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The Cotswold farming year with Adam Henson

PUBLISHED: 11:51 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 February 2013

Old Spot piglet at the Cotswold Farm Park

Old Spot piglet at the Cotswold Farm Park

Cotswold farmer and BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson tells us what's happening on the farm during January

I live and work on a beautiful 1,600-acre tenanted farm in the heart of the Cotswolds, six miles from Stow-on-the-Wold. Theres hardly a day when I wake up in the morning and dont appreciate how lucky I am and look forward to going to work.

Farmers generally work on a 100-day winter when they plan to feed their animals extra rations to compensate for the lack of grass and to fight off the cold, wet winter. At around 1,000 feet above sea level, the winter at home seems to last a lot longer putting more pressure on the feed bills.

Livestock need to be checked, fed, watered and bedded down as a matter of routine, even on Christmas Day and (blurry-eyed) on New Years Day. Winter is also a time for maintenance, fencing, building work and planning for the coming year. By the way, Happy New Year 2010 is upon us. Along with the wish for health and happiness for all my family and friends and peace on earth, Im looking forward to another farming year.

The ewes and cows are all pregnant and due to give birth in the spring, when hopefully the grass begins to grow nice and early so that the mothers produce plenty of milk for their young. Now is a quiet time on the arable side of the farm, apart from loading lorries with last years grain. The 2009 yields were good, but quality was poor due to the wet harvest. A lot of what we grew for beer and bread production has ended up as animal feed.

The autumn was kind to us so planting went well and crops were established with ease. Now all we need are favorable growing conditions and a dry harvest to reap the benefits.

Our pigs give birth all year round and we have recently had lovely litters of Tamworth and Gloucestershire Old Spots. Other sows have just gone to the boar so that we have piglets for our visitors to enjoy at the Cotswold Farm Park when we reopen in March.

I believe that farming has an optimistic future ahead of it. Sure, we will always be faced with the pressures of the weather, exchange rates effecting commodity prices, animal diseases and changing government policy, but potentially our land has a huge amount to offer.

If any industry was told that its customer base was likely to go up 50 per cent in the next 40 years, from six billion to nine billion people, then thats something to be excited about. Not only can we produce food but also fuel, use the land as an amenity for diversification and get government support to manage conservation.

The industry is packed with developments and innovation and offers some fantastic career prospects across the whole food supply chain and rural domain.

For those looking from the outside in, I am very conscious that as an industry agriculture needs to shed its out of date image of the overworked, under-paid, whingeing farmer. That may be a good New Years resolution: I need to stop moaning and make the very best of what I have!

Adam Henson is the tenant farmer of 1,600 acres in the Cotswolds, a TV presenter on Countryfile, appears on Radio 4 programme On Your Farm and also runs the Cotswold Farm Park.


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