PROGRESS RAISES RARE SMILE

MY THANKS to all those who by one medium or another responded to a previous On Our Farms article (FW, Nov 12). It is hard to believe that so many owners have been relieved of their Land Rovers, pick-up trucks and ATVs.

Clearly, the countryside is becoming a hunting ground for thieves and opportunists at a time when other forms of hunting are being outlawed.

Perhaps if parliament were able to address the issue of rural crime with as much energy and passion as it has with banning hunting with hounds we would all feel safer in our farms and homes.

Drilling of winter cereals is now back on target, having mauled in 23.43ha (58 acres) after potatoes. Half was ploughed and drilled with our power harrow combination drill over a protracted period caused by rain falling for what seemed like an eternity even before the potato harvester had finished. So any hopes of running over the field with a heavy spring-tined cultivator before drilling were dashed.

We would prefer not to use the plough on the basis that this only resets the potato volunteers causing problems for the future. But in this case, with deep ruts left by trailers hauling tubers off the field, we were left with few options.

As regards the other half, I must confess to having been caught out. Most of the field was harvested free of rain, but with too much haulm for our Ferrag Accord drill to handle without bunging up, we harrowed and picked most of it off before cultivating and then it rained saturating the seed-bed.

As time went on, we proceeded to drill the remaining fields elsewhere, but at no time did it become dry enough for the power harrow drill combination to function. In desperation, we contacted Kverneland which, through its local dealer Sharmans of Stamford, loaned us its demonstration 4m Tine Seeder on a John Deere 6920.

We struggled to begin with and the headlands have suffered from continuous turning and compaction. But after a dry few days last week, we managed to finish off with considerable relief.

The three rows of cultivator tines on the Kverneland TS handled the potato haulm easily, which could have been a problem for our old drill. After 10 years of sterling service, I am considering the purchase of a cultivator bar only to augment our existing drill when conditions for the Ferrag Accord become difficult.

The front-mounted tank, calibration mechanism and landwheel would be common to both drills. But where the power harrow was not required ,the cultivator tines would be a good alternative, and more particularly for work later in the season.

The statement that all drilling is up to date also has to be taken in context. Those who travel along the A47 from Peterborough to Leicester may have spotted a field of barley with 30% left undrilled and possibly a field of second wheat with part of a 10m headland abandoned.

Both areas will remain unsown since to complete the operation and to continue to apply further inputs would have proved a waste of time and money.

We are now turning our minds, once again, to sugar beet harvesting. Last month, we lifted and hauled 13ha (32 acres) representing 35% of our area and 38% of our A and B quota.

We can now lift a further 17ha (42 acres), which – if yields are running as before – will mean that, to be fair to fellow members in our A1 Farmers loading group, we will be able to send only a further 24 loads into the factory before Christmas. That will leave 315t or so in the clamp and a further 7ha (17 acres) in the ground.

The agreement between the five members is that we lift and haul sugar beet in about three visits or as near as field sizes will allow.

When crop yields are good – and this year we are averaging 57.74t/ha (23t/acre) at 16% sugar – then quota overshooting is inevitable. At that estimated yield we will exceed quota by 195t or 10%. Looking at the beet in the ground, that will be a conservative estimate.

Having given him a boost in this section recently, I was sad to accept Graham Johnson”s resignation last week. Graham has been with us since October 2003, and has been offered a post of trainee arable consultant at The Arable Group near Lincoln – clearly a good career move for him.

 I hope he is able to plough as straight a furrow metaphorically in his new role as he has done for us literally.

That means we are looking for a farm management trainee to replace him early in the New Year. The post is hands-on and is offered with a good salary, pension scheme and accommodation.

 In return for a two-year commitment from the applicant, we are offering additional post-college training in, for example, the British Agrochemical Supply Industry Scheme and the Fertilisers Advisers” Certification Scheme.