Farmer Focus: Normality for farms will be a thing of the past

Happy new year! It seems commonplace over the past few years to look back and think that was an exceptional one and to look at the year ahead and hope for something a little more normal.

The past year has seen several issues that have happened in succession of one another that has meant we have ended up where we are today.

Going forward, reality will be very different, with normality a thing of the past. Whether it’s politics, policy, the weather, consumer trends or economics, there is very little that is going to be certain within the agricultural industry in the short term.

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

However, it is important to remember we can only influence what we are in control of and make the best decision with the information that we have available to us.

With strategic business decisions in mind, we decided to apply for another Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme term.

Even with today’s high agricultural commodity prices, for us it is all about risk mitigation and the scheme helps with that strategy.  

Our application for the renewal has been accepted, so on 1 January 2022 a new agreement started.

Instead of carrying over our existing scheme, a new one was put together, expanding on what had been done in the first one. This has also allowed us access to some more capital improvement grants.

See also: The farm project tackling flood risk and improving water quality

On farm, the winter routine is in full swing, and the start of lambing is less than a month away. This year, with improvements to infrastructure, we have decided to try the ewes on a total mixed ration.

As well as the practical benefits, we are hoping the ewes will be more content and prosper on the tailored nutrition.

Once again, the cover crops before our planned spring crops will provide a vital forage source for the ewes and lambs, in what is generally a lean period.

Luckily this year, the cover crops have grown well so there is plenty for them to go at. Fingers crossed for some kind weather in early February to get them out.

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