What should I expect when I stay on a working farm?

The Farming Year

Many people who stay on farms are unaware of the farming calendar.  Are you staying at Tomich Holidays?  Then I thought it would be helpful to give a rough guide of what happens during the farming year. Obviously the weather is a major factor and can adjust things quite dramatically but hopefully this will be useful for you.

The farming year begins in September. This is mainly due to arable farms (these are farms who mainly grow crops) as this is the time of year they are preparing their fields in readiness for harvesting the following year.


September is a good selling month so you may see horse boxes and transporters taking sheep to market. It tends to be mainly sheep sales at this time of year. Also tractors quite often are busy now ploughing and preparing fields, or rolling fields to make sure they are at their best for the following year.


The calves can be noisy this month as they are being weaned from their parents.  The farmer dips the ewes (female sheep) around now and clips around the tails, all in anticipation of mating time which happens over the next three months.


The grass in the fields will now mainly stop growing so farmers will be out feeding animals to ensure they stay healthy over the winter months. Cows are sometimes moved indoors now but again this is weather dependant. Male calves are castrated in November before the frosts begin to set in.


This month is mainly taken up with looking after livestock and being prepared for changeable weather conditions to ensure the animals are safe. The days are much shorter now too so a lot of farming happens while the majority of us are still tucked up in our warm cosy beds. Fields will be ploughed now too.


December and January are good months to catch up with general farm maintenance on top of the feeding and caring for the animals. January is also prime ‘muck spreading’ time. Muck spreading is using the collected slurry from the animals in the barns/sheds and spraying it over the fields as a fertiliser. The fields take this the best when they are dry and firm so the frosts that happen now are a bonus for muck spreading. It can be a bit smelly but doesn’t last long.


Sheep are brought in now and scanned and checked for pregnancy. Calves are also being born this month in some farms.


Sheep are arranged into lambing groups. This is worked out from the scans so sheep that are having twins tend to be kept together as do triplets and singles. Ewes also get their feet trimmed to prevent foot rot and the breeding ewes are vaccinated. Then lambing begins, this is an incredibly busy time for farmers as it is pretty much constant until the last lamb is delivered. The farmer must ensure all the lambs born are healthy.  Sometimes the ewe doesn’t manage to cope with the lambs and they are abandoned.  So the farmer can either hand rear the lambs or try and get another ewe to take the extras. They are more likely to do this if they have lost a lamb themselves. They also need to watch that the young lambs aren’t attacked by foxes or crows.


Calving and lambing continues.  The wee ones are super cute at this age and you can spend hours watching them skip around and explore their new surroundings and figure out how their limbs work.


All the sheds and barns that have been used for calving and lambing have to be thoroughly cleaned. The lambs get castrated, ear notched and ear tagged now. Livestock is moved out of the growing fields that are to be used for silage. These will be left for around 6 weeks to be long enough to get cut for silage.


Sheep shearing is the main focus for this month. this also includes shearing around the tails to make sure sheep don’t suffer from Fly Strike.  (this is a horrible thing where flies lay their eggs in the wool.  When they hatch the maggots eat into the sheep). Other routine sheep maintenance happens now including doing foot baths and drenching them to ensure they don’t get worms.


Hay making and silage making are the main jobs for this month. Lambs are also vaccinated and foot bathed now.


Lambs are weaned now and let out onto the grass thats been left after the hay and silage crops.

That takes us back to September where the farming year begins again. This obviously isn’t a conclusive list and there are a lot of things that I haven’t covered but hopefully it should give you a general idea of what you might be seeing and why.

For more detailed information see the BBC’s Countryfile link or for Scottish farming facts NFU Scotland.