Posted on March 08 2018
Following on from my last blog I can confirm we passed the TB test! And the cattle sold well at market. We even had a mention in the book as they sold so well.
I went to a point to point at the beginning of the month which was at the neighboring farm, held by the local hunt, its always good fun with a good group of friends, we had a picnic too which was rather chilly. Unfortunately I didn’t win anything at the point to point.
We’ve been busy applying muck onto the oil radish that was sprayed off two weeks previously with Roundup to kill off the oil radish, which we had planted as a cover crop for the winter. We do not have any un cropped ground over winter, its all put into oil radish to conserve the nitrates. Spreading chicken muck onto the ground and incorporating in with a cultivator, we like to cultivate instead of Ploughing, by just cultivating the muck into the soil the nutrients from the muck is close to the surface where the seed will be planted, to get the crop off to a good start. As the ground had dried I was able to get on with some cultivating, some of our ground is shallow over chalk so dries out quickly but some of our ground is a bit wet as we are on a clay cap.
Last year we grew a new variety of spring barley called RAGT planet (malting variety) , we saved back some of our seed to dress, the seed cleaners came in, cleaned and dressed with a treatment called Rancona, which helps by suppressing diseases and helping the plant get the best start possible for a higher yield. By saving our own seed it saves money too.
Busy cultivating the land.
Each crop requires a certain amount of nutrition in the form of fertiliser; requirements can be worked out by sampling the soil and analysing the nutrients in the soil, so we know what we need to apply to grow the best crop. We now have a new agronomist too; an agronomist job is to help advise on growing a healthy crop. As part of this he calculates the take off from the previous crop. The take off being the P and K used by the previous crop. As the ground is drying up and the weather is improving macro nutrients can be applied. Marco nutrients are nutrients to be applied at higher rates and micro nutrients are applied at lower rates and often used in a spray tank mix. I have been applying fertilisers containing N,P and K, N- nitrogen, P being phosphorus and K being potash. A few years ago we invested in a top of the range fertiliser spinner, which we are very pleased with, its works through GPS (global positioning system), a lot of our fields are odd shaped so we were getting a lot of overlaps and using more fertiliser, it always used to be a problem with these fields but now our new Kverneland fertiliser spreader uses the GPS to place the fertiliser exactly where its required to go, this is known as section control. In the autumn we spread some fibrophos, which is ash containing P and K.
Our spreader with myself holding up the shaker used to calibrate the fertiliser
When I started writing this I had written that we had very lucky with the weather as it had dried up nicely, but the weather soon changed. The ground had dried up lovely and got ready for drilling and the ground was too hard, due to the cold conditions and unfortunately we had snow and now a lot of rain so drilling has been postponed, but we have to work with the weather. It could be as late as mid March before were able to drill the spring barley. We usually aim to start drilling at the beginning of March, as a lot of our ground is light, so ideally we like to get the crop established when there’s a chance of rain to get the seed to germinate and put some roots down, so we have a better chance of a higher yield if we don’t have enough rain when we need it. Its quite unusual to have snow down here in Dorset, so we moved the sheep when it was forecast as they were on a exposed hill so moved them onto some grass in a more sheltered area. Our water pump froze, which we had to resolve quite quickly at it supplies five properties as we pump our own water from our borehole. Once the snow started to disappear taps were leaking, as the temperature got higher, so had to run around repairing those, we had them covered up but the chill really got to them. Some farmers locally had not had their milk collected due to the milk tankers not being able to get to them, so a lot of milk had to be disposed of.
Due to Brexit there is a now a lot of funding available from the EU, so on the wet miserable days I’ve been saving up jobs such as applying for grants, we’ve had no luck in the past but always worth a try.
We’ve got some spring barley sold for malting…yes beer! That is due to leave this month, for £150 per tonne, selling grain is always a bit of gamble, especially where high quality is required for milling or malting, as malting barley has to make higher specifications for example it all has to germinate and have a lower nitrogen content, because a high nitrogen content can effect the taste of the beer. Each lorry load is tested upon delivery, if the quality is borderline then they can make deductions or worse still, they could reject it if it doesn’t meet the specifications then you are left with grain that you wont be given a premium price for and have to go for animal feed. But its all to do with the luck of the weather which unfortunately we cant change.
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