Farmer Focus: Richard Cobbald says snow makes UK ‘laughing stock’

Given the worst snow for 18 years, the whole of southern England grinds to a halt. For me that says a lot about how this country has evolved.

There was a time when as soon as heavy snow fell, farmers helped the clear roads with council-supplied ploughs. But this co-operation seems to have come unstuck. As a friend said: “We pay taxes for wars and banks, but can’t get our kids to school. The rest of Europe must be laughing their heads off at us.”

As I write, Paul Cornwall is lifting our last sugar beet. This is the latest I have ever left it, but in hindsight it wasn’t a bad decision given the frosty weather we’ve had. Also by moving them as they are lifted, we’ve avoided the storage problems that can be incurred with frozen roots.

The crop seems to have yielded well again and has secured its future with us as a very reliable break. We look forward to seeing Paul back here in early March to drill the 2009 crop.

Here’s hoping the second half of February and an early spring bring kinder weather because our crops, showing signs of a stressful winter, could do with some early nitrogen and a bit of TLC.

In turn this should end the seemingly never-ending pigeon problems and rabbit grazing, both of which seem to be worse than I have known for a long time.

With any luck the harsh winter may have reduced their breeding abilities. Mind you, what else is there to do when it’s too cold to go out?

Let’s hope spring arrives soon. It’s my favourite time of year and gives me a chance to get out on the sprayer again and have a good look at how the farm is progressing.

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