Farmer Focus: Mark McFerran - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus: Mark McFerran

Having received my 2005 single payment application form in the post about 10 days ago, the countdown to the May 16 deadline has well and truly begun.

Two issues have been concerning me in recent days. Firstly, I haven”t yet been able to rent the 3ha I need to fulfil my set-aside obligations and secondly, due to DARD”s new field maps having slightly different field acreages on them compared with the old maps, my previously worked out set-aside requirement has now been affected.

 For some reason my total area on the new map is 0.5ha less than on my old map. I have already made one trip to DARD”s office to make changes to the new map but another trip will be necessary.

First impression of the single payment application form is it looks quite complicated with several separate forms accompanying the main one. I”m booked into an Ulster Farmers Union meeting next week to get advice on form filling.

Ordinary farming has to continue – the cereal crops received 90kg/ha (70 units/acre) of nitrogen and sulphur two weeks ago.

This year I”m applying nitrogen in three splits instead of two. With just two applications I always felt the second one was a bit too much in one go. Splitting it into more even applications should help reduce the risk of leaching and provide the crops with a “drip-feed” effect through the growing season.

Colossus winter barley has received its T1 fungicide spray: 0.4 litres/ha Amistar (azoxystrobin) + 0.3 litres/ha Unix (cyprodinil) + 0.25 litres/ha Opus (epoxiconazole), while growth regulator was applied in a second application as chloromequat 1.7 litres/ha + 0.2 litres/ha Moddus (trinexapac-methyl) with manganese liquid mixed in at 0.75 litres/ha.

 Like the man in the New Testament parable, I intend to go out today to look for my lost half-hectare, hopefully returning from the DARD office rejoicing!



THINGS ARE certainly different on our farm this winter. We would normally have sheds filled with home-grown potatoes to be sold to our chip shop customers over the following six months. Now the most we ever have in store at any one time is about 12t of English-grown Maris Piper.

The only other produce under cover is wheat straw, stored in the form of 4×4 bales for customers who either asked me to store straw for them or haven”t got round to collecting it yet.

 About a year ago, the local sea cadets contacted me to see if I had any sheds I would be prepared to let for storing boats. Although I hadn”t much room, I cleared a bay of the hay shed that was the right size and agreed a price for a year”s rent. We are now into a second year with both parties very happy with the arrangement.

It’s interesting how one change in farming activity opens the door to a completely different enterprise.

I’ve been advertising the sale of all of my potato equipment over the last few weeks, some of which I have already sold. My plan is to store my remaining machinery in one or two sheds and let the rest of the shed space. We”ll have to see how my recent advert in the “sheds to let” section of a local paper goes. Another example of one change leading to another is regarding the land I have set aside for environmental schemes in the springtime. A shooting syndicate recently approached me in relation to the shooting rights of the ground. Hopefully I will have so much good wild bird cover I can use it to my advantage when striking a deal. As we enter a new farming era, I hope all the changes we experience will have positive knock-on effects.

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