Farmer Focus: Richard Thomas - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus: Richard Thomas

IT HAS been unusually dry again this past two months. This has meant potato planting finished in good time at an easy pace, not battling against the elements. However two weeks of hard frost, which is rare in west Cornwall, rather set back our December plantings.

Cauliflower cutting has finished and growers are pleased with returns from their first season with Clements. Area next year is rising to 210ha (520 acres) from 113ha (280 acres) this year. The only drawback is we are extending the packhouse again to cope with extra volume. However, the shed will now be used for 10 months each year, spreading the costs.

Grass growth has been slow in the cold and dry. This was not helped at Trevear where sheep on keep grazed all pastures hard over winter. In a normal season fields would recover quickly as grass usually grows all winter.

But cows are now out for about half the day and doing a good job grazing. We will run two groups for a while with low yielders out full time. Those giving most milk are still getting most of their diet from the wagon to minimise energy gap. All yearlings and in-calf heifers are at grass, with only this seasons calves indoors, winter is behind us.

David has settled in well to his job as herdsman and I am adjusting to not being as committed to cows. As a result, my father and I were both able to spend a long weekend away watching England play Scotland at Twickenham, and we are grateful to one of our suppliers for their hospitality.

There were a number of Scots in our party which made for a little pre-game banter. Some of the visitors showed their true colours when not backing their own country in the pre-match sweep stake.

Farmer Focus: Richard Thomas

ANOTHER BOOKLET arrives from DEFRA detailing the latest rules to prevent the rape of the countryside by modern farming.

I am at a complete loss to understand how anybody with the slightest understanding of rural issues could have dreamed up such a convoluted and ridiculous scheme.

 With the fairly intensive land use in west Cornwall, a number of producers are considering not registering for single farm payment. They will carry on farming in similar ways to their regulated neighbours. But they will not be bogged down by the box ticking and point scoring that will reduce the effectiveness of the farming businesses, for which we will be compensated.

We have a rotation of potatoes, cauliflower, maize, cereals and then grass for normally more than five years. The cauliflower crop is grown by other producers. So we are still coming to terms with the implications of the new rules on our system. Just to further complicate matters we also rent land for one crop of potatoes.

 If we as an industry are to be competitive in a world market, why burden us all with 8% set aside and all the other nonsense? Don”t all the farm assurance schemes have measures which promote food production that is safe and environmentally friendly?

 By using the same organisation for beef and dairy assurance, I manage to save a few quid and half a day. However, I recently failed to comply with the necessary standards for the beef scheme. Was it because of a heinous breach of movement records or maybe a shocking failure of medicine handling? No, it was not being a member of the National Register of Sprayer Operators.

 This was not a necessity for Assured Produce and my 80ha (200 acres) of potatoes, but vital for producing safe and healthy beef cattle. I just managed to bite my lip while the auditor complained about the amount of paperwork involved in his job now.

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