Farmer Focus: Richard Cobbald February column - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus: Richard Cobbald February column

Fine weather has bought a huge amount of activity on farms around Cambridge, and we have been busy drilling 110ha (272 acres) of Tipple spring barley on some lighter land.

To make sure we were fully awake and at the top of our game after the relatively quiet period we found ourselves challenged by broken tractors.

Our main beast of burden threw us a curve by having a continuing niggle which was finally sorted, only to be rapidly followed by its temporary replacement breaking out in sympathy and developing an axle problem.

Undaunted we pressed ahead and I can report that it has all been drilled into excellent seed-beds and rolled.

However, could this all be a thing of the past if the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, decide to make us put in cover crops over winter or spring plough?

We are not even on ground that is particularly heavy for our spring cropping, but it would sound the death knell for crops like sugar beet on heavier soil.

Perhaps the DEFRA decision-makers would like to leave the warmth of their offices and come to a working farm to see what impact such moves would have.

If any of the aforementioned individuals actually read this they are welcome to contact me and I will happily conduct a tour around some local farms.

As I write, the estate is bathed in sunshine.

We are applying urea to wheat, having finished the oilseed rape, and I’m sure some will say we are plenty early enough. But after last year’s dry spell I want to make sure the plants have some N going into spring.

I must close now as I hear the siren call of the sprayer full of Atlantis summoning me from my own warm office.

Farmer Focus: Richard Cobbald February column

In November I visited New Zealand, where my brother farms on the Canterbury Plains, which made me realise what it must be like to be valued as a farmer and food producer.

Kiwi farmers are the backbone of society there. They laugh at the thought of someone telling them what to do with their land, and are really benefiting from a no-subsidy system –so it seems.

They are also hugely efficient, with every aspect of their farms seemingly pushed to the limits.

Huge dairy units are springing up everywhere, with arable land converted and trees making way for grass.

It was fascinating to see and such a contrast to the UK and the way our farmers and industry are perceived and dictated to.

It was a great trip, but I’m not sure that the line “you are the eighth best rugby team in the world“went down very well in the local pub.

I‘ve been at West Wratting only four months, and have spent three weeks of that time on holiday. So I’m still very much finding my feet on the estate –as well as bringing on board a new agronomist.

I now have two very fit dogs, as I take them with me on my walks across every inch of ground to get the feel of the place.

The crops were all sown well in the autumn and have had pre-emergence sprays.

They look good, though we are just starting to see blackgrass appearing. Soon the sprayer will be ready to roll, with Atlantis treatment top of the jobs list.

Selling produce is proving more interesting, being a case of trying to predict where the top of the market will be. It seems to me, as I write, that we may not have got there yet.

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