Rain welcome but can be a problem

AT the time of writing, I have measured 96mm of rain at Poolham Hall during April.

This has been very welcome as the soil is now at field capacity and all my land drains are running well.

The crops of wheat and oilseed rape are looking particularly well at the moment, but should this wet spell continue into May, yield robbing diseases like Septoria in winter wheat and Sclerotinia in oilseed rape will explode within the crop capony.

Both of these diseases can be controlled by robust fungicide programmes, provided the farmer is able to travel through his crops with his sprayer and the foliage is dry.

Considering that I have removed rain from my rain gauge every morning for the past nine days, there have been precious few chances to do any spraying or fertiliser spreading recently at all.

One crop that has seen the benefit of recent rainfall has been grass.

I now have plenty of grass to turn my cows and calves on to, but the animals are still inside due to the very wet conditions and the cold nights.

While the adult animals would be largely unaffected by the wet and cold, the young calves would suffer badly.

A farmer friend of mine had to inject six young calves in one day because they had become chilled.

He had no option but to turn his stock into the grass field as he had exhausted his silage and straw supplies and replacement supplies are only available at a very high price.

The rye grain legs that are due to be cut for silage have bulked up well and provided the rain stops and the sun shines, there should be a good crop to harvest by the second week in May.

The recent wet spell has given me enough time to complete the mountain of paperwork that has now, unfortunately, become part of a farmer’s job.

It seems that there is no job that can be done on a farm today without the need to record what you have done, or even indeed in some situations what you are planning to do.

Most of the red tape has now become a part of a ‘Cross Compliance’ which, should you fail to keep accurate records, will result in a reduction of the Single Farm Payment, and in extreme cases, prosecution.

While I can appreciate that if I receive public money I should be accountable for the way I farm, I do believe there is too much bureaucracy in the industry at the moment.

Finally, Sunday, May 20 is Woodhall Show day.

The National Farmers’ Union will be represented by the ‘roadshow’ once again.

Many local farmers will be present to answer all your questions and this year there is a quiz for both adults and children.

Local farmer Mervyn Casey will also have a display on the stand where you can follow the growth of a leek from a seed to the finished product ready to deliver to the supermarket.