Farmer Focus: what are they doing now? Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in partnership with his brother at Causey Park Farm, near Morpeth, Northumberland. He farms 566ha of which 280ha are combinable crops comprising oilseed rape, wheat, barley and oats. The rest is grazing for sheep and beef cattle.

Last Farmer Focus column: December 2007

Notable changes: Potatoes no longer feature in rotation

Now a granddad

peter hoggChristine was out for the evening with the “girls” (at least they still call themselves girls). So there I was, in front of the television watching Home and Away. Oven-ready pizza and chips, a few bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and every bit of electronic kit within arm’s reach.

I could watch any one of 42 channels, control the DVD player or the music centre without getting out of the chair. I could speak to people I knew, anywhere in the world, and with “Skype” I could see real-time moving video of Jenny, Richard and the grandson in Australia (Yes, I am a granddad now and only 45).

So with all that technology in the house you would think that I would be into the latest gadgets that can be fitted into modern tractors. Well err, not really. If there was some sort of emergency and a stranger had to move a tractor quickly, he would find it difficult to start and impossible to raise the implement. The bewildering cluster of buttons on the right armrest is different on every model. A couple of weeks ago I jumped into a tractor, set off down the road and pressed the pre-set button to open the throttle to maximum.

There was a resounding crash from behind and the mirrors lit up with a shower of sparks that would have sent a pyromaniac into fits of delight.

I had, of course, pressed the wrong button and lowered the plough. Over the years our yields have varied between 10 t/ha (once) to zero (more than once). The only difference was the weather. Now if I had sat-nav, GPS, soil mapping, stop-watch, test tube calibration, precision soil management, 1,000 grain weight drilling, and headland management systems then would those fields that yielded zero have done much better?

A set of Konskilde discs on the front of the tractor on our drill combination and disc coulters on the back has transformed our drilling. The job is now 50% faster and drilling depth much more consistent than it was with the normal press on the front and the old Suffolk coulters.

Most cereals received a pendamethalin/flufenacet spray, while the oilseed received Kerb (propyzamide) plus a gramminicide. The early sown crops are looking far too lush and many years ago, they would have been grazed with sheep, much cheaper than growth regulators.

We are saving again to go back to Australia (better let the sheep in and cancel the growth regulators). Now why can’t Jenny get her family to live over here instead?

Catch up with former Farmer Focus writer Matthew Dale

Catch up with former Farmer Focus writer Richard Ward

Catch up with former Farmer Focus writer Steve Bumstead

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