Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson, April column

A cold, wet March has left too much fieldwork undone and given us too much time to consider the costs.

The cereal price increases are welcome, if long overdue, but the rise in inputs is unbelievable. Fertiliser costs have doubled in just 12 months, with manufacturers saying that the cost per tonne of wheat is the same as last year when wheat was £60/t.

That is little comfort when the time comes to pay the bills. I wonder what the fertiliser price would be now if corn had remained at £60.

With a huge backlog of work hurtling towards us after our lack of activity in March, I am glad to see the days getting longer now that the clocks have gone forward.

One job I did complete in all the rain was to top a customer’s two-year-old miscanthus. It was about 10ft tall, so the flail mower just knocked it over.

After a bit of head-scratching, we headed to the nettle bed and dragged out an old grass mower. With the hood quickly chopped off, the cutting discs were able to slice straight through the bamboo-like stalks and leave a pretty good job.

Perhaps I should apply for a patent on the Mark I Miscanthus Muncher.

It seems there is always some piece of kit that needs changing. This time it’s the end of the road for our Case Axial Flow combine.

Having reached its 20th anniversary last year, it was time to move on. It hadn’t been a bad old bus on the whole, but, with only 15ft up front, you could never get more than 3 acres/hour.

We have changed to a Deutz straw-walker machine, and I hope the 21ft header will allow us to cut more corn on the better days and leave the grain dryer turned off.

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