Henry Gent farms 120ha (300 acres) and the same area again on short-term agreements, all grazing, near Exeter. All land is organic and he sells milk from his 300 cows to the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative. Married, with grown up children, he has a team of five people looking after the dairy herd and followers and also runs chickens which go to a local abattoir.
Bactoscans have been a bit of a trial this month, with the problem eventually identified at the air surge during the wash phase of the plant.
These last few days of June are a bit damp, but unless it rains a lot in the days leading up to when you are opening your Farmers Guardian, we will end the month with below average rainfall, about 40mm, and my rain gauge total for the first six months of the year will amount to about 260mm.
The Met Office calculation of the average annual rainfall for our postcode is 789mm, so in the first half of the year we have had just one-third of the average rainfall.
But the rain we have had has been good useful rain, and although pasture growth slowed right down during the heatwave, there was always a good ‘wedge’ of pasture in front of cows and youngstock. Milkers have been going into covers of about 3,200kg/hectare (1,290kg/acre) on average since turnout.
The only annual crop we grow is spring-sown wholecrop, a mix of barley and peas, undersown with either hybrid kale or pasture species. It looks good, although the two fields which went in slightly later in April are going to have less yield.
I walked a lot of neighbours’ non-organic cereal crops last week to bid for bedding straw at the annual auction at Exeter Cattle Market. Again, good crops with not much evidence of drought stress, whether spring- or autumn-sown.
I had to be away on the day of the auction, so I walked about 121ha (300 acres) and placed bids on all of it, with a complicated set of instructions for bids to be placed such as ending up with about 36ha (90 acres) of straw – 32ha (80 acres) for us and 4ha (10 acres) for a neighbour who was also unable to attend.
My complicated instructions seemed to work, but it made me realise what a complex set of decisions are involved in bidding at an auction: we watch early prices and bid accordingly; and we may also bid according to how successful we have been on the earlier bids. In a way, working out all the bids in advance was a good discipline.