Tricky times on the farm | Voice of a Farmer

The arrival of good weather has meant a busy but productive month on the farm, but James Cossins says in 40 years he’s never had to deal with such market volatility.
Rawston Farm’s milking cows have been let out to graze this month, much to their delight

March has been a very productive month here at Rawston Farm. All the sowing of our spring beans and spring malting barley has been completed into good seed beds. Most crops have received some fertiliser to give them an early boost, and we have managed to cover most of the spring sown area with farmyard manure produced from our cattle, which should hopefully save on spreading so much expensive purchased
fertiliser.
The milking cows have also been let out to graze, much to their delight, and are enjoying the sunshine and fresh green grass. We also managed a clear TB test much to everyone’s relief, although we now need another clear test in 60 days in order to be able sell cattle to other farmers without needing a movement licence.

Prices, carbon and food
Many of our farming meetings seem to revolve around being net zero and measuring our carbon footprint. I know the war in the Ukraine has put some of the discussions on the back burner, but we are still being encouraged to work out what our emissions are and how we can improve. It seems that Farmers are in the forefront of carbon emission targets, without too much regard concerning the food we’re actually producing. The government still don’t seem to recognise the importance of food security in this country – we are only about 60% self sufficient, and current affairs show us that we should not rely on imported foods.
Interestingly our number two coal supplier was Russia (with the USA being number one) the coal being used to keep our steel manufacture going in the UK. The war in Ukraine means we now have to import from Canada and Australia, but no one seems to be discussing the environmental impact of doing this.

It’s a challenge
The Government should be prioritising food production to make sure that its citizens are fed and can get the food they want from local sources. With Ukraine being a large exporter of cereals, vegetable oils, seeds, fruits, fats and a large number of chickens, the sudden lack of exports has led to a dramatic shortage – naturally leading to an increase in prices to us all.
I don’t think in over forty years of farming I have ever experienced such volatility in the price of what we buy and sell on the farm. It makes any future budgeting decisions very difficult. With all this going on, and with the government encouraging us towards ever more regenerative farming and reducing our carbon emissions, life on the the farm seems quite a challenge.

Apprentice Ellie Taylor earned a distinction, having started on the farm 18 months ago with limited agricultural knowledge

The Apprentice
Employing people to work on farms, like any other industry, is a key part of the success of any business. In agriculture, quite often employees stay on one farm for many years – one member of staff has recently retired after giving us 51 years of loyal service.
Recruiting new members to any team can be challenging, so we decided at Rawston Farm to take an apprentice. We thought it was important to train young people in the work place, with the back up of our local college Kingston Maurward.
Our apprentice Ellie Taylor came to us about 18 months ago with limited agricultural knowledge but she was keen to learn, especially about dairy cattle. She has now progressed to looking after our calf unit, and can be called in for relief milking as and when required. She recently received her certificate with distinction for
her apprenticeship scheme. We need to bring more young people into farming, and apprenticeships – with the right person and the right ambition – are a great solution.


by James Cossins

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