Farmer Focus: More cautious approach to the fertiliser race

We received less than 100mm of rain over the past three winter months (November to January), a very different experience from the last two winters, but there is still time yet.

This recent dry weather is proving very beneficial. With lambing in full swing, ewes and lambs are being turned out on to cover crops within a matter of days.

This is significantly easing the pressure on precious shed space.

Lambing preparation has taken a little longer this year due to a new setup, but we now have 110 individual pens, all with automated water, supplied via 100mm plastic pipe.

See also: What Hereford Monitor Farms’ machinery cost review reveals

About the author

Jack Hopkins
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Jack Hopkins is farm manager on a 730ha AHDB Monitor Farm in north Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.
Read more articles by Jack Hopkins

On materials alone, it will pay for itself in one lambing, saving two hours a day filling water buckets.

A refractometer supplied to us by the vets is allowing us to check the quality of the colostrum in the ewes, as we did have a slight concern with the triplets.

The results are giving us confidence in the total mixed ration feeding system. We also can’t believe how quiet and settled the ewes are.

Arable-wise, the winter crops are wintering well and enjoying not having wet feet. There are areas that are showing signs of the wet October and these areas will require further investigation.

The current conditions may allow us to patch up a small area of winter beans that went in late and haven’t come.

More importantly, it may soon lead to us applying our most expensive input.

Normally, it’s a race to see who can get out there first. However, this year I think a more cautious approach will be taken.

Currently, an area of winter barley that did not receive poultry litter in the autumn and a small area of winter wheat that was direct drilled after grass will be prioritised.

Phosphate in the River Wye is a huge topic in our area at the moment. As farmers within the catchment, we must work with the local authorities to ensure practical solutions can be devised for all parties involved to mitigate the problem.

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