JUNE 2015

Summer keeps trying to appear but there always seems to be a ‘but’ attached at the moment.  We have had some glorious summer days with considerable warmth but the nights remain stubbornly cold.  Everything is growing well despite the lack of rainfall but tender garden plants are not enjoying the single figure nights.  One plus point to the cold nights seems to be low disease pressure on the cereals and rape which is keeping a lid on our fungicide expenditure.  This is very welcome as grain prices remain low at around £110 for harvest movement wheat.  There are plenty of stocks in all the major grain producing regions and no serious concerns about weather in either northern or southern hemispheres at present.  At least the drop in food prices is helping government and consumers alike to manage their budgets more easily and, with livestock prices also low, there is some relief for cattle pig and poultry producers.

After a recent Country File piece on the rise in black grass as a serious weed in cereals , I have had several folks ask if it is a problem to us.  The short answer is yes but not as bad as many farmers have to cope with.  It has been a threat for all of my working life and my father warned me of it from an early age.  Each ear of black grass will produce hundreds of seeds which can remain viable in the soil for up to ten years so it is very important to control it by any means possible.  Traditionally ploughing land in the autumn and planting a spring sown crop will allow any black grass seeds to germinate and then be killed by cultivation and ‘round-up’ before sowing.  The same success can be achieved by creating a seed bed in September, but not sowing until October, thus allowing weed seed to germinate and be killed in the same way.  A wet cold October will not permit this strategy though.  The worst problems occur where farms are using continual non-inversion tillage and sowing crops in September.  The Norfolk Four Course Rotation and the skill of the ploughman, still have a place in 21st Century farming!

We had a new batch of piglets in for Waitrose last week, which are the cause of much cooing amongst the junior and female family members and visitors.  They are very pretty with a lot of black ones.  We could do with some white spray markers for this lot.  They arrived in a new lorry, bought by Nelson’s of Beccles, especially for weaners and breeding stock transport.  The trailer, which will carry 1200 piglets, is sealed, air-conditioned and pressurised.  The idea is to prevent any air from outside , which might be carrying air-borne viruses from getting to the pigs and infecting them in transit.  Also they can be kept cool in summer and warm in winter, on their journey, thus minimalizing stress levels.  They have drinkers on board and an electric tail lift so that there is minimal upset to the piglets when loading and unloading.  Carbon dioxide levels are monitored from the cab while travelling so that the driver can insure that they are settled and comfortable.  It has self-contained pressure washing and disinfecting system for cleaning down and sterilising between loads.  Price - £360,000 plus £90,000 for the tractor unit.  This takes the welfare of animals in transit to a completely new level and I have to say I was very impressed.  I thought it would be just the right vehicle for retrieving the ‘Gents on Tour’ crowd from a convivial evening at Ipswich Beer Festival.  Of course, with an on board drinking system, the tour could be extended well beyond Suffolk. The spirit of the Ten Bells Middle Bar is not quite moribund yet!!

DAVID TYDEMAN