This Week in Farming: Grain merchants, crime and blackgrass

Hello and welcome to another edition of This Week in Farming, your Saturday compendium of the best of Farmers Weekly from the past seven days.

Here are the five topics that have driven the farming agenda this week and a look ahead to what’s coming up in the FW podcast.

Rural crime on the rise

Rural insurer NFU Mutual released another gloomy set of statistics this week on the scale of theft from farms, with the value of pinched parts and machinery now value of pinched parts and machinery now close to £50m a year.

Police have launched the National Rural Crime Unit to tackle specialised gangs who are believed to be sending much of the stolen goods overseas, including to the countries surrounding the Ukrainian conflict.

Here’s someone you want on your side – former SAS soldier and now farm security specialist Mick Hawkes.

Chief reporter Phil Case went to meet him in Herefordshire to find out why he’s on a mission to help farmers protect themselves.

Borage to beat back blackgrass?

It’s been a tough year for blackgrass control, with some farmers saying the weed has undone several years of work to control it after poor ground conditions for a chit last autumn and other factors.

Yet Essex farm manager David Hall is battling back with the use of late-sown spring cropping, particularly borage, to keep the yield-sapping plant under control, as well as benefiting from a break crop that his agronomist says will earn the same gross margin as top-performing oilseed rape.

We also have a round-up of other ways to stay on top of weed control this autumn, although for most growers there’s still a lot of harvest to get through first, with fears mounting of the toll the weather is taking on crop quality.

Grain merchant performance

Of course, once you’ve got your crop in the ground there is still the business of getting it to a merchant, with many choosing to trade it only after it’s in the shed.

But who are these merchants, and how financially stable are they? That’s the question business reporter Charlie Reeve has had a crack at answering with some expert help this week, delving into the public data available on each of these firms.

In my editorial this week I note that despite the power imbalance between the global grain buyers and ordinary farmers, there is still an incentive for farmers to support a diverse marketplace wherever possible.

Transition cow management

Getting the best out of dairy cows means managing them well before calving, and transition cow protocols will be in full swing for many autumn-block herds now as they head towards the return to milking.

Here’s a handy veterinary reminder of all the things to consider for transition management, whatever time of year you’re doing it.

For autumn blockers in particular, we spoke to one Somerset herd who has seen the benefit of switching from cheap tail paint to pricier heat detection collars.

Clamping down on spending

Not all investment can be justified in these straitened times, however.

Opinion columnist Mike Neaverson has attacked the spreadsheets with gusto and found the results don’t make overly cheerful reading, with many costs remaining uncomfortably high even after some input prices have retreated.

I think his well-written piece will resonate with many of you who are trying to figure out the difference between what you’d like to do and what needs doing immediately.

Listen to the FW Podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with Johann Tasker and Hugh Broom.

Among other things, this week they bring you the latest market prices and find out how farmers on social media helped cheer up a tractor-mad boy who was confined to a hospital bed.

Listen here or bring us with you in the cab by downloading it from your usual podcast platform.

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