Farmer Focus: Our hedge planting is not going to plan

The farm is starting to get wet again and all the flood meadows are currently under water.

In the end, 2022 gave us 746mm of rain, which was 216mm below our two-year average and 166mm less than our five-year average. Half of 2022’s rain fell in the last quarter of the year.

We started feeding the wild bird mixes in December again and the cost of the mix has gone up in price, as expected.

See also: 10 top expert tips for reducing 2023 arable costs

About the author

Robin Aird
Arable Farmer Focus writer Robin Aird manages 1500 ha on the North Wiltshire and Gloucestershire border with a further 160ha on a contract farming agreement.  Soils vary from gravel to clay, with the majority silty clay loams. A diverse estate with residential, commercial and events enterprises. He is Basis qualified and advises on other farming businesses.
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However, it was pleasing to get an email from the Rural Payments Agency informing us of the increase in mid-tier stewardship payments, which will help to offset associated cost rises.

Due to the warm winter, our allocation of hedge plants did not arrive in time for planting, as they didn’t go into dormancy early enough and then the frost and snow prevented lifting.

Sadly, we will not be able to get the capital grant for these, but we will still plant them when they arrive. I worry for some of the hedges we planted last year.

Even where we watered them I am not convinced they will survive. This could be a large cost, as we will need to replant to avoid breaching our agreement.

Our Christmas tree sales this year were slightly disappointing, with a 15% drop in sales against the previous year.

We have seen more pop-up shops and supermarkets coming into the local area selling trees over the past eight years, which is no doubt creating a price squeeze.

Some multiples were selling a 6ft Nordmann fir tree for £10 – a classic loss leader.

While the team were busy selling trees, I was sat in the office updating my nutrient plans and all the nitrate vulnerable zone requirements for the coming season.

With more than 250 fields, it has always been a challenge, but the introduction of 40,000sq m of digestate coming onto the estate has taken it to the next level.

I am always a big fan of these paperwork exercises, as it makes you read all the rules again and refreshes the memory of the little quirks that can get you in trouble if you don’t abide by them.

Finally, I was perusing Twitter the other day and saw a tweet from a neighbour about his Red Tractor inspection and the new mass balance we have to show.

It made me think about pub yields and how the discrepancies between these and the mass balances work.

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