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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: The industry is changing at a rate that I struggle to keep up with at times

I would like to start this month’s article by wishing everyone a Happy New Year, a year which I hope will be significantly more stable in terms of both weather and political shenanigans. 

I think it best that we try to forget 2019, however, the scars of catastrophic rainfall and consequential flooding are still evident to see throughout the country and will still need to be dealt with come the spring.

 

New arrival

 

My 2019 highlights were a good harvest and more importantly the birth of our second son Samuel Joseph MacLeod who arrived at the end of October, earlier than expected.

 

It rather puts work related challenges into perspective when you spend a week looking at this tiny little person lying in an incubator with no idea what lies ahead for them.

 

I’m happy to report that he is doing fine now, however, he seems oblivious to the fact that night time is for sleeping and not screaming.


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Career

 

It’s funny that since his arrival I have found myself thinking about what career paths my two boys will take (a bit premature I know) and I would like to think that a career in agriculture will still be a viable proposition if it’s what they want.

 

But what kind of career could that be, and if its farm management like Dad, what will that role encompass in 25 years’ time?

 

My management career started in 2004 as a trainee on Sentry Farms Management Training Scheme where I served a most enjoyable apprenticeship in Hampshire, Surrey and Bedfordshire before heading out into the big bad world in 2010 and joining Southesk Farms as manager at only 30 years of age.

 

Fast forward 10 years, (yes there is a big birthday coming shortly), my role in terms of production agriculture is a fraction of what it was, with more time spent on alternative income encompassing renewable energy and environmental stewardship; business management encompassing strategy, budgeting, planning and benchmarking; and finally, but most importantly, personnel management.

Enjoyment

 

My days of spending long hours on a machine are long gone, however, is it wrong to still get more enjoyment out of taking a turn on the combine, sprayer or tractor when the need arises?

 

My role over the last 10 years has evolved with an industry that’s changing at a rate that I must admit I struggle to keep up with at times. So what will the role look like in 25 years? Well, I think unrecognisable but hopefully still enjoyable.

Wheat

 

In terms of how things are currently looking at Southesk - very wet. We managed to sow 70% of our planned winter wheat area in the end but I estimate around 15% of that will fail due to waterlogged conditions.

 

Our decision to park up the big drills and pull out the combi was correct for our lighter stonier land but ultimately has cost us on the ‘silty estuarine alluvium’ which has basically just become an anaerobic sponge since its assault from the power harrow.

 

Options for this land come the spring will more than likely be direct drilled malting barley, which sounds easy if you say it really fast, but in real terms may not be that straightforward.

 

Winter

 

Our winter oilseed rape which was sown late is coming through the winter as immature as I have experienced, but it’s all there and should be okay.

 

There is light leaf spot on rape not too far from us. However, even I know that flotation doesn’t mean amphibious, so needless to say we have not applied any fungicide or trace elements thus far.

 

People that know and work with me on a daily basis know that I’m not always the most patient of individuals but my New Years resolution for this year will be that I at least have to try over the coming months, for the lands benefit and ultimately my own.

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