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Winter Wellness on the smallholding

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Not so long ago ‘The Beast from The East’ was a distant memory of winter 2017 but as the nights are drawing in and the leaves are starting to fall it’s time to start thinking about winter maintenance of your Small Holding. December is the month when winter really begins to take hold and bite back, preparation before this time will stand any Small Holding in good stead for the wet days and dark nights ahead.

Keep the Heat

Staying warm is priority for all, caring for livestock can take much of the focus. Ideally barns and sheds should be full of your hay, haylage, silage and straw requirements. Bedding down livestock can be incredibly physical work and the use of a trailer or backbox can make this task much easier and quicker. If vehicular access in the winter is tricky, getting the bales in is crucial before the land becomes too wet, the use of a bale spike can speed up the process if the damp is clipping at your heals.

Of course, not all livestock are brought inside for the winter, many of our native breeds of cattle and sheep will winter outside quite happily if well sheltered and fed. The daily feeding of the out-wintered animals will require a good routine, if you have a small number of animals to care for it may be possible to take feed out in small daily amounts, if more livestock are being fed, then feeding with large round bales of silage with the assistance of the tractor is more practical.

The needs of you, the small holder must also be considered, make sure that coat is still waterproof and those wellies don’t leak. While the process of cutting wood from seasoned stock will certainly keep you warm it will also provide fuel for woodburners, keeping fires roaring and toes warm!

Maintain and reframe

This period is also a perfect time to rebuild and re-assess in preparation for the new season ahead. Taking the time to count your gains and losses can really change the direction for next year’s decisions. There may be no need to alter anything, yet taking a good look at outgoings and in-comings is often well worth doing. Have targets been met? Are there any elements that need reconsidering before the season picks up again? Are more updated targets needed? Forward planning can pay dividends in the long term and can keep the small holding moving forward.

Although there isn’t much growing in the garden at this time of year there is still a lot of preparation to be done. Cut back, clear up and thin out. Take advantage of those dry frosty days to maintain the space. As we all know, the weather can turn ferocious at any time, ensure the fencing is undamaged and will withstand the assaults of the next few months. Is the glass house safe? The Polytunnel secure and clean? Although work may well slow down with the use of tools and equipment now is the time to get ready for the new season, is everything fixed, greased and sharpened? And above all…Is there new antifreeze in the tractor? Please see our top tips for winter tractor maintenance.

Siromers Top tips for keeping your tractor in great condition over winter.

  • Give the tractor a good hose down, with an industrial detergent if possible. Clean out the radiator fly screen, summers grass clippings can collect leading to the tractor over heating.

  • Check for any leaks and tighten fixings when required. Examine the tractor, now is the time to replace or repair ready for action in Spring.

  • Flush the fuel pump with thin hydraulic oil and thoroughly grease all the tractors grease points.

  • Look at the hours the trusty tractor has worked, if it is time for a service change the oils and filters.

  • A fully charged battery is less likely to be damaged by the cold, so make sure that battery is charged.

  • Spraying the tractor with a combination of old engine oil and wax oil will protect the tractor from rust and makes future repairs easier.

  • When starting up the tractor it is a good idea to wait a couple of minutes before revving it up. Letting the engine idle warms the oil and ensures that all parts are self lubricated.

  • For those planning on storing the tractor away over the winter period, ensure that is well covered. It is astonishing how much mess roosting birds can make on a tractor seat or bonnet!

  • Most importantly, replace the anti-freeze. The coolant can break down over time and now is the time that it is most needed. Check the coolant with a hydrometer to make sure it can handle freezing conditions.

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