ANOTHER dry week apart from a few light showers on Sunday morning; the rain moving across the country from the west and fizzling out just before it reached West Sussex.
Even those showers help a little, but we need a good inch of rain to make any real progress, as the maize (looking good) desperately needs a drink.
We are fine on the grass front all things considered, with a month’s worth of good quality grazing ahead of us as the silage aftermaths come into the rotation this week.
We now follow the cows with the mower, re-setting the grass stubble to two inches, and then immediately apply as near half an inch of dirty water as we can, so that the first grass shoot comes up clean and can harvest sunlight properly.
With that amount of dirty water it does do some good, and we have very high quality grazing ahead of the cows with a good content of clover which thrives in these conditions.
This is by no means a cheap operation, but with no expensive fertilizer to apply, it is less expensive than it might be, and we do need to spread the dirty water anyway, so we are making best use of it.
We are on a 30 day rotation, which gives the grass plenty of time to grow, replenishing its root system and sugar reserves ready for the next round.
Under these conditions it needs all the help it can get, and we need the maximum amount of grass available.
With the stirrer going in our dirty water lagoon, the wild duck which spend most of their time there were floating around, circulating with the stirred water. If they had a hook on their head, we could have caught them with a pole and lifted them off the water as they went past just like one does in the fun-fair.
On the silage front, we have emptied one lagoon as planned on 70 acres, applying around an inch of diluted dirty water with the lay-flat pipe system.
This is crude, but a very effective method in these conditions of getting grass growth and no fertilizer application.
The difference between the irrigated and non-irrigated is startling. On the irrigated ground we have grown more than one and a half leaves in a fortnight, whereas the rest of the silage ground has only grown one and a bit.
Leaving the generous two inches has certainly got the dry land going very quickly with a very large first leaf, but unless it rains, it is now going to sit there and I expect the second leaf to be smaller than the first due to lack of moisture, rather than a third bigger.
It is all dependent on the weather now. Question is, do I put the second dressing of fertilizer on the fields that have not had dirty water? Is there enough moisture around to take it to the roots and can the plant make use of it? Decisions.
Food security has risen up the government’s agenda and particularly in Europe as the dry weather continues.
On my travels I see cereals on light land suffering badly in the South and East Anglia, with spring cereals dying in many areas and farmers asking for early settlement of contracts where the grain had been sold forward.
This means not only losing the crop sown, but having to cover the tonnage sold forward which will not now be there for harvest.
Many other cereal farmers are worried that the safe percentage of grain sold forward this autumn will now be difficult to meet, and again the best advice is to talk to the merchant early and not leave it to the last minute.
I’ve seen cereals planted following the disastrous failed sugar-beet crop (caught by the heavy frost in November last year and once damaged, rotting in the very wet period that followed) looking very poor indeed; again a double disaster for those involved.
In parts of East Anglia they are claiming that this is now worse than 1976, the year we all remember as the last serious drought in this country.
This year it started a month earlier, with no rain to speak of in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire (to name but two counties) since February. I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t look as if it will end soon.
The coalition government has been in power for a year, an eventful twelve months which has been fraught with difficulty.
On the whole, it has been reasonably successful from an agricultural perspective, although there are many things that we wait for with anticipation (ombudsman, bTB decision etc) and others that we are nervous of (responsibility and cost sharing).
However the main thrust has been good, and last week we saw the Richard Macdonald ‘better regulation’ report launched. This report tackles poor regulation, bad regulation and duplication.
It in no way goes anywhere near the free for all that the RSPB tried to scare people with.
It is about recognizing and rewarding farmers that voluntarily raise standards, taking responsibility and trying hard to do what is best. Red tractor is a good example of this, and the report suggests that a lighter touch should be applied to Red Tractor farmers, whilst the inspectors concentrate on those who are in need of more supervision and inspection.
We have also seen realism take hold in the last twelve months, although it had started at the end of the previous Labour administration. Food production is now back in its rightful place, with many lobby groups, single issue groups and NGO’s, having less influence. Environment is of course important, but it needs to fit with food production and not the other way around. Food production and food security will be uppermost in people’s minds and certainly governments across the world in the 21st century.
The amazing achievements of the latter half of the last century can be repeated providing we allow science and technology the room and support to provide it. There is a greater chance of that happening in the current times.
One’s faith is restored in humanity occasionally, and the other day I was travelling through London in a taxi, when the driver shouted out of the window at the traffic lights, and a disheveled young man came shuffling up to the window.
As the lights turned green, the driver held out a packet wrapped in foil paper, and the young man snatched it from his hand as we pulled away.
‘I shall have to buy some lunch now’ the driver said. ‘Don’t you think that ferreting around in a bin for food is the most desperate thing’? He had seen this young man looking for food in a bin, and handed over his lunch to help him out.
‘Never give them money’ he said ‘you don’t know what they’ll do with that’. I must admit I felt quite humble and gave him a tip which I hope went some way to buying him some lunch.