Farmer Focus: Luxury of a new drill and scaling back sheep

As I returned to Essex from the autumn NFU council meeting held in Warwickshire in early October, the countryside was alive with potato and sugar beet harvesting and there was even a combine forging through some millet.

Drills were also out in force, taking advantage of ideal conditions.

There must be a few people wishing they had held off, as their agronomist advised, and not started in mid-September, considering the kind weather we were treated to subsequently. So easy to say now.

See also: Terminating cover crops – how to get it right

About the author

Christy Willett
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Christy Willett farms with son Hew on 475ha at Parklands Farm, Galleywood, Essex, growing combinable crops alongside diversifications into horse stables on DIY livery, industrial and office lets. She is the chair of the Essex NFU.
Read more articles by Christy Willett

Back home, Hew was putting in the hours getting wheat in the ground. We now have the luxury of a disc drill, in the form of the Sly, and a tine drill, our second-hand Kockerling.

Hew has fitted a microgranule applicator on the Kockerling for Avadex. We used to run a Kuhn Aero pneumatic machine for this job, but it became very temperamental and fragile.

It seems crazy that we are using a 1970s product, but it has been proved to be effective in giving added grassweed control. However, I am glad that we don’t need to use a 1970s machine to apply it.

Another block of land has now been drained for us by the Farm Services team using the Mastenbroek trenchless method.

The huge 32t tracked machine is an impressive sight as it cleaves through the soil. It is quite an investment for us, but we know it will pay off.

We took the decision to scale back our flock of Exlana ewes recently.

I love the breed and would only ever have these shedding sheep, but unfortunately the stubble turnips we sowed post-harvest received too little rain to get a good plant stand.

We simply will not have enough feed for all the sheep through winter, so some must go.

We have had the benefit of some grazing kindly offered to us by our neighbour Helen Barr this summer, which has been very welcome, but the ewes can’t stay there much longer as winter hits.

I have used the SellMyLivestock app for selling the ewes and have been very impressed with the simplicity and efficiency of it.