Farmer Focus: Crops are good, but I want perfection

Sunday afternoon I head off to walk the crops. Find myself in the middle of a 16ha field enjoying the view when suddenly the heavens open and I am standing there in a short-sleeve shirt!

We are rarely short of moisture here – especially just when we are ready to cut silage!

Crops are growing well, but I find myself looking for perfection.

See also: Grower plans move to organic no-till on wet land

Some thin patches around, a few weeds missed, maybe some fields could be a bit thicker, and some inevitable wild oats which will need to be removed.

Monitor farm trip

My search for perfection recently took me off on a monitor farm trip to South Wales.

This turned out to be a most interesting, informative and enjoyable couple of days.

Two groups of farmers visiting a number of farms and getting into discussions about varieties, rates, sprays, foliar feeds and general crop management.

This exchange of views in smaller groups I think is highly beneficial and encourages us to be inventive and push the boundaries.

What I found so uplifting was the enthusiasm and positivity of all, and of the host farmers in particular who constantly seemed to be looking for an “edge” and prepared to try something different.

I don’t know that we found “perfection” but we maybe came close and, annoyingly, their crops looked better than mine!

Small is better

Our last visit of the trip was to a 2,000-cow dairy farm. A big investment and clearly well run with good quality stock.

But I felt that they had been pushed down that route by years of price squeezes and increased costs and I concluded that I would prefer to see 10 family farms with 200 cows each, being paid a realistic and sustainable price for the milk produced while also maintaining rural communities.

A big thanks to our hosts and to AHDB for organising. The Monitor Farm programme does seem to be popular and beneficial, and an effective way for farmers to learn from each other and develop their businesses.

This may well have added importance if the government develops a new agricultural policy with possibly less support.