Farmer Focus: Two farm operations to avoid

Two activities I have always tried to avoid on the farm are harvesting in September and drilling in November. This year the first one is a definite and the second looks like a probability.

We still have spring-sown Mascani oats to combine both at Royston and in Nottinghamshire, while there is also seed Braco mustard to gather at Royston. The weather at present is decisively autumnal and the sun is conspicuous by its absence, as are the balers.

The first week of September always seems like the new year. My eldest daughter has started her first full-time job this week doing land management locally, while my youngest starts out on her GCSE year.

Despite retirement from the rugby field in the past year I am getting requests to turn out this Saturday which, although very tempting, are going to have to be resisted.

Field work is now well under way, with the Cereals 2018 site being sown today along with all the accompanying car parks and walkways. We also have some 180ha of stubble turnips for sheep grazing established, along with some 45ha of Hobson forage rape grown for seed.

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What an amazing contrast to last year, when half the grazing turnips we sowed never established and those that did produced little feed, forcing us to move stock around all winter to any grass or cover crops we could source in the locality.

On the machinery front  the major change for us this autumn has been the arrival of a Horsch 8,000-litre self-propelled sprayer.

This is replacing two tractors and two trailed sprayers, the largest of the these being a five-year-old 5,000-litre machine that cost some £9,500 to get it through the last year.

We have taken the decision to contract hire the Horsch sprayer over a period of five years. This will enable us to know exactly what our costs are going to be and remove the fear of some catastrophic failure – with its associated financial and downtime consequences – and also any concerns about the residual value of the machine when its time for replacement comes.

Making a guest appearance on the farm at present is a 360hp rubber track standing in for our 360hp tyred tractor, which at 3,003 hours is residing in many pieces across my dealers workshop.

Robert Law farms 1,700ha on the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex borders growing cereals, mustard, a range of forage crops for seed, sugar beet, up to 200ha of catchcrop stubble turnips and 300ha of grass supporting a flock of 2,500 ewes. All land farmed is in environmental stewardship schemes. He also manages 500ha of sandland in Nottinghamshire.