Farmer Focus: New EA manure rules cause for headache

With wintry conditions finally taking hold, it seems a good time to take stock.

The dry November meant we were able to catch up on any extra jobs, with the last of the muck cleared to field heaps, and some overwinter cultivating.

Cattle are all in the sheds and we are well into the winter feeding routine.

I am pleased with the crops going into winter. The wheats are looking good and the autumn sown grass – after establishing well – is now being chewed down by the sheep to take out the volunteers.

About the author

Charlie Cheyney
Arable Farmer Focus writer Charlie Cheyney farms more than 480ha land in Hampshire in partnership with his father. They run a mixed arable and 450-cow dairy enterprise, growing cereal and forage crops on varying soils, from chalk to heavy clay.
Read more articles by Charlie Cheyney

The only disappointment is that the cover crops are not performing as well as hoped. The saving made by mixing our own was lost in the slightly later sowing.

Mixing cover crops is not the top job in the middle of summer – a lesson learned.

See also: Farmer Focus: Sad to see 300 ash dieback infected trees go

We have an interesting season ahead; it seems there is never a year where we are not making big changes to our system.

The most pressing headache for us is the new Environment Agency rules on manure applications.

For us this will mean that autumn spreading, which has been a mainstay of our system, is not possible. This will result in manure being taken further afield to be spread.

Quantifying the cost of exporting our manure is difficult, but moving manure two miles instead of one essentially doubles the time it takes and is, therefore, a mounting expense.

Also, with such a short window in the spring to get this done, we will need the weather on our side, especially when spreading on a growing crop.

Some improved logistics and careful planning will be necessary for this to work.

Recently, we had the first meeting of our arable discussion group, which is made up of a few young local farmers, with a tour of one of the group member’s farm.

It was a great start to what I think will be useful and rewarding networking. The aim is to allow truly open discussion and the sharing of experiences, while also being a place for support and advice.

I hope this will help us progress together with a more collaborative approach.

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