Farmer Focus: Only the plough could save us from the slop

I generally try to be positive but this year is testing me. Having eventually finished an “average” harvest, thoughts turned to autumn drilling.

We generally get a settled spell in September or October to get on with field work, but it didn’t come this year.

Constant heavy showers have left the ground very wet and fields that I would normally try to min-till have had to be ploughed just in front of the drill as it is the only hope of establishing an acceptable crop.

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This has put us and the machines under considerable pressure, not helped by a bad breakdown in my ploughing tractor which put it out of action for two dry days.

Thanks are due to local dealer D&M Farm Services for pulling out the stops and getting the tractor quickly rebuilt.

Before it happened I had worked all weekend to try to get a bit ahead, so we maybe haven’t lost too much time.

We still need to get some more oats drilled and some wheat after potatoes – which is looking pretty messy!

Lesson learned – no one system can always be relied on and flexibility is the key in farming, but right now I’m aiming for a 31 October deadline – with no extension!


One wet evening recently, I attended a talk by the Resilient Farmer, Doug Avery from New Zealand.

It did lift my spirits and was a very positive evening.

It put our farming problems here in the UK and Ireland into perspective when I heard about prolonged droughts and serious earthquakes on his farm, how he coped with that and turned things around.

Farming can be a lonely business and it is important for us to share problems and develop solutions. I think we will all have to learn to work and communicate more closely in future.

While the tractor was being fixed, I attended a meeting organised by Queens University entitled “Living on the Land – Rethinking Farming”.

No pressure there then! An interesting afternoon with forward-thinking farmers and we proposed a number of potential solutions to the challenges we are all currently facing.

Now it all needs to be pulled together and used to persuade policy makers to take the ideas forward. All is not lost – yet!


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