28 April 1995

Competency pays off…

BRIGHT blue skies and spring-like weather over Easter lulled us into a false sense of security. We thought all we had to be concerned about was whether we would get some rain to settle the dust.

Night frost, hail and icy winds from the north east were not anticipated and far from welcome. Surprisingly, apart from holding up the progress of the sprayer and fertiliser application, we seem to have suffered little damage from the return of winter.

We had expected to see some effect on the very forward wheats and flowering oilseed rape. But we are not unduly concerned because there is plenty of time left between now and harvest for nature to compensate.

Further east on the fens where emerging potatoes and sugar beet have been exposed, it may prove a different story. Apart from holding back on post-emergence herbicides, our spring crops do not appear to be suffering too badly.

Sugar beet treatment

The 21ha (52 acres) of sugar beet sown at the end of March received the first post-emergence treatment on April 12 consisting of phenmedipham + metamitron + lenacil to control weeds at cotyledon stage, principally black bindweed, charlock and fools parsley.

This was followed on Easter Monday with phenmedipham + ethofumesate + chloridazon when the beet had reached the expanded cotyledon stage, in an attempt to stop the black bindweed reaching one true leaf.

Spring barley has been sprayed with Headland SM80 (magnesium nitrate) at 4 litres/ha because we detected early signs of magnesium deficiency. That application was followed by liquid ammonium sulphate to provide 108kg N/ha (86 units/acre).

Hereward milling wheat, which yielded 7t/ha (56cwt/acre) last harvest, was collected last week. The contract for 175t was agreed last December with a May 1995 position. The specification was for 12% protein milling grade at £132t.

Earlier this month the purchaser phoned to ask permission to draw on the contract a month early and agreed to hold the price for a June 5 payment.

The wheat had not been sampled and tested since last September, so on my suggestion, the buyer called for fresh material to confirm the quality.

The result was as follows: moisture 14.6%; specific weight 79.5kg/ha; hagberg 384; protein 13% and screenings 1.8%.

I thought it would be difficult to imagine anything much better – it certainly fell within the contracts quality criteria.

How wrong I was. The first load tested at 15.4% moisture for which we were notified by fax and the contract price was adjusted by £2/t. The second had over high screenings at 3% and received a penalty of £1/t.

Samples taken off the lorries will be independently analysed to confirm those pedantic queries.

I have been assured that, since we have played ball by bringing the contract forward, our price will not suffer. So this wheat should receive payment on the basis of the merchants sample results taken on April 12.

Our thanks to Cargill for taking the honourable view and restoring our faith in common sense.

Last week pig manager Jasper Renold and myself underwent the second day of our two-day fork lift proficiency test. This was the practical session organised by The Rutland Training Group and carried out by Keith Cook of Keith Cook Training Services in Leicestershire.

After an intensive morning, we took our test in the afternoon on the farms JCB Loadall 525B. Under the watchful eye of Mr Cook, we both passed.

Training courses

At Easton Lodge, we have made good use of training courses over the years with all members of staff taking advantage of the wide programme put together each year by our group training organiser Jacquie Griffin.

Farm foreman David Cham is currently doing a two-day course entitled "Tractor drivers agronomy on weed identification and crop diseases." Earlier this year I decided to take the certificate of competence in the safe use of sheep dips.

Jeff Keyworth, Mill Farms farm manager at Sawston is currently tackling his Basis training. No education or training is ever wasted, but at times on a busy farm, time off can be difficult to programme.

Talking of staff, we are at present trawling the agricultural colleges for a sandwich year student to start in mid-July this year, to work until mid-September 1996. The successful applicant will receive experience of arable, pigs, workshop practice and office routines.

We are also looking for a harvest student pre- or post- college for three months. The successful candidate will be experienced in tractor driving and happy to work long hours for good wages.

Anyone interested in joining our team please send CV to our farms secretary, Heather Shead, at Easton Lodge, Wansford, Peterborough, Cambs PE8 6NP. Alternatively phone 01780-782572 or send a fax on 01780-783991 for an appointment. &#42

Applying 4 litres/ha magnesium nitrate in 150 litres/ha of water to Easton Lodges spring barley, which was beginning to show signs of magnesium deficiency. Liquid ammonium sulphate followed to provide 108kg N/ha.