Farm Diary: Maize delight as intense heat gives way to rain


After the longest heatwave in a quarter of a century, the weather men say it’s coming to an end.

Last Thursday saw the highest temperature recorded for seven years (36 degrees at Heathrow) but in true British fashion it was followed by a thunderstorm and we are told that normal service for this time of year will now resume.

Britain has been hotter than the Mediterranean for the last few weeks as people cancelled their plans to fly abroad, but it seems that many will be booking flights once again, looking for better weather in August.

For us on the farm this weather is just about perfect, sunny days with quite a lot of rain which seems to be mostly at night. Having kept the farm moving and green with the dirty water at Crouchlands, the grass is really growing well now and we can look forward to another silage cut in about four weeks’ time whilst the heifers have plenty of grass in front of them.

We were getting short of grazing and not sure where we were going in August with not enough growth to last gangs of hungry heifers, but now the whole farm is moving quite quickly and there is plenty on offer.

The maize has come on very well in the last few weeks and is over 6ft tall at Tillington and Milford, both in flower and cobs well formed on the plant. Northchapel is a foot shorter as it was drilled later but looks good and will catch up.

This rain was badly needed for the maize and will now enable it to fill the grain in the cobs which will hopefully be nice and plump. The contrast between this year and last is incredible and after such a poor year which caused all sorts of problems, it’s good to see such healthy maize with shiny dark green leaves and strong stems. I would think that we could be harvesting some of it in late September this year.

Our bulk milk tank is still behaving itself and running with one cooling compressor whilst we wait for the engineers to arrive to replace the new one installed a week ago which promptly failed.

We are checking the ice several times a day to make sure that we have plenty, and to give ourselves as much warning as possible should it go wrong. Despite being at our lowest production level at this time of year we still have 14,000 litres in the tank as it’s collected every other day and we don’t want to be throwing that away!

The builders have poured the concrete floor for the big manure tank after battling with the rain which threatened to flood the area whilst they were laying down the weldmesh and various membranes and insulation.

The concrete panels will arrive and be craned into place in another week or so once the concrete has hardened sufficiently to support them. Meanwhile the separation of all roof and clean yard water from areas which have cows on them goes on; a much bigger task than you would imagine. Separate channels need to be dug in the concrete and various areas need piping into storage tanks whilst the clean water from roofs can go straight into the ditch. It will be worth it as we believe it will cut total amount in our lagoons by half in a wet year.

Dairy UK the milk buyers and processing representative body have at last appointed a new Chief Executive. With Jim Begg at the helm huge opportunities for bringing the dairy supply chain closer together were missed and the spoiling tactics employed over many years did the industry a disservice. Dr Judith Bryans is the new CEO and she comes with excellent credentials as Director of The Dairy Council, a nutritionist and someone who has no history or baggage. With public health issues always around as the media fan the flames from time to time, it makes good sense to have someone of Judith’s calibre in charge.

I am very concerned to find that the RSPCA still has access to criminal records in the Police National Computer. Apparently the animal charity is entitled to make 1450 checks a year which equates to four checks per day and can request details on suspects, witnesses, defendants and victims. It pays handsomely for this and is the only private organisation granted this privilege. I had less of an issue with the RSPCA of old having access to this information, but today’s organisation is very different indeed.

There has been a lot of criticism in recent months, with accusations of very aggressive prosecution policy and campaigns.

High profile individuals seem to be targeted for hunting activities in particular and more court cases is what we can expect to see according to the controversial CEO Gavin Grant. Many have been shocked at the vilification of the ‘whistleblower’ who criticised the charity for killing too many healthy animals. According to national newspapers, sensitive details were published by the RSPCA on-line and the ex employee was later found hanged in her home. I do think that access to records stored by police should be kept confidential and not ‘sold’ to the RSPCA.

Who is it that drops litter on our roadsides? It is incredible the amount of paper bags and wrappers which are indiscriminately discarded. Even on our farm drive I am constantly picking up rubbish and whilst all the building contractors and delivery vehicles are a constant stream of traffic I suspect that some of them are the real culprits.

I also pick up what I can as I cross the road between fields, but the funny thing is, given the amount of rubbish about, I never see anyone drop any! Full marks to the volunteers who are constantly walking our roads picking up litter, I dread to think how bad it would be if it wasn’t for them.

It seems the real battle for the high street is taking place in earnest. Whilst Eric Pickles is keen to relax parking and the revenue collection in parking fines which keeps people like me away from town centres, others want to forget about rejuvenating town centres and convert empty shops into badly needed homes for people to live. I can see both sides of this discussion and maybe a few homes rather than empty shops and an easier life for the motorist might together put more life into the town centre and support those shops which remain.

Whist converting town centres into homes will prevent a renaissance in traditional shopping which some believe will happen despite the rise in on-line shopping and the dominance of out of town shopping malls, those who are keen to protect further land from building and development see it as a pragmatic move. I can see town centres which remain being visited by others and becoming a tourist attraction over the years if we continue to lose our high street shops at the current rate.