Summer Drought and Climate Change

16 August 2018 joe
Summer Drought and Climate Change

This summer England has experienced one of the driest periods in living memory, with no meaningful rain in almost three months. Satellite pictures show what is usually a ‘green and pleasant land’ reduced to a brown, scorched earth.

Our farm and the Herne Fine Wool Flock have not been immune to this heat wave. Whilst extremes of temperature, both hot and cold, help to produce the finest wool the incessant heat and strong sun has meant that the flock have sheltered for much of the day staying in the shade rather than grazing. Weight gain in young lambs and condition on ewes has been reduced, something that has been compounded by the grass not containing the same levels of protein and sugar that we would normally expect. In many places the grass has died off entirely. We have provided mineral licks to supplement the flock, rotating regularly onto fresh grazing and improved shade.

As farmers we spend more time than most talking about the weather and are actively trying to plan for drier summers and colder winters. Our soils are a mixture of chalk, flint and clay, varied and in some places difficult to work, so we have had to take each field individually, selecting varieties that will hopefully offer forage throughout the year and actively improve the soil.

One of the rather nice plants that we have sown as part of a grass mix on our clay fields is chicory. Not only does chicory provide some rather stunning blue and pink flowers that our honey bees seem to love, but the deep tap roots help to improve soil structure and also act as a natural anthelmintic for the sheep so its a win all round!