Farmer Focus: Cutting cultivation costs

I have, until self-doubt creeps in, had enough and feel now is the time to make a stand. Think the women of Greenham Common, feminists burning their bras, or probably more aptly the Peasants’ Revolt.

I have grown weary of reading and listening to the same old hot air about high-input systems being the most profitable, and that if you don’t have a Quadtrac or Discovery you may as well book your own dispersal sale with the local land agent; who will also require their inflated slice of the ever-decreasing pie as well.

See also: Blackgrass messes with the mind

While I was preparing for a talk recently, I thought I ought to crunch some figures to prove my case. Well my findings were interesting/depressing (delete as applicable).

My cost-of-production figures were reasonable, admittedly harvest 2014 will not require a move to Monte Carlo but I guess I am not alone in this.

The most thought provoking information was that the cost of cultivations in seeking to make blackgrass grow, added to the in-crop blackgrass control was equal to my single farm payment on a “per hectare” basis.

This is evidently not sustainable and the new less intensive approach, which started last year is now here to stay. A lot of inspiration for this has come from some Nuffield Scholarship reports I have read recently.

The two arable pieces gave a lot of useful information on the husbandry of the land, but a piece on reducing farm costs to prosper in a global market really whetted my appetite, despite being centred on the dairy industry.

Trying to harness the boom and bust cycle might be too brave an ambition, but to try and wrestle back some control of my own farm from the multinationals has to be the right thing.

I must be fairly confident about the future as my Christmas present to myself is a new sprayer. The identity of which is the source of much intrigue locally, but I believe in giving a promising young business a chance, especially when I believe it is the best-quality machine in its class.

My last Christmas wish is that Keira Knightley delivers it dressed in a sexy Santa outfit – preferably post bra burning.

Will Howe
Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans