Farmer Focus : David Greasby - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus : David Greasby

I”m suffering from information overload. With 10kg of farming reports, directives or consultative documents on my desk the quest for a summary of conclusions or list of significant points is like searching for the Holy Grail. Computers are great for information analysis but have negated the art of succinct and easily readable communication. Email might be fast (as long as it”s working) but seems to be an excuse for passing on a barrage of superfluous information.

With an ACCS inspection out of the way for another year our next compliance task is dealing with the Entry Level Scheme, although we are still awaiting new field numbers for significant point scoring areas. I have opted to use the expertise of FWAG to ensure we get it right from the outset, and to start looking at future environmental options for this farm.

As an industry we have kept a low profile in recent times, weathering the salvoes and sniping from myriad environmental interest groups. Times are changing, and with the springboard provided through adoption of these new schemes, we must be moving into an era where the initiative can be regained on countryside and food production matters.

As lorry loads of shining new equipment pass this farm on a regular basis, I can only hazard that somebody, somewhere, has a bullish view of arable farming or is making significant cost reductions through new investment. I am envious to a point – most of my future machinery is currently blocking hedgerow gaps around the country keeping out travellers!

Yoga under the palm trees – a holiday dare from my wife, had me identifying grasses and weeds in the Sinai Peninsular from the classic “crab” position. With no farming to compete or compare with, sun, sea and far too much food – our batteries are now fully re-charged.

Farmer Focus: David Greasby

HAVING RECENTLY changed another decade I am claiming a degree of wisdom. Failing that I am happy to be a grumpy old farmer.

Sixty years ago The Times newspaper reported a debate concerning the merits or otherwise of ploughing versus cultivations. Research results from Rothamsted at that time concluded rotational, soil and weather constraints would dictate any option and both techniques had a place in the mix of things. Where have I heard that before?

 Nothing much has changed. The requirements for environmental welfare and sound agricultural practice – essential for farming in 2005 – have been followed for years. The only difference is we now have to provide a structured plan of our farm strategies.

 Many aspects to be dealt with under cross compliance – soil management, crop nutrition, organic matter and erosion were researched and documented in the days of the “full on” MAFF advisory services, NAAS and ADAS. Much of the current baseline advice has been adapted or, indeed, poached from that era, with a wealth of information probably waiting to be re-invented. “What goes round comes around” is the adage and excitement over minimal tillage is a prime example of a return of a concept in a new economic and technological era.

At home, a check list of the crops shows oilseeds and wheat looking reasonable with a requirement to get blackgrass spraying on the earlier drilled cereals sorted as soon as possible. Our potatoes will soon be gone, reflecting a combination of reduced yield and steady demand at the farmgate. The lower output was countered by us increasing prices this season and “reverse psychology” suggests the higher the price the more niche” a niche market becomes. Indeed the only problem with our clientle is their post-Christmas diets and New Year resolutions play havoc with January sales until normality is restored.

Farmer Focus: David Greasby

THE SHEEP are now inside for the winter having been shorn at speed by Rhydwyn Price, a member of the Welsh team for next year’s World Shearing Championships, and his assistant Richard. We are having to be very selective with straw feeding in the run up to lambing – with moulds a legacy of the wet harvest and a potential abortion problem, only the very best can be fed during this critical period.

It’s been a long wait but a few dry days have allowed us to spread farmyard manure and finally complete our drilling programme. Some 8ha (19.7 acres) of oilseeds have been replaced with wheat, after failing to establish – which is making me paranoid about my inability to get small seeds under way on this farm.

We should have been concentrating our effort on building modifications, especially where deadlines exist for new workshop lettings. This is the area where income stream can be significantly improved, provided costs and investment can be kept at sensible levels. However, prioritisation has been difficult this season with the sporadic demands of weather related farm work, and it is good to finally clear these jobs and move on. Whereas I am convinced that profitable management of all assets must be the way ahead for any business, I feel strongly that core farming enterprises must not be neglected in the drive for diversification – particularly in the short-term.

Six hours to do 60 miles into the City of London for a wedding was an experience not to be shared. Talk about grid-locked. However, we did make the splendid evening reception, the ladies looked beautiful and local history will record how close I came to buying a sports car in gratitude for “spending a penny” at a roadside Porsche showroom.

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