Farmer Focus: where are they now? Matthew Dale

Matthew Dale farms in partnership with his brother, Paul, at Restronguet Barton, near Falmouth, Cornwall. Combinable crops dominate with 34ha of permanent pasture and 25ha let for cabbages and potatoes.

Last wrote December 2007

Notable changes Switched to a John Deere T550 Hillmaster combine. Upgraded grain store.

Matt Dale_5390Plenty has happened since my last contribution, but where to start. I am older, greyer, but no wiser. No surprise there, then.

The event that was most fun was the midlife crisis that Jillie, my wife, and I shared. Neither of us wanted a sports car and I have quite enough on my hands with the one woman, so running off with another was not on the cards. We settled with going to Australia and New Zealand for nine weeks, coming home via Hawaii, where we saw guys riding 40ft waves; I settled for surfing the 6ft variety. It was a fabulous trip.

Back on the farm we are still trying to keep the business moving forwards. We chopped out our 120hp Claas for a Massey 6480 and we have been delighted with it. We also moved on to a John Deere T550 Hillmaster combine. What a revelation. It terms of output it is not massively faster than the old MF36RS we sold, but the way it copes with slopes is fantastic. Even the steepest fields feel flat and now almost all our fieldwork is done across the hill. Less fuel burned, less compaction, better water retention for the crops and less erosion and runoff – plus virtually no losses from the combine sieves.

The other major expense has been the building of a new shed. Our old grainstore is very outdated and labour intensive. Mike Cowell built us a 100 x 60ft shed with grain walls, power floated floor, electric doors and moveable dividing panels. Loading grain in and out is a revelation compared with the old shed. We also put 30kW of solar panels on the roof which were all up and running by August, so we are on the higher Feed-in Tariff. The hope is that they will largely pay for themselves and the shed over their lifetime. We shall see.

The crops this year were better than expected thanks to some rain falling in the nick of time. Our absolute highlight was achieving 8.03t/ha with our Maris Otter – we must have done something right.

The other recent big event was when some big steers broke out of their field and one of them ended up down on the rocks on the foreshore. I started to drive him along under the cliff, but he decided to wade out into the sea. I had to strip down to my boxers and wade out after him with some rope in my hand.

Once ashore there was no way that he was even going to try to scramble up into the field so we ended up attaching his halter rope to the crane on a big barge and made it swim 400m up the creek to an inlet. Apparently it maintained almost 2mph all the way. I’m glad it didn’t make it into the local paper, the headline wouldn’t be “Boatman recues bullock”, more likely it would read, “Farmer in pants chases cow into sea”.

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Catch up with former Farmer Focus writer Steve Bumstead

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