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HE CALLS OUT
With around three quarters of the land in the UK managed by farmers,
it's not hard to see how farming's shaped our landscape -
from the crops we grow...
to the animals that graze our fields.
I farm both livestock and arable here on the Cotswold hills
and farming's always throwing up some challenges.
As we start another year, I'll look back
at how the seasons play a huge part in the farming calendar,
with help from the rest of the Countryfile team.
There's a good girl. Come on, then! Good girls.
'From spring and all the new life it brings...'
Beautiful lambs here.
-These don't look very old.
-No, these are only a few hours old.
'..to summer and fun at the annual country shows...'
Ooh, no, he doesn't want to go that way! Through the legs!
'..the glorious colours of autumn, in places you might not expect...'
So we know which ones they've mated, we mark their chests with a paint.
'..and the icy winters of the Outer Hebrides.'
Where's the farm boy Henson when you need him? He'd be loving this.
As well as looking back,
there's also some jobs that need doing on the farm right now.
'Winter. Day-to-day work is more challenging now
'than at any other time of year for a farmer like me.
'It doesn't seem to bother my sheep too much though.'
As a farmer, it's all about prepping things for the coming year.
These ewes should all now be pregnant, ready to lamb in spring.
But on a cold day like today, spring seems a very long way away.
These are some of my ewes that are in with the rams.
I had to get them in quickly then.
I mixed up the groups and already the rams started fighting.
I'll take the rams out now and put them in a small pen,
so they can't stand back and clatter each other.
All the ewes should be pregnant.
They have these marks on their rumps
which mean they've been served by the ram.
Hopefully, come spring, we'll have lots of lambs.
Right, I'll grab these boys.
You can see a ram like this, he's got a hell of a head on him,
and when he stands back ten yards and batters the other one,
they could really hurt each other.
This is my Herdwick tup that I bought from the Lake District
a couple of years ago.
He's as tough as old boots. He's done a good job though.
All your ladies look like they might be in lamb.
Then I've got my little Shetland in here.
This is just last year's lamb
and usually you leave them till they're two before you use them.
But these primitive breeds are so randy,
you can use them when they're lambs.
Hopefully, he's got his ewes pregnant.
This one is a little Soay, that isn't supposed to be in here.
Probably jumped over the wall and got in with the wrong group.
The Jacob here wears a harness. On the harness is a chalk.
When he mates with the ewes, he leaves a mark,
so we know which ones are done.
But he doesn't need that any more.
He gets the rest of the winter off and the summer,
just lies around with his mates, eating grass and telling jokes.
What a life!
Go on, in you go. Go on, little ones, go on.
I get the rams into this nice, tight pen,
so they can't bash each other around too much.
This Jacob's already got a little cut on him.
They rub against each other, mix up all the smells
and they should settle down in here
for a few hours before I turn them out onto the grass.
They've lost a bit of condition,
cos they've been mating with all their ewes.
They're busy all tupping time, running round after ewes.
They get a bit lean. We have to look after the rams at this time of year,
give them a bit of TLC, build them back into condition again.
'Now, at 1,000 feet, I'm fairly high up here in the Cotswold hills.
'But that's nothing compared to farming in the shadows
'of England and Wales's highest point - Snowdonia -
'as Matt discovered.'
'To get a real insight into the challenges of farming this mountain,
'I'm going to help Arwyn Owen for the day and he's got some new arrivals.'
-Arwyn, how are you doing?
Good day to you.
Beautiful lambs here. These don't look very old.
No, these are a few hours old. You can catch them now.
12 hours' time, I don't think you'll catch them.
Are they all Welsh mountain sheep
-you run here?
-Yeah, these are hefted sheep.
They're very much like birds
coming back to the same place to nest,
or you or I living in a house.
There's 1,800 acres of mountain, open mountain, up there.
Each of these sheep has its own
what we in Welsh call "cynefin" or area where they go to graze.
That means, even though that's an open mountain with no boundaries,
our sheep stay pretty much within the boundary they should be in.
'His first job is to catch a lamb that's managed to lose its mother
'by stumbling into the wrong field.'
-I'll give you that, Matt.
-Hey, they've got spirit, these little lambs!
-They have got spirit.
-You must have a dog, Arwyn.
He's not predictable either.
-I think it's time to get the dog.
-Cue the dog!
'Arwyn's dog Merc is trained to pinpoint the lamb
'and catch it with a Welsh rugby tackle.'
Right. We shall pop you back where you belong.
I tell you what, Merc knows his job, doesn't he?
-Well, he gets a bit excited.
But, as you can see, the lamb is fine.
-There we go.
-See you later on.
-Hopefully not too soon.
-Hopefully not too soon!
Straight in for a drink, no doubt.
'But it's not just sheep that are kept on the farm.
'The National Trust have introduced Welsh black cattle.'
She's just under 500.
'And, today, Arwyn is weighing them,
'to select the strongest ones, most suited for life on the mountain.'
You were aiming for 500kg. Good news - 625.
Eaten a lot of food over the winter, obviously.
'Cattle graze differently to sheep.
'They also break up the ground, which helps the seeding
'of Snowdon's rare and important plants.
'Part of Arwyn's herd is already up the mountain,
'but at this time of year, the grass hasn't grown enough,
'so we're taking them a feed supplement.'
Take these blocks up with us, so we have to go all the way up there.
All the way... Oh, right!
Let's go for it.
'On a day like today,
'one of the perks of the job is the stunning Snowdonia scenery.'
Right, so this is the spot where they'd usually come?
This is where the block will go.
Um...and...it's on foot from here, I'm afraid.
Just to see where they are and hopefully they'll come down.
Yeah, it sounds promising, I think. They've heard us.
Can't see them at all.
'But, eventually, they come to find us.'
There now, girls.
-Hey, that'll do.
There you are. See, get your chops round that.
This is one of the most extreme hill farms around.
It is, in the sense that, yeah, you've got such a huge range.
The farmhouse is at 240', going up to the summit of Snowdon at 3,560'.
-So, it poses its own challenges.
'One of those is the 70,000 people who walk up to Snowdon,
'through the farm, each year.'
To be fair, on the whole, I find the people walking up to Snowdon
are generally very responsible people.
-To some extent, I have to admit, it's an advantage.
They see so many people, when we handle them, they're quieter.
We are so dependent on support.
The economics of just farming to produce livestock doesn't stack up.
But, at the same time, the livestock play such a vital role
in what we're doing here,
in terms of enhancing the habitat. These cattle are playing a big role.
Hopefully, that support'll continue and it'll enable us
to continue doing what we do.
'Spending the day here, has helped me understand the value
'of farming this land for the good of the environment
'and everyone who enjoys this special place.'
'Right now, it's a bleak time of year for farmers.
'What we're all looking forward to is spring,
'when everything bursts into new life.
'It's the season when our hard work comes to fruition
'and there are always plenty of surprises.
'But it's no less a challenging time of year, as you'll see.'
We've got three ewes here and they were all scanned to have quads.
But they had five, five
and then this one had six, which is really extraordinary.
Five is a lot. I've hardly ever seen five lambs born, but six -
it's a first for me.
What we've done is taken some off and adopted them on to other ewes.
We're bottle-feeding some.
But we've left four on this one so far.
Hopefully we'll adopt another one off.
Look at all these lambs! Amazing.
They're not bad size, but if you get a great big Cotswold lamb like this,
this lamb was about 7kg when he was born
and he was pretty much the same weight as all six of these.
He's only a day old and these are about four or five days old now.
Look at the difference!
'When it comes to lambing, there's no such thing as nine to five.
'It's my turn for the night shift,
'which involves me checking every hour, till about 1am.
'It's a lonely job, but someone's got to do it.'
I'm pleased the sheep are lambing indoors,
cos it's chucking it down with rain.
When I come in, I just need to check all the ewes that are expecting.
There's one given birth here, there's a little Portland lamb.
This has been born in the hour that I've been away.
Lovely little lamb. The Portlands generally only have one.
They're lovely little sheep. They're born this sort of foxy red colour.
That's a little female, a ewe lamb.
Bit of iodine, for its umbilical cord. That'll stop any infection.
And then just a little bit of medicine.
You carry them by their front legs - it doesn't hurt them at all.
Shepherds have been carrying sheep like that for hundreds of years.
I'll just pop it back with its mum. She'll lick it dry there.
Because she's only got one, she can probably stay in that big pen.
There you are.
It all looks quite quiet at the moment.
I'll just walk steadily through the sheep.
They're used to people.
'But there's one ewe I'm really concerned about.'
She's often lying against the gate, with her head up.
She's scanned for triplets and I think she's just very uncomfortable.
'At first light, the rain has subsided,
'and, after a few hours' sleep, I'm back to the sheds,
'a little bleary-eyed.'
It's half past five and I'm just doing the morning check.
Straight away, I can see a fresh Cotswold lamb there
that's just been born, probably an hour ago.
She's licked it dry, it's up on its feet...just!
'With only a couple of lambs born overnight,
'all the action is just about to kick off.
'First on the list, that ewe that was in such trouble last night.'
I've left this triplet ewe now for quite a while
and I'm worried that one might be stuck, so I'm going to have a feel,
see what's going on there.
'She's managed to deliver one by herself.'
Just, er, lie her down. There's a good girl.
Wear a glove, really just for hygiene's sake, for me and for her.
Put her other lamb round the front.
Its head is arched down and there's only one foot...
So it's in completely the wrong position, really.
I'm just going to try and find the other foot.
That's it. So, I've got the head into the right position now.
I've got one leg.
What's going on there?
There it is.
There's both feet now, both front feet.
And the head.
Just clear its nose off, straw...
She's been pawing the ground, she's made the ground all dirty here.
That's it. It comes out in a downward arch.
And then the umbilical cord here just breaks naturally.
I'm going to pop that round to the front
and go straight back in for the third lamb.
There we go. That's it.
Ooh, there's a good girl.
There, you're a lively one, aren't you?
Look at that, a great big lamb for a triplet!
That lamb wouldn't have come out if I hadn't stepped in.
It was like this.
One leg was right back, like that.
And its head was down like that.
It was trying to come out in that position.
I had to get its head forward,
its leg forward and bring this leg forward as well,
so it could come out in the right position.
So, it was well and truly stuck.
And they're three really lovely lambs.
A big ewe like this might even be able to rear them all.
'In all, the triplets I delivered
'should eventually make me around 200 quid.'
I've got another ewe over there that's had one.
And, ooh, she's just had another one.
Sometimes have to move quite quickly, cos the lambs can be born
inside the bag.
By tickling its nose, you can make them sneeze,
and then they take a big intake of air that gets them breathing.
It's great if you can have a ewe like this,
two good lambs, born without too much trouble.
She's a good little mother, just perfect, really.
It's quite special, seeing lambs being born.
I've seen thousands of them, but it's still special.
'On this crisp winter morning, the frantic activity
'of spring seems like a long time ago.
'But, even though it's a quieter time of year
'in many ways on the farm,
'there are still jobs to be done.'
Every couple of weeks, we walk our arable crops to check for weeds
and fungus and insects.
Because the autumn's been so mild, the crops have grown very well.
We're really pleased with them,
which should stand us in good stead for a healthy harvest this summer.
And, actually, we could cope with a hard winter. This is a weed,
it's unwanted. And a good, hard frost would kill this off,
so, actually, a hard winter wouldn't do us any harm at all.
'There is one rather smelly job that's next on the list.
'I'm popping down the road to a local racing stables
'as they have something our crops need in abundance - muck.'
This is really good stuff.
It's horse manure and shavings.
We take it back to the farm, then spread it on the land,
where we mix it into the soil with a plough.
It builds up the organic matter and grows fantastic crops.
'And, being the tight farmer that I am,
'the best thing about this stuff is it's great value.
'They've got no use for it.
'All I have to do is take it off their hands. Everyone's a winner!'
Once this is all ploughed in, we plant spring barley
and then, come the summer,
we'll be reaping the benefits of all this muck
and harvesting the crop that goes for making beer.
'Summer can be a hugely rewarding time.
'A couple of years ago, after a particularly wet start,
'we finally got the machines into the fields of barley.'
It's been sunny all afternoon and it's fit and ready to go.
Hopefully, it'll stay dry and these guys'll work right into the night.
Unlike oilseed rape that's up to your chest,
barley's got quite a short stalk.
You can see here, the combine driver has to be very careful
not to get soil and rocks up the front of the combine.
But he needs to cut low enough
not to chop the heads off so they end up on the floor.
'But there's not much the driver can do when the combine gets clogged up
'by bumps on the field like molehills.'
Sometimes, it pushes up the soil if you get a rise in the ground.
It starts to bulldoze
and the combine driver has to keep an eye on it,
otherwise you just get a load of soil up the front.
Let's move out of the way.
'Unblocking the combine is a risky business,
'picking out the mud from its teeth.
'Once he's rolling again, it's not just grain that's collected.
'Valuable straw comes out of the back, which we bale up,
'to sell or feed to our animals over winter.'
I'm just checking in the straw
to see if there's any grain coming over the back.
Sometimes, there's grain left in the straw
where it comes over and ends up on the floor,
so you give the straw a bit of a shake, then look on the ground...
to see if there's any grain. There'll always be a little bit,
but you can see here, there's three or four there.
What we want is as much grain to end up in the tank as possible.
It's time to reap the benefits, time to get it in the shed and sell it
and get some of our money back.
'The grain comes in thick and fast.
'We have two tractors that take it in turns every half hour
'to unload from the combine, filling up our stores.
'A field of barley like this will bring in around £5,000 to 6,000.
'It's a hectic time of year - all hands to the pump.'
I've just taken over from John, so he can have a cup of tea.
Just going to take a load off the combine now.
I have to get under the spout now.
Make sure you're going at the right speed,
so you keep up with the combine, but don't stall it.
The idea is to load the back of the trailer first,
and then work it up to the front.
The tractors and trailers need to work to keep the combine going,
so they're rushing back and forth to the farm,
so that the combine doesn't stop.
I've got a full load on now and going to take it back to the farm,
tip it straight in the shed.
I'm quite tired now, I've been up since five.
It's now half past eight. It's been a long day.
I need to get back to the farm quickly, but you have to be careful,
because when you start going downhill, you really know
you've got 12 tonne of grain behind you.
'With all the mixed weather, I'm keen to unload this grain
'and find out how the barley is shaping up.'
I'll just take some grain and get a moisture reading.
It's a good sample, quite nice barley.
'The sun has saved me the cost of artificially drying the grain.
'Whilst it's dry, we need to keep bringing it in,
'even at night.'
It's quite satisfying,
getting into the barley and getting some off.
Just hope we have a couple of dry days now
and get the majority of it done.
This is where all our barley's going to end up! In beer, hey-hey!
'But summer's not just about harvest.
'It's also a time when countryside folk get together
'at the various agricultural shows
'taking place around the UK.
'Never wanting to miss out on a social gathering,
'the Countryfile presenters are always keen to get involved.
'So, when Matt and Julia were challenged to show sheep
'at the Shropshire Show, they came to my farm to swot up.
'If you're going to be best in class,
'you have to know your animal.'
Testicles. So, this is when they really might jump!
Can't think why(!)
I mean, honestly, what's the problem?!
They need big testicles, even in size and the right firmness.
-They say if you tense your hand muscle there...
-..that firmness is how firm they should be.
-Let's have a go.
THEY BOTH LAUGH
Ooh, I say!
'On the day, the sheep have to wow the judges from the off.
'That means entering the ring calmly.'
'Try telling Spartacus that!'
There'll be a judges' steward who'll bring you in in lot order.
Oh, now, the judge has spotted Julia's jumping sheep.
Round to the...
'The judges are looking for an animal
'that's got some spark and stands out.
'I think he ticks a couple of boxes.'
Are you all right there, Julia? We'll have to do some more work.
We're just getting to know each other...still!
-And it's Jules on Paddington Bear!
'I was very impressed with Jules's horsemanship skills as he took part
'in the inter-hunt relay,
'but not so impressed with his sense of direction!'
He's going the wrong way!
We should've given him a sat-nav.
That's it, left-hand turn, and straight on. So, there we go!
'In the end, he got the hang of it.'
A real flying finish!
Well, we didn't win. We came last.
But we have got a ribbon to prove it, we're all in one piece
and I'm delighted. Well done, team!
-ADAM ON TANNOY:
-Ladies and gentlemen,
here we have Julia Bradbury with Mr Kuhne-Kuhne pig.
She's riding the pig. Here we go, he's nearly round there...
'But Julia's hog-wrangling skills left a lot to be desired.'
Ooh, no, he doesn't want to go that way!
Come on, Mister... Come on!
Matt'll take your board there.
Gently, gently. Let him go.
-And back again.
-Through the bales for the finish!
There you go.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Big round of applause for the pig
and just a small applause for the presenters.
This is how you do it!
-And away they go.
'But it's not all about teamwork on Countryfile.'
Oh, so we meet again!
'James and Clare's rivalry came to a head at the Monmouthshire Show.'
'So, here we go, the inaugural Countryfile scurry race.
'A champion jockey versus a botanist
'with no propensity for horsemanship. Should be a belter.'
'I'm first up with driver Philippa and horses Wallace and Gromit.'
They're really good.
I've got no chance. The equine expert that is Clare Balding.
I need to know what that woman's time is!
-57.01, ladies and gentlemen, 57.01 is the time to beat.
'I've certainly got my work cut out here!'
'Next up, little old me.'
-Are they started?
-Jeez, they're flying!
He's doing great through the slalom.
Really shifting his weight properly.
Right, right, right, right. Go, go, go! Over to the left!
Now we've got a gallop. How's the time? 44...
They might beat us.
-Well, it's certainly fast. 56.26 the time.
He's got me again. He has, too!
Well done! I'm quite impressed with that. Very good. Did you enjoy it?
It was fantastic. Don't feel too bad.
It's the only trace of masculinity I've got left.
If I was to lose to a girl on a My Little Pony pink chariot...
it would be the end of the world.
You can take this very macho shield,
which is the Scurry Driving Association shield.
I'm thrilled for James, absolutely...thrilled for him.
'Back at the Shropshire Show, it's time to see
'if all Matt and Julia's hard work with my sheep paid off.'
-Keep looking at the judge...
-Just enjoy yourselves.
-Thank you very much.
'The crowds are waiting,
'James and Katie are here for moral support, so here we go.
'While we settle Spartacus and Jeopardy into position,
'John's getting the lowdown from the judge.'
We've got a particular interest, obviously, in 917 and 916.
-Julia's Norfolk horn, what do you reckon to that?
It looks good to me from here, but I'll go over them
and see what it's like underneath the wool.
If you just hold him, make sure he won't leave the ring.
'So far, so good. Time to check the teeth...'
Come on, Spartacus. Show your teeth.
'..its condition, and the rather more...sensitive area.'
-This is where he might jump.
-Yep, got him.
-So, this is the first prize.
-Thank you very much indeed.
'Alas, no first place.
'So, how did they fare in a field of seven competitors?'
-Well, sixth place, never mind.
It's good for me!
Jeopardy, what about that! Well done, Jeopardy!
Ah, thank you. I'm happy.
'And Spartacus and I are, well, how can I phrase this?
Judging is one person's opinion on one day.
-You can go to a show tomorrow...
I'll start the car.
-Thank you very much.
'Coming up on our celebration of the farming year...
'Jules helps a group of Welsh farmers round up their wild ponies.'
Does anybody know what's going on?
Is there a plan?!
'Ellie's racing against the tide to chaperone some prize cattle
'over to their winter pasture.
'And, for the Outer Hebrides, or wherever you're from,
'you'll want to know
'what the weather will be as the New Year starts.'
'My farm keeps me busy all year round,
'but it's not all about balancing the books.
'One group of animals have a very special place in my heart.'
Come on, then!
These are my Exmoors.
My dad gave me a few when I was a boy,
to encourage me to get into rare breeds conservation.
I've been breeding them ever since.
I really love them.
They're such an ancient British breed, almost primeval.
'And there's one particular pony that means more to me than most.'
There's a good girl.
This Exmoor is called May. She's knocking on 30 years old now.
Her mother couldn't rear her and I helped my mum bottle-feed her,
so I've known this lovely old lady all her life.
Come on, then.
'The reason I've separated her is because she needs her feet trimming.
'The farrier, Phil Brush, has come to shoe a couple of my other ponies
'and, while he's here, he'll see to May.'
-What do you reckon to these Exmoors?
-Really strong ponies.
-Yeah, they're as tough as old boots.
-Do you trim many?
Only with you! We don't see many of them.
Old May's feet are getting a bit long, I'm afraid.
'Back in the old days,
'Exmoors wouldn't have had their feet trimmed.
'But, to make sure they're always in tip-top condition,
'Phil comes every couple of months to trim ours.'
Now, May here's lovely and quiet, but Exmoors can be fairly wild.
Back in the autumn of 2010,
Jules Hudson went to help a group of Welsh farmers
round up their herd of feisty ponies.
'Snowdonia, 3,000'. This is hard terrain.
'It's beautiful, but bleak and inhospitable.'
Unless, of course, you're a wild, Welsh mountain pony.
These mini hoofed crusaders
have called this beautiful and somewhat treacherous landscape home
for the last 2,000 years. They're up here whatever the weather,
all year round, except for one day in autumn,
when they're brought back down into the fold.
'Snowdonia is the only place in Britain that they exist
'and farmer, Gareth, knows them best.'
Gareth, there's no doubt these ponies are unique to withstand this weather.
-You wouldn't leave sheep up here through winter, would you?
This is most probably the only pony that would survive up here.
or anything that would survive up here is these little ponies,
because they've been bred here in the 1940s,
-when we had the very hard...
-Half the ponies on the mountains died.
Yeah. My grandfather said they were stood there,
-dead, frozen on their feet.
-The ones that survived that winter were really special.
These bloodlines are still here.
You mentioned your grandfather.
These have been a family obsession for generations.
When your family's been keeping these ponies for 300 years
and can go back 300 years,
it's something powerful, beautiful, mystic.
Just something very close to all our hearts.
They're like us. We've been born and bred up here. We're special!
-You would say that!
-A little bit mad!
'The ponies may be as hard as nails, but even they need TLC sometimes.
'Today, they're being rounded up for their annual health check
'by Gareth and the other six families that own them.
'It's all done using maximum horsepower...
'on quads and bikes.'
-Look at them!
-Yep, it's all good fun.
The circus has arrived on top of a mountain in Snowdonia!
Does anybody know what's going on?
Is there a plan?!
These are all family and they all know where to go.
Everybody's got their own spot.
'These chaps don't have time for social niceties.
'There's work to be done.
'It's organised chaos!
'The thing about wild ponies is that, well, they're wild.
'And they don't always behave as they should
'when being moved around by a mechanical rodeo.
'But I've got to learn fast,
'because I'm part of a team, and these guys don't mess around.'
Your job is watching this ravine here.
-They'll be wanting to break up?
Cos this is all open mountain, so the idea is, with a big net,
you want to do a bit of shouting - whatever comes to mind.
They won't understand you, cos they only understand Welsh up here!
Go on! Go on!
'Nobody here gets paid to care for these ponies.
'For years, they've done it for love, not for money.
'But that became unsustainable,
'so the Countryside Council for Wales now help out with the costs.'
The plan was that everything would come running down that hill there.
Unfortunately, they had other ideas and went that way.
I couldn't stop them, the other bikes couldn't stop them,
they have disappeared over the hill.
'After a manic two hours, some master driving from Gareth and the team
'and more luck than judgment from me, it's great news.
'We've rounded up a cracking 131 ponies.
'Now all we've got to do is get them down to the farmyard,
'where they can be checked over.'
'Each pony is owned by one of seven local families.
'It's been like this for generations.'
Given they all live on the mountain, does it matter who owns them?
Yes, it does, because these have been handed down by generations,
-from father to son.
-And you want to keep your breeding stock going?
You know which ponies are yours.
Some are special, close to your heart.
'Each family has to manage
'their ponies' bloodline to prevent interbreeding.
'It's important there's only one stallion per herd,
'so young males are sold off,
'along with any other ponies too old or weak to survive the coming winter.
'They'll be released back onto the mountain to join
'the few hundred living there.'
It would be nice to have a rare breed status.
Maybe get rare breed status for the farmers as well!
'It's been a real privilege playing
'a small part in helping these incredible ponies.
'These animals are a living slice of our history
'and, thanks to extraordinary work from farmers like Gareth,
'they should continue to be so for generations to come.'
'As the trees part company with their colourful leaves in autumn,
'things start to calm on the farm
'as we ready ourselves for the harshness of winter...
'..apart from a few of my sheep, who keep themselves very busy.
'Earlier we took my rams away from the ewes,
'but it's in the autumn when they're let loose.
'There was one chap in particular I was keen to start off
'on his journey to fatherhood.'
-Yep, I've got him.
This is a new Suffolk ram lamb that we've got.
He was only born in January.
He's absolutely tremendous. He's huge.
This is the time of year when we turn the rams out with the ewes
and, so we know which ones they've mated,
we mark their chest with a paint. So...
Just rub this on his chest.
Sometimes, the rams will wear a harness with a chalk in it,
but, for a ram lamb that's never been out with ewes before,
the harness can be restrictive, so we just use this paste.
We're using a ram lamb, because in modern-day sheep farming,
the genetics is improving all the time,
so with a younger sheep, he should have tip-top genetics
and put that through into his lambs, that'll grow like stink,
and produce fantastic lamb meat.
'We start with orange, then change the colour every ten days.'
-Over there, mate!
'From this, we'll be able to work out
'when the ewes will give birth in the spring.
'Looks like he's more interested in my motor at the moment!
It's amazing when you turn a ram in with the ewes
and the ewes are always instantly really interested.
There'll be a number in there in season today.
He's running over now, really excited!
For a ram lamb that's never been out with ewes before,
40's a sensible number.
As he gets older and more mature, in a year or two,
he should be able to deal with 70 or 80 ewes.
But that's plenty to get him started.
'This winter is time to find out if another one of my animals
'has been keeping equally as busy -
'my Highland bull, Eric.'
You shouldn't have favourites, but this bull is one of mine.
He's absolutely brilliant.
We're just about to find out how brilliant he is. Go on, then!
'Robert, the vet, is here,
'to pregnancy test Eric's harem of Highland cows.
'Let's hope he's done the business.'
That's the warmest place on a day like this.
Robert puts his hand up the cow's backside,
and then he holds on to the fallopian tube inside her
and can tell whether she's carrying a calf or not.
She has got what's called fremitus, which is the blood vessel pulsing,
-which means she has a live calf in there.
-Fantastic! Good old Eric!
There's Eric, having a bit of a moan in the background. Don't worry!
He thinks I'm interfering with his ladies.
Go on, go on, go on!
'One by one, we come to realise that Eric is the bull he thinks he is.'
He's good. She must be six months, I would think.
-Oh, well in calf.
So, these have a nine-month gestation period, cattle.
Eric's done a wonderful job! Five out of five, 100% hit rate.
I had every trust in him.
Look at them, stunningly beautiful animals.
Last winter, Ellie went to help a friend of mine,
Angus McDonald, move his Highlands
to their winter pastures in the Outer Hebrides.
'The mission is to move the cattle to a neighbouring island
'before the tide comes in,
'so the race is on.'
-These are your Highlands, Angus?
Why are you moving them today?
Well, the hill ground now is full of snow and frost.
The grass is getting poorer.
So, we have to move them over to the island of Vallay
because it's got lots of grass that's grown all summer.
These cattle can convert that into energy
They're very good at doing that.
Where's the farm boy Henson when you need him? He'd be loving this.
I normally cut it quite fine over here.
I usually have until the last 15 minutes.
If the wind is from the west, the tide'll come in quicker.
I haven't been caught out yet, but there's always a first time!
What could possibly go wrong now?!
We never say anything till they're in the field they're going.
Come on. Come on!
I'm not one of your natural cattle herders, I'll give you that.
They give me that sinister eye
and I think, "Will they trample me to death?!"
These are all very well behaved. So far, so good.
'All I have to do is make sure they keep moving. Easy enough...'
Don't speak too soon, Harrison!
How far have we covered, Angus?
You'll be getting close to five miles now.
-Does it feel like it?
-Well, yeah, I'll be honest!
-Ooh, it's slippy here, isn't it?
Just keep them going.
Keep going, that's it. Come on.
A huge journey across the beach.
Home, for the rest of the winter.
'Nobody lives on Vallay Island any more,
'but for the next six months, it's home to these magnificent animals.
'The sun may be weak, the ground frozen solid,
'but seeing these cattle in this landscape
'is just something else.'
Even now, in the depths of winter,
it can lift your spirits and warm you right up.
'Winter ties up the farming year in its own special way.
'The wonders of spring are in touching distance again.
'The elements at this time really separate the men from the boys.
'Speaking of which...'
Now, Eric, my Highland bull, has proved he can deliver the goods.
Earlier, the vet pregnancy tested all his cows
and they're all in calf, which is great news.
So, now, we're going to give him a makeover.
He's pulled his nose ring out. I don't know how.
We'll have to give him a new one.
First of all, I have to persuade him down the race to the crush.
When you've got 800kg of muscle, that's not easy.
There's a good boy.
The hole is there, but it's a little bit small.
The ring isn't going to go through that,
-so we'll have to make it bigger.
-He sometimes shakes his head around.
They don't seem to mind.
I suppose it's like people having their ears pierced.
That should be not uncomfortable for him
and, actually, a lot of them seem to quite like it.
-You can play with this. He's not bothered about that at all.
-You have a choice of ring sizes.
That's the classic ring we've got now. It's a 3" ring.
I think that'll be too small. That's a 4".
That's a difficult to get hold of 3½".
-I think that'll probably...
-That'll be the one.
Which one do you like?
It's important, if you're handling bulls, that they have a nose ring.
It's a bit like a brake, really. You can lead them around on the halter,
you just have a nose ring you can put onto a lead
and hold them steady with that, if you need to.
Good chap, well done.
There we go.
Good boy, well done.
There, that just clips together.
And then a screw goes in there, to hold it as a ring.
That just snaps off. There you go. That's not painful at all.
If you accidentally put it through the cartilage, they really object,
-which defeats the whole object of it.
-There you go. Posh new ring.
What a smart boy.
There's a good boy. I know, I know, go on!
So, a new year means a new nose ring for Eric.
For me, it means I can reveal
the first page of the Countryfile calendar - a lovely winter weasel.
If you want one, they're available from the Countryfile website:
It's sold in aid of Children in Need
and a huge thanks to everyone who's bought one.
Now, one of the big players in the farming year is the weather.
If you're a farmer like me, you keep a close eye on the forecast.
So, let's head over to London
and see what Mother Nature has in store this week.
'Today we're looking back through the Countryfile archive
'at how the seasons play such a big part in the farming year.
'From the mountains of Snowdon in spring,
'to the Outer Hebrides in winter.
'But they're not the only ones who experience extreme conditions.
'A couple of years ago,
'along with many livestock farmers in the British Isles,
'I had my work cut out
'trying to look after my animals during the big freeze.'
These chickens need to be able to get round to their trough here,
which is actually frozen solid.
I'm going to pour a bit of fresh water on the top.
They don't like ploughing through the snow
so I'm just making a path for them.
'As long as they've got food and water,
'they're happy braving the elements.
'And the horses seem even happier.'
One of the major problems in this weather for livestock is water.
The sheep are OK, they can just lick snow
and get enough moisture from that,
but the pigs and the cattle need to drink.
These conditions are pretty unusual. It's about minus 10 at the moment.
So it just means you have lots of extra jobs.
You don't usually have to cart water to things. Right.
I feed these pigs on this concrete pad, and the powder,
so I've just got to clear it off a bit.
SHOUTS THE PIGS OVER
Pigs are really hardy. They'll live out in these pig arks, you know.
We've got a wooden hut
and arks of tin, fill them with straw, and they just lie out in it.
They're fine, particularly the Iron Age ones. They've such a thick coat,
whereas the Gloucester Old Spots are softer,
haven't got quite as much hair, and they're tucked up in their hut.
'The pigs are as happy as they can be,
'but there's plenty more animals to check on yet.
'Next it's the sheep.
'They may be hardy, but it's really extreme weather
'and I want to see that they're OK.
'It's a chance for the dogs to have a bit of a run around, too.'
So these are our primitive ewes really.
This is a little North Ronaldsay there, there's two of them,
and a Castlemilk Moorit next to it.
All of these ewes are heavily in lamb now,
they'll be lambing in April.
You can see the North Ronaldsay,
she's got icicles and snow on her back!
It's because her body warmth is staying under her wool,
not melting the snow on her back.
All these ewes will be lambing outside
in this field, so hopefully by April this snow will have gone.
'These sheep have a natural instinct
'to dig for the grass, which they know lies beneath the snow.
'Next job is the cattle troughs.
'I've had a call to say the water supply pipe is frozen
'and that's something I need to put right straight away.'
These cattle have managed to dig a hole in the ice.
What you've got to do is take the blocks of ice out of the water.
Otherwise it just freezes up pretty quick.
I'll get the gas.
There we go.
Despite all the hard work on the farm, the kids are off school
so there's still a bit of time for some sledging.
-Right, can I join in?
There we are. Ready?
Goodness me, I think I'm going to fall off the back! Oh! Hey!
I've been working all morning, managed to stay warm and dry.
Now I'm freezing cold and very tired. Get fit walking up this hill!
'And if this year proves to be as rewarding as the past few,
'you can be sure I'll be up for the challenges ahead.'
Well, that's it from my farm in the Cotswolds.
Next week, Ellie will be meeting up with
one of our greatest living artists, David Hockney,
who's found renewed inspiration from the Wolds of East Yorkshire.
And Matt is drawing on his own inspiration on the Wolds Way.
Hope you can join us then. Bye-bye.
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