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In your field: James and Isobel Wright - 'We need a wet May - it has not rained once in April'

What a great time to be a new entrant.

This time last year the beef price was £3.10/kg for some farmers, but this year is the complete reverse, with the spot price at £4.10/kg for the third week in a row.

 

This is on the back of lower birth registrations in 2019/20 and consistently higher demand from consumers.

 

We put our hands in our pockets and bought a bunch of store cattle for our new ground and we will be selling these in the autumn, when hopefully the price will still be buoyant.

 

When I was young, I thought weather followed a consistent annual pattern and you could reliably depend on the fact that April was a wet month.

 

Since becoming a farmer I have learned the weather is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot.

 

We got 22 per cent of our average rainfall for March and it has not rained once in April.

 

I had a cheeky walk in my neighbour’s hay fields and the fertiliser they have spread is still sitting on the top.

 

Our grass is being hammered by frosty nights and then dry days and it has meant that as we are about to start our second round of grazing, we will be eating into our cover.

 

If we do not get warm, wet weather in early May, we will be in a spot of bother come the end of it.


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Our tractor has been sent off for an expensive repair. The universal joint has worn out on the front axle.

 

We had several quotes and were shocked to find out you cannot just replace the joint on our John Deere. You have to replace a much larger part of the axle and the part alone is £1,900.

 

With more cattle this winter than we have ever had before, we are considering selling our loader tractor and getting a smaller tractor and a telehandler. I was told by a local dairy farmer that he started farming with just a skid-steer. I wish I had listened.

 

It is going to be a busy month with more fertiliser to go out, calves arriving, weed wiping rushes and mucking out the barns. The list goes on and on.

 

We are applying for the Basic Payment Scheme for the first time this year.

 

I sent off my forms in good time in January and they have managed to miss off several fields.

 

It does not fill me with confidence that they will be able to process our young farmer application, with the top-up and free entitlements.

 

I am fully expecting to be writing in this column in January next year that we still have not been paid.

 

We have thrown our name into the hat for the Sustainable Farming Incentive trial and we are also applying for the lowland grazing offer in case we do not get in.

 

But, likewise, my first encounter of the Rural Payments Agency is not filling me with confidence.

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