WTFIH @ Thriplow Farms, February 2017

It’s a bit of a difficult column to write this month, as not much has happened over Christmas. The farm doesn’t really start to get going again until February, when we think about putting some fertiliser on the oilseed rape, and this year we will be keen to try and get that going as early as possible, because the crops are small and need a bit of a boost to get them moving. The weather has been a bit too warm, although nowhere near as bad as last year. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we do get a cold spell later in January, as this is pretty critical to keep plant diseases and pests at bay – both in the short term and also stretching through to next autumn when we feel the effects from winter breeding of slugs and insects.

I whinged at the end of last year about pigeons eating the oilseed rape, and because the plants are so small there is not much safety margin before they are all gone. Luckily they have not been too bad so far, but it was February & March last year when the real damage was done. Sticking with the theme, we are seeing a lot of rabbits, something that has not been a problem in the last three or four years. We are trying both prevention, by putting up temporary electric fences, and cure – 74 were caught in only a few hundred metres of ditch down near Fowlmere. I’ve got a feeling it will be a busy spring trying to keep them under control.

The other pests that have appeared a lot over winter have been the hare coursers. A few were caught and prosecuted by the police, but by and large they came and go as they please – and in one case they drove through an electric fence near Foxton that was keeping a flock of sheep in. Luckily the sheep didn’t escape, but if you do see coursing happening, please call 999 immediately, and definitely before calling me or another farmer!

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