Farmer Focus: Sue and Andy Guy - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus: Sue and Andy Guy

SINCE THORNEY Abbey was launched as a LEAF demonstration farm last June, we have welcomed several groups and individuals. Both our MP and MEP have visited and, with an election near, we are pleased to find they are championing some of the topics we discussed.

Patrick Mercer is our MP and he has taken up the cause for a sustainable milk price for producers in his constituency. When he visited us in February he was impressed with the range of wildlife and realised the importance grass farms have in a predominantly arable landscape. Without dairy farms there would be much less grassland in Notts.

The farm walk season is just getting into gear now spring is here. We have seven groups booked to visit us between now and autumn, although we anticipate some late bookings, too. The first group of producers came last week, sponsored by the Environment Agency, which is keen to show its friendly side.

 We show the farm warts and all, so they saw our fantastic buffer strip, which has turned into a great habitat for small mammals and insects. We also walked them through the winter wheat, some of which was decimated by slugs last autumn.

By the time this is printed, our contractor will have redrilled the worst patches with spring wheat.

Most visitors this year will be non-farmers, which pleases us. One of the reasons we agreed to become a demonstration farm is to try to get a message across to the public that farming is good for the countryside.

 The most satisfying parties are schoolchildren. They are so excited about what they find, from mini-beasts and dung beetles to wild flowers and calves. The other thing which makes them good from our point of view is they earn us money through the educational access option in our Countryside Stewardship agreement. It is always nice to get paid for doing something you enjoy.

Farmer Focus: Sue and Andy Guy

YOU CAN tell there are not many shopping days left to Christmas. The decorations are up in town and the farming press is full of Smithfield specials. Anticipation of the festive season is high here for several reasons.

The Dairy Farmers of Britain seasonality scheme rewards higher output in autumn and early winter. After seven-and-a-half years of building up herd numbers, we have finally broken the 2000 litres a day barrier. The increased production should mean we will earn almost 2p/litre more for milk produced in November. Good old Santa.

The downside of increasing output is forecasting the milk quota market or the need to invest in extra quota at all. As I write, milk quota is trading at more than 7p/litre to lease, or just above 13p/litre to buy. Neither looks like a good investment when the country has been behind forecast production every month so far.

It seems the single farm payment may be influencing quota price more than milk production. What a bizarre industry it is that is willing to spend future subsidy payments, in advance, on a licence to produce which, if forecast retirements are anything like accurate, may not be required at all.

The other early Christmas present is the IACS cheque, which arrived despite there being a query over the set-aside strip we claimed alongside the wood. We established the strip as a buffer next to the wood in 2002, but were unable to claim it as set-aside in that year because it was too narrow.

However, a rule change allowed us to submit it this year. The question arose because we described it as “natural regeneration” when it was, in fact, a planted ryegrass ley allowed to go wild. Anyway, we felt certain payment would be delayed because of the confusion and are pleased to receive the cheque on time.

With any luck, this Christmas should be affordable instead of being loaded on the credit card.

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