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Rodney Down: Dairy crisis news leaves me defending producers in public

Once again I am a lover of climate change. The mild weather has ignited grass growth and allowed some of our thinly planted wheat to throw up tillers. 
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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.

We even have volunteer maize growing in the wheat again. Most herbicides are on and we are beginning to go back into the early wheats with an aphicide and yet more herbicide on the black-grass areas.


Slugs have been enemy number one this year, with new problem areas springing up. I have re-drilled five hectares (12 acres) which were badly damaged, partly due to the fact the take-all seed dressing hit the vigour of the seed so hard and the wheat could not grow away from my new slippery little friends.


I made an appearance on the news last week regarding the ‘dairy crisis’.


This always has ramifications and this time it came from the local garage and corner shop. ‘Moaning again on the news, I see’, was the theme of the comments from the shopkeeper.


This called for action, so standing by the refrigerators I set to work educating a whole shop of people on the issues of spring water selling for £1 per litre while their milk was being sold for just 75ppl.


I have never been so close to being given my diesel and a bottle of now shaken milk, just to get me out of a shop. The milk in question was a local branded product which someone worked hard at to add value to, only for someone else to devalue it.


On-farm, the cows are now finally settled onto the winter ration, after a few scours and bugs went through the herd.


All this, combined with a TB test (all clear, thank goodness), IBR vaccinations and unruly heifers in abundance - it is no wonder some cows get a little stressed and ill.


Claire was also stressed last week when she took five-year-old Harrison for his flu jab. He said to the nurse: “You can keep away from me with the long, sharp pointy thing for a start,” and then walked out of the building leaving everyone in fits of laughter!



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