This Week in Farming: SFI 2024, Black Baldies and home truths

Hello and welcome to This Week in Farming, your regular round-up of the best content from the Farmers Weekly website over the past seven days.

Before we get started, how are you? It’s been a rough start to the year, with flooding causing severe financial damage for many and misery for all those having to work in it.

The dry weather in the past few days has felt like a tonic, and I hope there is plenty more to come. And in more cheering news, it’s less than a month until it’s still light at 5pm (7 February).

Now, on with the show.

English farm policy latest

A torrent of documents was released to accompany Defra’s update to the Sustainable Farming Incentive last week, meaning the news team have spent some of this week talking to experts and digging through the detail.

The conclusion for farmers in England? It’s better for the uplands than before, but more is needed.

And there’s even more than before to interest arable farmers, including payments for precision farming.

So how many of them will go into hedge-to-hedge options on all or part of the farm? In my editorial this week I open the debate on whether food scarcity matters.

Flooding fallout

Food production is definitely going to be slashed by the impact of the floodwater now retreating slowly from fields.

Farmers will be counting the cost of damage incurred and contemplating a narrow range of options over how to proceed, given how short spring seed is going to be.

Some financial aid is available in England from Defra for those affected, from the Farming Recovery Fund for farm businesses that have suffered uninsurable damage due to flooding.

Sucklers fit for the future

Discussions over outwintering cattle seem to abound at the moment as costs come under scrutiny and better forage utilisation moves up the agenda.

That’s definitely the challenge farmer William Moses is tackling after shifting from a Limousin-cross herd to block-calving Black Baldy sucklers that are making the most of rocky soils, undulating clay-capped drumlins and mossy, peaty bogs near Newton Stewart, in Dumfries and Galloway.

Fear not, hard feed users: we’re also catering for you in the livestock section this week with a close look at straights versus blends – which is better?

Speaking out

There’s some great commentary across Farmers Weekly this week on a variety of topics too.

As discussion over women’s role in farming rumbles on following the launch of our Level the Field campaign, Cath Morley shares how fortunate she feels that her in-laws saw her as an asset when she joined the dairy farming business her husband had grown up in.

If you find Charlie Flindt on your table at the next black tie event you attend, buckle up. There’s nothing he likes more than to share a few home truths over a glass of wine.

And lastly, spare a thought for Will Evans, who recently learned one of his daughters has turned vegetarian. Or has she?

Who’s up and who’s down?

On the up this week is definitely the NFU’s Tom Bradshaw who will be running against precisely zero other candidates to replace current president Minette Batters in February.

There will be proper elections for the deputy and vice-presidential roles, with hustings set to begin shortly.

Hopefully on their way down – to spend some time banged up at His Majesty’s pleasure – will be the criminals responsible for the latest winter crime spree targeting farmers Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.

Regrettably, James Peck, one of the farmers affected, describes the initial police response as “useless”.

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