I am writing this on my return from visiting Germany with a group of farmers on a Worshipful Company of Farmers course.
We meet up annually to learn from each other and pick up new ideas and it does us good to get away from the farm for a few days and take a fresh view of what we are doing.
Our first visit was to the headquarters of KWS seed, where there is a focus on sugar beet seed. As a family-controlled business they have been able to specialise in this market and have managed to drive progress in sugar beet growing.
I also know from experience that they have had success with recent barley varieties, diversifying their market.
From here we visited half of our host, Anna’s, farm business as she has two farms 80km apart. Looking at the well-established crops and tidiness of the buildings you would not know that the owner lived this distance away.
The following day we were treated to a tour of the privately owned Detmold brewery. They have built success not by being big with a high volume, but being innovative, creating a range of award-winning products.
Alongside a couple of commercial beers, they have an ever-evolving range of speciality lines. From the Royal – a mix of beer, peach schnapps and sparkling wine that can be drunk in place of Bucks Fizz –through a multitude of regular beers to a chocolate beer to drink with dessert, they have a product for every situation.
Following this we went to Anna’s second unit and learned how gravel was being extracted by digging and sucking up from a barge. A very simple system, with GPS and computer control keeping the whole thing operating.
Former pig buildings were being used as commercial warehousing and vast barns hundreds of years old were still in use as machinery storage.
It was noticeable how the modern grain stores have been built with wood cladding to fit in with the traditional buildings and even more so how there were no old machines kept round the back, just in case they might become useful again!
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on four contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.