Soggy fields and fresh starts

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Navigating a challenging spring after the wet winter has meant late plantings and livestock turnout, but it could be worse, says James Cossins

The Rawston herd was happy to leave the winter housing and get out on grass again

At long last the relentless rain has stopped pouring on Rawston Farm – it’s been one of the wettest winters on record. We have now managed to sow our spring barley and spring bean crops, although they were planted about a month late. The national picture appears to be less encouraging – with fields still waterlogged many growers have given up on growing crops on them. It will be interesting to see how much land actually gets harvested this year, and what effect the wet weather will have had on the crops and their subsequent yield.
On the livestock side, we have managed to turn out most of our cattle to grass, and after a long winter they were keen to go out and stretch their legs! We were also relieved to see them out; our forage and straw stocks were rapidly dwindling after having the cattle housed for an extra month.
Frustratingly, our one TB-inconclusive cow was retested and continued to be inconclusive. So she had to be sent to the abattoir, only for the post mortem to come back with no visible lesions – meaning that she probably didn’t have the disease but may have been exposed to it. The whole thing has been very disappointing, but we are told that we just need one clear test in 60 days and then we will go clear.

Spring sowing has finally begun

A quick re-think
The Government has recently made some changes to their Sustainable Farming Incentive Scheme – a programme that encourages farmers to adopt a variety of habitat management options on their farms to benefit the environment.
The options included land being taken out of production, and those have been almost too popular. Some farms have been completely taken out of food production, and the landowner has been compensated for doing so.
I think the idea was to take out the least productive parts of fields and put them into the scheme, but the government has now realised the amount of productive land not producing food is going to be so large that the country’s food security could be at risk, creating an even greater reliance on imported foods. It has subsequently been announced that a maximum of 25 per cent of each farm may be taken out of production.

Ready for winter
As I write, we are about to sow our final crop of the season at Rawston Farm – the maize which will be used for feeding our cattle next winter. This will rapidly be followed by taking our first cut of grass silage, again for next winter feeding. Let’s hope the weather can be on our side for once!

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