Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson goes in search of combinable break crop

First, I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sadly, I seem to have been on Santa’s bad list, as he didn’t leave any Single Farm Payment in my stocking. Still, we managed to survive Christmas at home with the kids – having a very tasty joint of locally-reared Aberdeen Angus for dinner.

Next year it should be compulsory for every household to have roast pigeon for Christmas dinner. There are certainly plenty descending on oilseed rape to fatten themselves.

Another absent gift was a significant rise in crop prices. We’re constantly being told that the population is growing and that we need to produce more food.

Now we’ve grown the extra corn but are being paid only half as much. Clearly, the population isn’t hungry enough.

Can anyone point me to a reliable, hassle-free combinable break crop? I increasingly hate growing rape and am trying to avoid looking at it until the weather warms and it starts growing again.

If British Sugar had not shut its York factory and bought our quota for a fraction of the price we paid, we’d probably have kept growing beet for the firm, even at a loss – something farmers excel at.

Hedgecutting is the order of the day while we are still allowed. We are mid-way through our ELS scheme and have seen no benefits for the birds in hedges left uncut for three years.

Those that are cut annually with a couple of inches of new growth left on each year have remained thick and bushy – perfect for small birds to hide their nests in.

Those that have been left uncut are gappy, with long growths that don’t bush out, leaving them unsuitable as shelter for these same small birds.

Maybe this could account for the diminishing small bird population?

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