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Rodney Down: A bad-tempered forager and worries about history repeating itself

Have all the expert yield predictors sat in warm, dry offices forgotten about 2012? As I sit here in my office, rain is falling from the sky again.
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We have hybrid wheat in flower and the forward wheats are not far behind - we really need it to stop raining if we are to avoid another 2012 of low bushel weights and yields.


Even if it did stop raining I would struggle to travel with the T3 as ground conditions are soft at best. The only upside is I am glad I didn’t invest in row crops for the tractor sprayer.


We are fortunate to have completed nearly all of our first cut with a few wet fields left and ruts in some others. A persistently bad-tempered forager meant it was one of our more stressful silage-making campaigns.


In the middle of chopping grass we had to stop and fit a whole new drum (18 hours of work) as a crack had appeared in ours, meaning blades kept getting chewed up.


Considering this is the second time it has happened and it is the same drum in all of the John Deere range yet ours is the smallest model, we have little confidence of future reliability. We are known to have ‘green’ blood around here but maybe in the future it will be a different shade?


I don’t want to end on a low note, but the Bank Holiday weekend saw me receive two city reports on the future fortunes of agriculture. Extremely interesting they were, but a few facts stood out.


We are receiving no bullish news, world harvests look good and the population growth news is now an old story. US biofuel use could ease back and growth in developing countries’ dietary change is slowing. So the predictions are for a downturn (which I have to agree with).


The most interesting line was the predictions for population growth and dietary shifts were here in 1996 and we still saw agricultural fortunes slide in line with a few years of good worldwide harvests.


In the week we started farming in 2002, wheat was £56/tonne – whether it is 1996, 2002 or 2012, history sometimes comes around again.

Rodney Down


Rodney Down farms with his wife Claire at Higher Wrantage Farm, Taunton, Somerset, with 125ha (307 acres) on a farm business tenancy and a further 323ha (800 acres) rented and contract farmed. He milks 300 Holstein Friesians and runs 350 beef cattle and followers. The farm includes 180ha (445 acres) feed wheat and 61ha (150 acres) of maize.

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