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Farming matters: Niall Blair - 'It would be a poor farmer who wakes with no ambition'

If you are looking for a great book which captures farming life in Scotland have a look at Eilidh MacPherson’s ‘300 Farmers of Scotland’.

This book captures portraits of a diverse range of farmers from throughout the country, some of whom are well know for achievements in agriculture, achievements ranging from being great influencers of a particular breed to those who have made contributions promoting the industry to the public. Many of those featured can undoubtedly be described as farming heroes.

 

I have my own farming hero who sadly does not feature in the book.

 

My farming hero is me. Not me today, but me in 10 years’ time.

 

This might sound conceited, but think about it. If your farming hero is not you in 10 years’ time then why are you farming?

 

As farmers we get up every morning and start another working day no matter the challenges the previous day has thrown at us.

 

Why? One word, ’ambition’ - and it would be a poor farmer who does not wake up full of it.

 

Who doe not want to produce better livestock or better crops and who does not want to increase profitability?

 

The key in farming is to realise that nothing happens quickly, ambition can burn you out, if you let it.

 

For example, as a livestock farmer one of my key objectives is to improve grassland productivity.

 

We all know the important aspects to achieving this, i.e. reseeding, improving nutrients and grazing management.

 

Over the years we have worked hard to reseed fields, raise the pH and to bringing up nutrient levels.


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Improving grassland productivity has been challenging for Niall Blair.
Improving grassland productivity has been challenging for Niall Blair.

Submerged

 

Similarly fences have been renewed and improved. All good stuff, except the Gods have to have their say.

 

Last Wednesday we had more than 100ml of rain in about three to four hours.

 

My best fields were submerged under a couple of meters of water.

 

Subsequently none of my fields are currently stockproof and a newly sown herbal ley has been damaged.

 

This can be disheartening but I console ourselves with positives.

 

After major floods five years ago I made most of my fences sectional and removed rylock netting from those sections susceptible to floods.

 

This means that whilst they are damaged they are still present. Similarly I have moved from ploughing and reseeding to direct reseeding.

 

This means that in the event of a flood soon after reseeding I am left with soil. It could be worse.

 

With such setbacks is it any wonder then that 10 years is not seen as a long time in farming.

 

Progress is slow but it is being made and that is why I will never meet my hero.

 

In 10 years time, I will have another hero, you will too.

 

Anyway perhaps that is enough of the daily motivation and cliché, I might get carried away and start touring auction marts touting sales of a book.

 

Nope, I need to concentrate on today, and that means heading out to replace flood damaged fences for the nth time.

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