26 October 2001

Counting up headlands

ON COMPLETION of winter barley drilling I am endeavouring to count up the area of 20m headlands left for set-aside, writes John Lambkin.

We have already established a 20m area along the southern perimeter of the farm by sowing a grass and wildflower mix some years ago but this year we have added to the tally of set-aside headlands in three fields of barley and one of wheat sown after sugar beet.

In principal the idea is sound from both farming and environmental standpoints but filling in the IACS form and tracing numerous maps to substantiate our claim is going to be a nightmare next spring.

We got a call from our sugar beet harvesting contractor to say lifting would commence on Sun, Oct 14 just as the weather broke. Due to some unfortunate breakdowns the team did not leave until the Tues morning, having lifted 9.9ha (24.45 acres).

A small field at the back of the farm consisting of 3.9ha (9.6 acres) lifted extremely well with some good sized sugar beet followed by 6ha (14.8 acres) from a second field. In total this represents 50% of the crop and will be cleaned and carted later this month into Wissington sugar beet factory in the heart of the Cambridgeshire fens.

This is the fourth factory that British Sugar has, in its infinite wisdom, seen fit to direct our crop to in the last 30 years or so and probably the most difficult and expensive to get to.

We have followed up behind the sugar beet harvester with the plough and press and drilled four plots of new seed for multiplication.

Our choice includes Malacca as a Group 1 wheat which consistently gives good results for both yield and quality. Option as a Group 2 wheat has a hard endosperm with possible breadmaking potential, it has good resistance to yellow rust and maybe susceptible to mildew but at a £5/t discount to Malacca could be worth assessing.

Recommended

Tanker, like Option, is provisionally recommended by NIAB in this years list and is also a hard endosperm variety but in Group 4. It is the highest yielding wheat on the list with good resistance to brown rust but susceptible to both septoria tritici and septoria nodorum.

The fourth plot of Pearl, which we consider the best bet for winter barley at the moment, has certainly performed very well this year at Easton Lodge.

The land after beet ploughed over well and was quite dry underneath, making one of the best seed-beds this autumn. All plots were sown at 100kg/ha irrespective of the thousand seed weight, with the rest of the land sown to Malacca home-saved seed dressed with Beret Gold and Evict against wheat bulb fly at 300 seeds/m sq.

I have been finalising our business plan for next year – our financial year begins on Dec 1, 2001 – and working out our proposed capital spend for next year. I have provisionally earmarked some cash for a new tractor. The 130hp Fendt 312 4WD tractor will be 10 years old next May and has to date clocked 7300 hours and is a candidate for replacement.

We purchased the tractor second-hand when three years old with 1700hr on the clock back in 1995 for £32,000. Since then we have added a further 5,600hr. It has not been a cheap tractor to run, having cost us £14,890 in servicing, spares and tyres during the past six and a half years.

We have had a dealers service carried out every 1000hr and intermediate services at 250hr in our farm workshop. By far the largest repair was in June this year when the hydraulic pump failed. That in itself only cost £538.90 plus £228 for sundry other parts, but the sting in the tail was the labour cost of £2,512.50 to reassemble the gearbox and clutch unit after lengthy investigations failed to find the cause of the problem.

The cost of servicing, maintenance and tyres since we purchased the tractor have amounted to £2.66/hr or £9.47/ha/annum. Depreciation is likely to be in the region of £17,000, equating to an additional £3.04/hr or £10.80/ha/annum.

The tractor has been our main workhorse, averaging over 850hr/yr and has carried out some sterling work with a variety of student drivers. The big question is what do we replace it with? &#42

Lifting Easton Lodges sugar beet crop began on Sun, Oct 14, and so far about half the farms 19.3ha has been harvested. The beet will be cleaned and carted later this month to Wissington sugar beet factory in the heart of the Cambridgeshire fens.