Deane Valley Farm Blog

In the deep mid-winter

During the second half of 2023, the weather in this corner of Devon seems to have been just about as varied as it can be! After a drought to rival memories of 1976, the rain was most welcome when it eventually arrived. While on a farming level, fields quickly becoming untravellable brings its headaches when tending to both crops and livestock, the sudden deluge is certainly much needed for the county’s reservoirs. Seasonal tasks such as hedge trimming, machinery maintenance and fencing have been keeping the farm team busy. As the year turns, a winter that has so far been both exceptionally mild and exceptionally cold has guided our farm jobs in recent weeks. Making sure water supplies were uninterrupted was the priority on the cold days and ensuring the livestock had everything they needed to keep them happy.

The autumn planted crops are now well established, fortunately we managed to get most tasks done before the heavier rain set in. We’ve made good use of our direct drill, using it for the majority of land for oilseed rape, winter wheat and winter barley. By establishing crops with less soil disturbance, we hope to boost our soil organic matter. This will improve soil fertility and health through improved capabilities to store moisture and nutrients, improve soil structure to increase erosion resistance and support the functionality of soil organisms. All of these things increase crop yield potential as well as improving the land’s long term sustainability.

December oilseed rape

In the autumn, it was very exciting to have ITV visit Deane Farm! They reported on our work with the RSPB and Labrador Bay cirl bunting project. Visit the Deane Valley Produce Facebook page to see the full clip! It was a great chance to share the success of the project as well as communicate the importance of regenerative practices and how they form a key part of our farming system.

We were very excited to feature on ITV!

On the livestock front, the latest group of pigs are enjoying foraging through the cover crops, supporting our regenerative goal of increasing livestock incorporation into the cropping system. It’s surprising how quickly the pigs grow, the pasture reared life style is an important part in the production of our delicious sausages.

Winter days in the cover crops

Although grass nutrition tapered off as autumn progressed, after the bleached summer pastures, it is very satisfying to see the flock grazing happily but now the first group of ewes are housed in preparation for lambing. Scanning results have been good and the first group of arrivals are making an appearance so a young shepherd is busy for the Christmas holidays in the lambing shed!

Feeding time for the flock

After the dry summer, the hens have finally seen some fresh pasture to graze but now find themselves being confined due to the Avian Flu threat. We have upgraded their housing in an attempt to try and allow them a little protected grazing to adhere to government rules and still access the outside world a little. An uncertain time for all. Egg shortages as well as high food prices are dominating farming in the news recently. With dramatically increased input costs, like the rest of the country, farming is also seeing challenging times.

As December draws to a close, next on the agenda will be hedge laying and planting to meet our Countryside Stewardship commitments. Now the weather has turned cold enough, whips will be lifted from their growing positions in the nursery and sent to us in Devon and we shall then be busy prepping the site and planting. Machinery maintenance and other projects that we don’t seem to have time for in the summer mayhem are also being ticked off the list.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas from Deane Farm, here’s to 2023!

Cliff grazing for the flock overlooking The Ness
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