition, but not uncomfortably fat. Forcing with concentrated foods before calving -- a system known as 'steaming up' -- is not to be recommended. Give the animal ample natural food, but avoid high-protein foods which put too much strain on the heifer's system at the most critical stage of her life and result in milk fever in cows -- due to the double stimulus of high-protein diet and parturition. A heifer on good grass should be in quite good enough condition to calve down and do well. There is no need to bring her in to calve unless it is for convenience. The field is the natural, and therefore the ideal, calving place.
Watch the milk yields and be prepared to supplement the grass which is now losing its nutritional value. If you have ample kale, a small load of kale -- about 10 lb. per head per day -- will keep them going for the time being. It will also be necessary to start feeding a production ration -- 3 lb. oats and 1 lb. linseed and/or bean meal for each gallon of milk over one gallon -- to the heavier yielding cows.
September: 4th Week
Every stubble on the farm should be worked with disc harrows thoroughly, to germinate weed seeds. You are really preparing a seed-bed for the most valuable fertility crop -- weeds -- which will hold the remaining nitrogen of the season and contribute food for winter grazing and humus for next spring's crops.
Where a field is to receive an autumn dressing of compost, and this is especially necessary in the field which is to be sown to beans, apply it now so that it may be worked into the surface. Put out the compost in heaps and leave in heaps until it can be spread and worked immediately into the topsoil. This will be compost that was made six months ago, unless you are only just starting -- though you may still have a little of that prepared last autumn if it was not all used on the kale field.
Ten to twelve tons an acre of compost will be sufficient if the soil is in reasonably good heart. A rough estimate of weight may be made by calculating 15 cwt. per cubic yard of mature compost (see Appendix for estimating weights). This application is given once in the rotation, with the addition of 5 tons an acre on the ley before it is broken -- if supplies allow. In conjunction with green manuring and under-sowing of cereal crops at every opportunity, this will build and maintain a high level of fertility.
The area for the oats and vetches for next year's arable silage crop should now be sown, having applied compost first, if possible ; though in emergency compost may be spread next May after the crop is cut. Any variety of oats will do for this purpose, though in areas of severe frosts what is needed to enable silage-making to start early is a frost-resistant variety such as Grey Winter oats. On poor land rye should be used instead of oats. Winter vetches should be mixed with the oats or rye at the rate of 1-1/2 bushels of vetches to 1-1/2 bushels of oats or rye. Tick or horse beans may be added at the rate of 1/2 bushel an acre, though while giving increased bulk and nutritional value it does tend to make the mixture expensive in proportion to the resultant yield of green food.
Vetches are now expensive and, if economy is necessary, 1 cwt. oats to 1/2 cwt. vetches gives a good yield of green crop.
Men not engaged on autumn cultivations and cropping should start now to trim all the hedges and clean the banks and ditches of the farm. All material except the thick branches of trees should be collected for use in the compost heap. Under no circumstances should any hedge, ditch or bank material be burnt, no matter how weedy it is. The heat of the compost heap will kill all weed seeds and the resultant compost derived from a wide variety of herbs, grasses and hedgerow bushes, together with a small proportion of animal waste, will contain all the essential elements of plant nutrition.
Milk recording sheets and registers should be prepared for the year-end. Animals likely to be not worth recording in the new recording year should be disposed of, or removed from the herd until they can be, so that they need not be entered in the register and paid for.
October: 1st Week
You will need now to think about threshing. Book the contractor in time to get out some of your own grain for seed. Grain that has been in stack for less than six weeks will be in the middle of the 'sweat' which always follows stacking, so if threshed then should be used immediately.
Beans should be sown early October, if at all possible; and when one early piece of wheat for spring grazing, and the oats and vetches for silage, have been sown, the beans should come next before sowing any other grain crop.
Beans should be sown at the rate of 2 cwt. an acre. There are no named varieties of field bean. While you are sowing the field bean you may like also to sow a corner of the field to broad beans for the house or even for sale. Early broad beans are a profitable crop, and sown now they would catch the early market.
October: 2nd Week
Young stock out on low-lying fields should be watched for possible husk. If you notice any of them giving a throaty cough bring them in at once, or transfer them to a high ley where the husk worm is usually not prevalent. See 'Cure your own Cattle' (Newman Turner, The Farmer, 3s. 6d.) for treatment.
Begin to plan available food supplies. Production ration requirements may be worked out by estimating the likely milk yields of the cows and reckoning that for each gallon of milk you will need approximately 3 lb. oats and 1 lb. linseed or beans. A cow that is likely to give 500 gallons of milk during the winter months should therefore be allowed approximately a ton of meal. This will be the maximum requirement of all except the exceptional milkers, and if you have 15 cwt. of oats and 5 cwt. of linseed or beans for each cow you can reckon yourself very well supplied, and with a sufficient margin to feed the young stock a small ration daily up to the age of nine months.
For maintenance you should also have 1 ton of hay for each cow and 5 cwt. for each head of young stock -- unless you are relying mainly on silage for the cows instead of hay, when you will need double the quantity in silage. Oat and wheat straw should be available ad lib.
The following will give some guidance in planning for self-sufficiency in winter feeding stuffs. It cannot of course be an accurate estimate for every farm. It is what has proved effective under my own conditions. But it will serve as a useful guide to be adapted with experience to varying standards of soil fertility.
Estimate for a period of approximately 170 days which, for calculating purposes, 1 lb. a day a head will equal approximately 1-1/2 cwt. for the winter period.
Kale. Allow an average of 30 lb. daily for cows: 45 cwt.; 10 lb. daily for young stock: 15 cwt. On an estimated yield of 15 tons an acre this means that a herd of equal numbers of cows and young stock would need one-fifth acre a cow.
Silage. Allow the same quantities as kale, that is 3 tons each cow, to provide for cattle of all ages when young stock and cows are equal numbers.
On an arable silage crop of, say, oats and vetches this can be grown on one-third acre, so that a herd of 30 cows and 30 followers would need 10 acres of oats and vetches or similar silage crop.
Hay. If hay is to form the bulk of your maintenance ration, allow 15 lb. a cow and 8 lb. a head young stock, or just over 1 ton per cow and 12 cwt. each for young stock.
If the allowance of kale and silage are as above, and you have oat straw for bulky dry fodder, then hay may be dispensed with altogether except for the youngest stock only, when an average allowance of 5 to 8 lb. a head, with some kale or silage, will be enough for cattle up to eighteen months old.
Cereals. Allow 3 lb. per gallon of milk or 1 ton (approximately) for a 700-gallon cow, which on average yields is 1 acre of oats per cow.
Protein Food. 1 lb. per gallon of milk, which for 700 gallons may be obtained from 1/2 acre per cow of linseed and/or beans.
As grass will supply the production requirements of a large part of the milk yield, the above production allowances will cover the requirements of young stock.
On first-class leys, including the deep-rooting herbs on strong fertile land, 1 acre should feed one cow and one head of young stock throughout the summer.
On poorer land and less-productive leys allow 1-1/4 acres per cow and 3/4 acre per head of young stock. An additional acre per head of young stock and dry cows will be needed for winter grazing, supplemented by oat straw and/or kale or silage, and winter weed grazing.
To summarize, the requirements of a dairy herd on a per cow basis, assuming equal numbers of young stock, are:
Kale 1/5 acre per cow Arable silage crop 1/3 acre per cow Hay (permanent grass) 1 acre per cow Hay (seeds ley) 1/2 acre per cow Oats 1 acre per cow Linseed and/or beans 1/2 acre per cow Grazing (good) 1 acre per cow Grazing (poor) 2 acres per cow Winter grazing 1 acre per cow
October: 3rd Week
You should have cut out mangolds if you planned for enough silage, but in case you grew some as a first-year insurance, then both mangolds and sugar beet should now be lifted. While you are lifting the mangolds, consider again all the labour involved in growing this crop and decide that silage and kale will completely replace your mangolds next year. On the fertility farm there is really no need to go to the expense of growing mangolds.
Sugar beet is a different proposition, especially on the poor-land farm. There is no better crop for helping to restore fertility. Sugar beet is a deep-rooting plant which needs to be well composted and limed. This means that if the sugar beet pays no profits at all it does leave behind a field in very good heart for the following cereal crop; and if the tops are left on the field, and the pulp is returned from the factory, all that goes off the field is the sugar and some moisture.
While it is possible to clamp mangolds complete with their tops, it is better for soil fertility that the tops should be left on the field. The extra labour involved is well repaid in subsequent crops.
Wheat and oat sowing should continue with all possible speed now. So long as the seed-bed has sufficient coverage of soil for the crop, it does not matter if the surface is rough. The winter frosts will soon level the field and break up any clods that may remain.
Sow wheat and oats of the following varieties on the soil indicated:
Soil of Wheat Rate of Seeding
Oats Rate of Seeding
High Fertility Holdfast 180 S.172 1-1/2 - Pilot " S.147 " - Yeoman " Picton " - Bersee " -- - Medium Fertility Pilot " Grey Winter " - Bersee, Warden " Marvellous " - Squarehead II " Resistance " - Squareheads Master " - - Low Fertility Little Joss 200 GreyWinter 2 - Squareheads Master " Bountiful "
October: 4th Week
Autumn-calving cows should be carefully watched when approaching calving. The best place for them to calve is still in the field, providing the nights are not excessively wet. You may prefer, however, to bring them into a box for your own comfort in visiting them at nights. Don't interfere with a cow that is calving unless she appears to be having a protracted calving. Most cows like to get on without fuss or attention and are generally capable of managing without assistance.
The cow should be on a light diet for a few days before calving, of mainly green food. The dung should be loose, otherwise the green food should be increased. If there is any tendency to constipation, give linseed oil or molasses -- 1 to 2 pints daily.
Allow the cow to eat her placenta after calving if she wishes. It contains hormones which are needful for the flow of milk. But keep an eye on her in case she has difficulty in swallowing it.
After the cow has finished licking the calf and settled down, a drink of warm water is all she needs for a few hours. After about twelve hours a bran mash would be helpful, i.e. a bucketful of bran damped with hot water.
Let the cow have her calf for a few days. The suckling by the calf will stimulate milk secretion and encourage the flow of the hormones that ensure udder health. If you can continue to let the calf have one of the cow's quarters while you milk the rest, allowing a different quarter for the calf each time, both cow and calf will be under conditions as ideal as practical economics allow. Failing that, put the calf on to a foster mother, giving half a gallon of milk daily for Channel Island or Kerry cattle, or 8 to 10 lb. for other breeds.
If the udder is at all inflamed or hard, keep the cow on a laxative diet of bran mashes and green food only. Hot and cold alternate fomentations of the hard part of the udder are a good thing. If the milk is ropy or clotted, fast the cow completely and follow instructions for treatment of Mastitis, Chapter 20.
Go on with hedge trimming and ditch cleaning, collecting the material for compost. Allow nothing to be burned.
November: 1st Week
Compost making should be in full swing now.
The rush of autumn sowing will have eased a little unless there have been weather hold-ups, and compost for use in the spring should now be made in fields for kale, so as to allow six months for maturing. See that ample air is incorporated so that turning may be avoided. The object of turning is to incorporate more air; if the heap is built sufficiently loose to maintain a good admixture of air, turning can be avoided. That is not to say that turning does not produce better compost. But garden compost it is always worth while to turn at least once. For the farm, where a coarser-textured finished product is satisfactory, the aim should be to avoid turning.
If the harvest has been difficult there will be a heavy seeding of self-sown crops. This provides an occasion when it will be good policy to change from the set rotation in order to take the fullest advantage of these self-sown seeds. Where beans were harvested try to fit in a crop that will take advantage of them. An oat and vetch mixture, or a dredge corn mixture, are two crops that will utilize to the full the self-sown beans. It is safe to sow the same cereal again after a first straw crop that has a heavy self-sown crop, but where a second straw crop is taken make a note to undersow with a trefoil/Italian ryegrass mixture for green manuring after harvest. Linseed is another crop that sheds heavily in a late harvest and it is a good crop to follow with a green silage mixture, for the young green linseed, which will be cut with the silage crop if it survives winter frosts, is especially valuable medicinally. Self-sown crops are always far in advance of the later sown chosen crop because of the natural method of sowing and longer time in the ground. Above all, the utilization of self-sown crops is valuable psychologically to the state of mind of the farmer, for it is satisfying compensation for a bad harvest.
Spread straw around any muddy gateways or where cows tend to gather -- this will help to make manure and at the same time keep cows and gateways clean.
November: 2nd Week
Autumn rains will give you a chance to see that all drains and ditches are running. If water stands in any part of the farm it should be let off now and a note should be taken to subsoil the patches that are not free draining. Subsoiling is within the reach of even the smallest farmer now that hydraulic lift subsoiling attachments are available at about £25.
Thereafter take an opportunity during the winter to subsoil the grassland, and when a dry enough spell comes, arable land that is not cropped may also be subsoiled.
Most of the milking cows should now be on a production ration of home-grown oats and linseed or beans. See Appendix for supplies if home-grown crops are inadequate.
Cattle giving more than a gallon a day should have 4 lb. per gallon each day of a suitable production ration. Cows giving a gallon or less should get along very well on grass and a small green kale or root supplement.
Take the bull for a walk every day. He should still be tethered out to grass, utilizing all the waste corners about the farm that would otherwise be unproductive. The busy part of the year is approaching for the bull and, particularly if he is getting on in years, he must be given all the exercise possible, otherwise he will quickly become a slow worker.
November: 3rd Week
Heifers for next autumn calving may now be put with the bull.
In the North of England and Scotland milking cows will need to be indoors at nights, but in the south whether or not they are brought in will depend on a number of circumstances. They are healthier out all the year round, but they will need rather more food to keep themselves warm during the frosty nights. If a large amount of manure is to be made, and there is ample straw for bedding, it is a good plan to bring them into an open yard, or fenced-off corner of a paddock just for the night. A plan which I have operated successfully is to bed down a corner of a grass field with plenty of wheat straw. This encourages them to use that corner for nights, with the result that there is by the spring a collection of manure-soaked straw with which to make compost in the corner of that field -- with the addition of hedge trimmings, etc., from the same field.
Another factor is the condition of the soil. A heavy, wet soil is not suitable for cows to winter out on. The pounding of the cows' feet on such land would soon ruin the grass in wet weather.
It will be necessary to start feeding kale and hay on a winter scale around this time. Full winter rations should not be given at once. A few forkfuls of hay may be scattered on the grass, or, what is more convenient, a small cartload of kale. The hay is better kept back until the cows are indoors.
Alternatively run an electric fence across the kale field in a zigzag line. Without detaching the wire, alternate stakes may be moved forward each day.
November: 4th Week
Late sowing of wheat and oats should be done as soon as possible. The weather will limit the number of days that may be spent sowing corn this month, but so long as the soil is dry enough to enable the drags or discs to cover the seed after sowing, it does not matter how rough or moist the soil is. There is an old saying about wheat sowing: 'In heavy, out heavy', which means that wheat sown under heavy conditions usually yields heavily.
Most winter varieties of wheat and oats may be sown up to early December, though the yield will diminish as December is approached in the date of sowing. After the beginning of December it is better to wait until the end of January and sow Atle or Bersee wheat, S.147 or S.172 oats (on strongest land only), or a true spring oat.
If the weather is too bad, or the field too damp to sow with a drill in the ordinary way, it may be possible to broadcast the seed and go over it afterwards with a light harrow. Never sow seed at this time of year unless you can cover it immediately, for the later the season the more thorough are the ravages of rooks and other birds in search of winter food.
One way of sowing a crop, which my Italian cowman has experienced in Italy, is to broadcast the seed and turn a flock of sheep into the field to cover it by trampling it in. This might be tried if it gets too wet to cover the seed by normal means. But with fertility farming methods -- keeping organic matter on top and dispensing with the plough -- you will soon cease to be dependent on the weather.
November: 5th Week
If it gets too wet to disc land for spring cropping, and some ploughing is still being done, fields which are not carrying a winter grazing crop may be ploughed during November and December. This enables the winter frosts to work on the furrows which are left rough so that an easily workable seed-bed is produced by the time of sowing in the spring.
December: 1st Week
Cattle Feeding in December
On reasonably dry farms, or on land that may be poached without danger to subsequent crops, cattle may be folded on kale or turnips. For this purpose I like to have a piece of kale that is not too well grown. The leafy thousand-headed kale, or hungry gap kale, or rape kale, should have been sown during last summer, to provide the best type of winter grazing; though even with a thick-stemmed crop of marrow-stem kale I should not hesitate to graze if labour for cutting is scarce. It merely means that some of the coarser stems will be left behind after the cattle, but I have successfully tackled a field covered with long, thick, upright stems of kale and prepared it for spring oats without any trouble. The heavy disc harrow will usually cut the stems into tiny pieces which offer no hindrance to the corn drill, provided the field is crossed a sufficient number of times with the disc harrow.
If root grazing is out of the question, then it is to be hoped that you have laid in a good store of silage and oat straw. These are my standby for the winter, though, if there is good hay as well, all the better.
Everything else -- and even the calves have a goodly ration of it -- thrives healthily on silage, kale and oat straw which was cut while it still had some green in the straw. If fed with the oat still in the ear, this is equal to good hay; and if saved on tripods it is even better than most hay.
December: 2nd Week
Though easier to do while sap is still in the stems, hedging is a job that gets left till the winter more often than not.
Hedges that have become overgrown and gappy should be laid. If the hedge is too wide the sides should be trimmed down, separately heaping along the headlands of the field all the soft material of the hedge and any stems which do not exceed the thickness of your little finger. This soft material should later be carried to the site of the compost heap, together with the cleaning from the ditches. The coarse material should be stacked in heaps for firewood, or if unsuitable for that they may be burned near the compost heaps to provide wood ash for incorporation in the heap during building.
When the sides are trimmed back to the middle of the hedge, main branches and trunks should be cut out, leaving sufficient long coarse wood to be cut only deeply enough to enable the upright branches and trunks to be bent over and intertwined with stakes inserted in the hedge or the lower half of trunks that have been allowed to remain in the hedge. The important point to watch in the layering of hedges is that the cut diagonally across the trunk of the sapling or small tree that is to be plaited into the hedge should be on the side away from the sun, so that the trunk may be laid towards the sun. This will ensure a strong growth in the right direction. If the hedge is laid away from the sun the tendency will be for the hedge to grow backwards towards the sun, eventually resulting in an untidy hedge which will be more difficult to trim in future years.
The main purpose of hedging is to keep hedges within reasonable bounds. Do not cut trees, and allow growth vertically, once the gaps are filled. Both shelter and leaf fall are essential to the farm, and the water-holding capacity of good hedges is important.
With plenty of organic matter in the topsoil and deep-rooting herbs in the leys -- except on sea-level land -- drainage problems will be dealt with naturally; and the former need to tile-drain and keep ditches running is no longer important. But this ideal state is not reached for a few years, and in the meantime it is well to watch the flow of tile drains.
December: 3rd Week
Silage, the best of all winter foods, may be fed for production at the rate of 15 to 20 lb. per gallon of milk produced, according to the quality of silage. As little as 10 lb. to the gallon of the very best silage has been known with a Jersey. Don't worry about feeding too much if you have ample. Orthodox experts advise us not to feed more than about 50 to 60 lb.; but, unless the animal's palate is being perverted by a diet too rich in concentrated protein and other stimulants, her own stomach will tell her when she has had enough of such natural food as silage -- particularly if the silage is made without the addition of preservatives, acids or such like, or if it has received only crude molasses, which is itself an unrefined natural product.
If you have made the mistake of using acids in the preparation of silage, then of course you must limit very carefully the quantity of silage you feed.
December provides an opportunity to tidy the farm. The yard mud should be scraped up and taken to the site of the compost heap to provide the small proportion of soil needed for the making of good compost.
December: 4th Week
Spread any dung droppings on pastures which have had no attention or on fields from which cows have recently been moved. Use the harrows as opportunity presents itself. Remember, on the dairy farm, that the grass is the most important crop, which means that any work which is improving the ley or old grass field is at all times the most important job on the farm, no matter what other work there is to be done.
Fence gaps before they get worse.
Soil for Compost
Collecting soil for the compost heaps is a tedious and generally neglected job on the busy mixed farms. Every opportunity should therefore be taken during the winter to scrape up the yards and thus accumulate a heap of dung-impregnated soil for use in the spring compost making. This also gives a good purpose to an otherwise not very popular job. Few farm men like scraping muddy yards merely for the sake of a tidy appearance, but if they are persuaded of the value of this ingredient to the compost heap they may even become enthusiastic about keeping the yard clean and tidy.
January: 1st Week
Though we commence the farming year in September, we cannot escape forward thoughts at the time of New Year and some planning for the future. January is the time of good resolutions, so we may devote the first weeks of the year to listing the things which are essential to the welfare of the farm, soil, crops and livestock.
The modern tendency to encourage factory methods on the farm is removing the traditional peasant's feeling for the soil and livestock, and has brought in recent years an enormous increase in what has been called 'soil banditry'. Sir Albert Howard says that science has taught us not to be better farmers but to be more efficient soil bandits. Good farming is a process of building up, not one of exploitation, though modern business methods and factory farming encourage the latter.
But nature gives nothing without payment in her own currency. It is useless to pay in man-made currency, for nature cannot use it.
Gather together during this month all organic wastes that can be found around the farm. Get hold of all the straw you can -- from neighbours, if they can spare it. Many waste it or burn it and may prefer to let you have it. Fetch sawdust and sewage sludge from the town while there is no field work for tractor or lorry.
If you have a grass field or ley which you wish to encourage for early bite, give it a light dressing of straw, or, better still, if you can spare it, a little compost -- to keep the soil warm and keep bacterial activity going during frosty weather.
January: 2nd Week
If your cows are yarded at this time, get them out for exercise for as long a period as possible during the day -- and turn the pigs into the yard to root it up, turn it over, and eat any scraps of kale or other food which the cows may have lost among the straw, or passed only partially digested in their dung.
To improve the quality of the compost that will be made from the farmyard manure, occasionally sprinkle sawdust, soil, ground limestone, in the yards, so that the cows may start the process of mixing and activating the compost before it goes out to the heaps.
January: 3rd Week
January is the time to serve cows and heifers to calve in October. Running a young bull with heifers is the best means of getting autumn calvers. There will be no record of services, but you will be more certain of getting the animals in calf. Service is generally achieved during the night and would be missed if the bull were not continuously with the heifers.
The only danger of service of this kind is at calving time, where no service date is known. It means that an extremely careful watch must be kept for animals threatening to calve -- from nine months after the bull joined the heifers until ten months after he left them.
January: 4th Week
During the winter months milking cows are undergoing a great strain, producing milk from a ration which is unnatural. Heavy yielding cows should be watched for signs of trouble in the udder. All cows should be allowed an adequate ration of bulky green food. Indeed, the practice of giving priority to concentrated food and filling up on bulky food only after the concentrates have been fed, has done more to bring on udder and breeding troubles than any other method of management. I don't suggest that the animal should be stuffed with straw at the expense of more nutritive foods. But the cow is a ruminant and needs ample bulky food to assist digestion. Foodstuffs like silage and kale provide bulk as well as nutrition, and should therefore be given first importance.
The so-called production ration should, as far as possible, be home grown and made up of oats, linseed and/or beans. A simple production ration may be made up of three parts by weight of ground oats, with one part by weight of ground linseed and/or beans. This is a lower protein percentage than is generally advocated but better for the health of the cattle and not such a great strain on digestive and milk-secreting organs.
The linseed is particularly valuable medicinally, in view of its high oil and vitamin content. Keep your own linseed to grind. Linseed cake, which is the husk with its oil extracted, is a poor substitute for the whole linseed, though if you have to buy, it is the next best thing.
February: 1st Week
Because of the difficulty of 'spinning out' the winter rations, there is always a temptation to leave young stock short in order to get maximum milk yields from the herd. But young stock should be fed more lavishly during this month, otherwise they will lose condition. Though they may not show it externally for another month or two, if the food is stinted now, they will begin to 'melt' the inner layer of fat, and no amount of feeding will restore it satisfactorily once it is lost.
This does not mean that young stock should be fattened. They should be kept in a healthy growing condition, mainly with good hay (tripodded, if possible), silage and kale, with oat straw to fill up.
Newly weaned calves will need oats and linseed in the proportion, two parts linseed to three parts oats, up to the age of six months, fed at the rate of approximately 2 per cent of the animal's live weight. That means, a calf of 150 lb. live weight will need 3 lb. a day of meal mixture.
Over six months of age, the proportion of linseed may be reduced to one linseed to three oats; and over twelve months, the animal will thrive entirely on hay, silage, kale, roots; or grass supplemented with one of these.
If there is an unlimited quantity of really first-class tripod hay or silage, or both, then young stock may be fed on them to the exclusion of all other foods. Best quality silage or hay is, of course, the nearest we can get to the natural food of the weaned animal, but it must be the best. The usual sun-scorched or rain-bleached hay will not do. Nor will coarse, overheated or sour silage.
February: 2nd Week
February sees the start of springtime activity on the farm, and everything should be done to get land ready for March sowings.
As the kale and root ground is cleared it should at once be disced. On heavy land it is possible to disc when you can't plough. Avoiding ploughing will enable you to get ahead quickly and gain time for other operations. The land is clean and easily worked after roots. Twice over with disc harrows should make the land just right for spring corn or linseed.
If spring wheat is to be sown it should have first preference. Wheat needs longer in the ground than any other cereal crop. Best varieties of spring wheat are Atle and Bersee, for sowing up to the end of March. If the crop can be got in now one of the winter varieties may be sown -- such as Holdfast, Yeoman or Welcome, for land in good heart, or Little Joss, for poor or light land, though the yield will be much lighter than an autumn sowing.
S.172, S.147, and Marvellous oats may be sown up to the end of February. After that date it is better to use a true spring variety, such as Star, Sun II, Yielder or Eagle. Spratt Archer, Plumage Archer or Abed Kenia are good barleys for sale; for feeding purposes, on strong land, Camton is a good cropper. See March: 3rd Week for further details.
Watch carefully for cows that are 'bulling' if you want winter milk. For the heat period is so short as to pass unnoticed unless the cows are closely examined daily. A drop in milk yield or a softening and reddening of the cow's vulva will make it worth while trying the bull on her if you want to get her served now.
February: 3rd Week
Besides the preparation of fields for spring cereal crops, the field in which the kale and roots are to be grown needs to be prepared this month. Every effort should be made to get at least part of the root land ready in time to sow the kale in March, so that the attack of the turnip fly will be avoided and also so that some early kale may be ready for feeding in August and September should a summer drought shorten the grass grazing season. The bulk of the kale crop need not, however, be sown until June or there will be too much stem and not enough leaf.
Compost which was left over from the previous spring or summer should be used up, and any compost that was made in the late summer or early autumn should now be ready to go out. If you haven't enough compost to cover all the root ground, get hold of some sewage sludge from your nearest town. Eight to ten tons an acre of raw sewage sludge will give a good start, but it must be kept on top -- just disced in lightly -- to allow aerobic bacterial action to break it down. Avoid sludge from towns with factories using chemicals. Alternatively, pay a little more and get some from one of the firms marketing sewage manure -- 1 or 2 tons an acre of the dried sewage powder will suffice until you can get some bulky compost on.
Ploughing. If any ploughing is done, use a subsoiling attachment on your plough. Though on all except grass land, especially on the lighter soils, it should be possible to prepare a satisfactory seed-bed with disc harrows only. Make sure that weeds are well killed on top before sowing.
Potatoes. Sell any remaining potatoes from the clamp, or at least see that any bad potatoes in the clamp are not damaging good ones.
Early Cattle Grazing. In the south, prepare to put the cows on to forward winter wheat and oats. As soon as there is enough growth for the cows to put their tongues around, put them to graze it or the wheat will grow away from them.
February: 4th Week
In all parts of the country the early sown winter corn should be almost ready for grazing, unless the winter has been a hard one. Graze down hard all crops that are dry enough to carry cows. Put the heifers on the damper fields -- they will not do so much damage.
To graze all winter corn is equal to a light dressing of manure. It will encourage root development and increase the area from which the plant will draw its nutriment.
Early Bite. If the weather is frosty it is a good plan to put a light covering of straw, any kind, on the first grass field to be grazed. This will keep the soil warm and encourage early growth and give you just as early a bite as your neighbour who wastes his money on sulphate of ammonia, nitro-chalk or nitrate of soda.
Serve cows and heifers to calve in November. You will still need to have the bull running with heifers, if you are to be sure not to miss any during the night, as the heat period at this time is of extremely short duration, especially in a heifer.
Next: 14. Fifty-Two Weeks Farming -- Part 2
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