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UK Agriculture four seasons


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Four seasons Winter

Winter
While hygiene and cleanliness in the milking parlour are critical throughout the year, they are of particular importance during the winter months when dairy herds have to be housed indoors. Thorough washing of the parlour consumes a lot of water and the resultant slurry has to be safely stored until it can be spread back onto the fields as a manure, often many months later.




Winter
By December nearly all dairy cows are housed indoors. A variety of bedding arrangements are used with some being given individual cubicles for resting, while others live in straw yards. In all cases fresh bedding is routinely provided. Apart from maintaining the comfort of the cow, clean bedding prevents bacterial build up and reduces the risk of mastitis in the cow.




Winter
Aberdeen Angus on a small beef farm. These animals are winter fed with hay as a bulk feed so that they mature slowly producing a very tender meat cut. On this farm the cattle are housed in traditional farm buildings. These are too small to allow tractor access for mucking out and so everything has to be done by hand. Unfortunately this is generally too costly to be economic and so these sorts of buildings tend to become redundant for farming need.




Winter
Some flocks may start early lambing in January and February. These may lamb completely inside, alternatively the ewe and lamb may be brought into shelter immediately after birth. As grass growth can be limited by cold weather, early lambing is something that tends to be undertaken only by specialist lowland flocks that have supplementary feeding available. The purpose of early lambing is to supply fresh lamb to the Easter market when prices are traditionally high.




Winter
Supplementary feeding with hay in frosty conditions. In the winter months baled hay is the preferred choice of many shepherds. Small bales can easily be carried by a quad or Land Rover to remote parts of the farm and can be replaced on an as needed basis, leading to less waste.




Winter
Cereal grains have to be stored for use as required and these grain silos are keeping wheat dry and free from pests so that bread can be produced fresh, year round.

The purpose of agriculture is to provide planned food utilisation to dependant societies, however it is the storage of produce that makes this possible. Without storage, civilisation as we now appreciate it could never have developed.




Winter
In colder spells snow provides a protective blanket shielding crops from cold winds. In the UK winter crops (autumn sown) predominate because our winters are relatively mild and crops can survive without significant plant loss. However in the more easterly parts of continental Europe severe cold can decimate autumn sown crops causing significant yield loss or complete failure. This has implications for market supply and prices.




Winter
Winter doesn't have to be cold! Mild weather has encouraged this winter wheat plant to tiller vigorously. The same conditions will also be encouraging grass growth in livestock enterprises which in Southern and Western areas may by the end of February, benefit from a light dose of fertiliser. Early fertiliser application to a grass crop will only make sense if there has been an accumulation of warmth in the soil over a longer period of time - technically known as the T sum; the data is published in the farming press.




Winter
Ploughing ground for spring cereal crops normally takes place in quiet spells over the winter months. Ground that is ploughed early, for example in December, has a longer period to overwinter with frosts breaking down soil clods and reducing the need for further mechanical cultivation. However early ploughing is not always possible, perhaps due to wet conditions, and so by the end of February ploughing for spring sown cereals will have become a necessity. Land that is ploughed at this time of year is almost always followed immediately by drilling so that the worked soil cannot become saturated and undrillable, should conditions turn wet.




Winter
As soon as conditions are dry enough, spring barley drilling will commence. Spring sown crops are prone to summer drought and so the key to a good yield is to ensure successful establishment as early as possible in the year. Farmers face a compromise over this. Drilling too early results in crop loss due to the damp cold conditions whereas leaving drilling too late exposes the crop to summer drought. Mid to late February is generally regarded as the optimum time for the drilling of spring cereals.




Winter
Haggis, a traditional dish of Burns Night served with bagpipes and whisky. Haggis is usually made using sheep stomach, which is then stuffed with oat meal and offal. Throughout history there have been many variations of haggis which include the use of pigs stomach, the inclusion of fruits and berries, the use of eggs and bread along with all sorts of spices. Haggis is usually boiled or steamed and has featured in recipes since medieval times.




Winter
Swede, a seasonal root crop that provides lots of fibre and energy and tastes great when mashed and seasoned. Swedes became important as a field crop in the eighteenth century providing fresh vegetable through the autumn and winter months; lifting lasts until March.




Winter
Brussels sprouts are a popular seasonal vegetable, particularly for Christmas. The Brussel sprout has enjoyed renewed popularity of late as supermarkets have provided the vegetable pre-prepared in convenient microwavable bags.




Winter
By January, underground aquifers have been replenished and heavy rain may lead to local flooding. In many valleys, farmland absorbs this, helping to protect towns, villages and essential infrastructure although this role is challenged by poor planning that pays scant regard to the role of existing flood plains. Farmland fertility nearly always benefits from the silts and nutrients that are deposited by flooding.




Winter
Quiet February conditions are a good time of year for estate and landscape maintenance. Without leaves and green growth, many tasks like fencing can be undertaken much more easily. Delimbing trees, coppicing hedgerows, the removal of scrub and the planting of new woods and hedgerows are all now being undertaken.




Winter
Recently felled timber is loaded onto a trailer at the roadside. Emotions about the felling of trees often run high, however softwood forestry is just another crop, albeit on a 50 year cycle. As a natural and renewable resource, the economic prospects for timber are now much brighter than they have been for many years.




Winter
Short days and long shadows. Many habitats now receive no direct sunlight.




Winter
A wild rose in a hedgerow. Berries are an important source of food for birds during the winter months and so farmers will delay any winter hedge cutting until the food source has been consumed.




Winter
Splitting coppiced hazel with a bill hook. This material will be used for continuous woven fencing but there are many uses for hazel which has played a key role in the construction of homes and buildings through the ages. Today the traditional practice of coppicing is rarely seen in Britain's woodlands, however with a growing interest in the use of sustainable materials, this could be about to change.




Winter
A charcoal kiln shortly after a completed burn. Charcoal has been the primary industrial fuel for most of the last 4000 years only yielding to fossil fuels around 200 years ago. Its production in the UK is completely sustainable, a claim that cannot be made for many imported charcoals which are derived from rainforest clearance.




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