The beauty of farming is that you are constantly learning. You would probably not be surprised about that. I wasn’t born into farming.
However I think it is fair to say that even the farmer still learns something new-if not on a daily basis then on a weekly one.
Sheep present with new problems. The industry is continually changing. There is always something different happening here.
For children though, the farm is a brilliant way to be introduced to life skills that will see them set up for life-whether they choose farming as a career or not.
I am not going to lie, I hated maths at school and I took the GCSE four times without great success. To think that I would be using maths every day on the farm would have filled me with dread a few years ago but, when you just have to get on with something, it never seems so bad.
This has nothing to do with chicken maths. This is the real-life sort of maths which we use every day.
I’m sure many people are familiar with the term counting sheep to get to sleep. Here, counting sheep is a regular occurrence.
The funniest things happens when I am standing by a gate with the children with well over 100 ewes running at me and the farmer shouts ‘count them!”
I try my best, I really do but I usually have one child at least, counting one, two, 11 so it is inevitable that we lose count. We always laugh about it. Counting any sort of animal is hard work because they hardly ever stand still.
We also regularly count the chickens. Foxes can be brazen enough to come in daylight but, with a large flock of birds, it is prudent to keep an eye on numbers and the children like to help count them.
When we feed the animals, we quite often count out scoops of food (or whatever implement we are using as a scoop-reinforced cardboard food containers are good) and I am always helped in my counting. I was talking to someone recently with a scoop of chicken feed in a Bisto gravy tub and we both laughed that the layers pellets did not look unlike gravy granules.
We count the eggs every day. British Summer Time helps. The extra daylight means the hens lay more so it is a great activity for the children to collect and count the eggs each day.
When we send animals to the auction or the livestock market, we often weigh them to check how big (or small) they are. If they are not up to a certain weight, back to the field they go.
When our rams or billy goats make sweet love with the ladies, we (supposedly) write the date on the calendar. Then about four months later, the farmer will ask me when they are due. Sheep are pregnant for between 147 and 152 days. I tell him the earliest day it will be and we write it on the calendar. Surely to ensure we are ready.
Obviously it is not always that simple. Not all females will be pregnant on that first day. This is why lambing goes on for so long. Once the rams are in, you are at the mercy of the reproductive cycle of a sheep. They can go out of season and the ram has to wait up to two weeks to have another go.
Most animal medicines go off weight so not only do we measure out the actual medicine, we often have to weigh the animal to begin with and work out the dose in relation to its size.
There is also the dreaded accounts side. The VAT and a whole host of other percentages. We work out hatch ratio of eggs, lamb ratio to sheep. At the end of the year we take all of the outgoings off the price we get for lamb and see how much we have (or usually haven’t) made on all of our hard work.
We don’t always get it right. Like the time the farmer asked me to get a couple of 5kg bags of chicken feed and I ordered half a tonne. The good news is that it is still going.
I never dreamed that farming would mean I would have to become a mathematician but more than that, when my children sit in their maths lessons at school, rather than sit there wondering how any of this will ever be relevant to their lives, they will know that maths is intact essential to farming.