Holiday provides some useful labour

Spring work is still an ongoing process here, with many challenges. All of the fenland winter wheat has been rolled using our oldest and lightest JCB Fastrac on big flotation tyres.

Youngest son Edward did most of it while on Easter holidays and enjoyed earning some wages, but not so much the retro cassette player in the tractor that like him, is 16 years old. It was nice to have him and his brother Marcus back and working over the Easter holidays, and although neither wishes to farm as a career, they are useful vacation workers.

I have finally got the KWS Willow spring wheat drilled, on all but a small area that, despite looking dry, was just too wet. Stupidly, I managed to get stuck, but thankfully some extra on-farm ditch cleaning and drain jetting – and the sterling efforts of our local drainage boards – has kept such problems to a minimum.

The spring beans direct-drilled reasonably well after over-wintered stubble, and although later than ideal, should grow well if the soil warms up a bit. Our oilseeds have struggled with the cold winds and pigeon pressure. Normally by now the pressure is off because the pigeons move on to spring-drilled peas around us, but sadly the late spring means that oilseed rape is still the delicacy of choice for our local pigeon population and considerable efforts shooting and scaring are still required.

While we escaped the worse of the late snow here, I feel for those having to work so hard to try and save stock caught out by the volatile weather. I was particularly disappointed to hear and read comments on various media, apparently blaming farmers for stock fatalities in the late snowfalls. It showed that while the efforts of many of us and our industry bodies to inform the non-farming public are helping to change perceptions, there is still much work to be done.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

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