Jim Alston runs 243ha at Manor Farm, Calthorpe, north Norfolk, and at Calibre Farming looks after arable operations on another 500ha. The light to medium soils grow potatoes, cereals and sugar beet.
One thing we are getting very good at is feeding pigeons. To ensure they don’t go hungry in winter we provide oilseed rape, which is followed in spring by a nice diet of peas. We then offer beet leaf salad to see the birds through to tea-time when cereals ripen and any weak spot in the canopy is exploited.
Whether it is because more oilseed rape is being grown in this area or they are migrating from the continent I don’t know. But the increase in pigeon numbers over the past two years has been so significant that crops previously unaffected, such as beet, now find themselves coming under pressure.
The pigeon day organised in February, where the idea was to get as many guns as possible into the woods at the same time, needs re-invigorating with possibly a second day added later in the year.
I also think co-ordinated efforts are needed to indentify the best techniques to pull back the numbers of this most voracious of pests.
We had the judges for the Aylsham Show farm competition here this week and I think they found the visit a little more invigorating than they expected. I had them walking around the farm instead of moving by vehicle.
Unfortunately, they were not so worn out that they could not hit me with some awkward questions, and the state of my late drilled potato crop was never going to impress a leading Nottinghamshire potato grower.
The good thing about this competition is that you get a clean farmyard and are forced to think a little harder about what you do. The downside is that I have not been doing it long enough not to worry about what the judges will think.