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Rodney Down: Experts should practice what they preach, and questioning your processor


The advice we are given as farmers isn’t always necessarily viable.

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Taking advice that isn't always viable #farmingproblems

The next ’expert’ who advises us farmers to be more efficient, get more from grazing, increase conception rates, the list goes on for hours, will have an invite to come down to the farm and to practice what they preach.

Our ’get more from grazing’ was knocked on the head as we had no rain in June and most of July and thus very little grass. About 70mm of rain last weekend saw us put on fertiliser I struggled to justify in order to get some late summer grass. In the meantime we are using a lot of buffer which thankfully is plentiful.

Unluckily the wet weekend coincided with one of our good local shows. A new venue this year did go somewhat to detract from the usual pub talk of barley yields – or as I call them poker game yields, who really is bluffing? I have heard more talk of more than 9.9 tonnes/hectare (4t/acre) topping out at 12.4t/ha (5t/acre) than ever before. This year I think the truth may be closer to the talk as a bad barley grower like ourselves managed 9.9t/ha (4t/acre). I think it was more to do with the hybrid variety grown than our skills.

I enjoyed my first visit to the Livestock Event this month, where the atmosphere was surprisingly upbeat. It was amusing though to find another dairy farmer and friend trying innovative new ways to get better deals. Being on a leading milk contract, he was trying to blend in with us poorer associates by making his wife wear no shoe laces. He was getting away with it until I noticed, and could not resist pointing out to others. A quick congratulations must go to fellow Somerset dairy farmer Neil Baker on his Gold Cup success – a truly outstanding operation.

Our discussion group met to discuss our full costs and budget for the year ahead recently. None of us in the room had an answer to how we would cut 15 per cent from our costs in order to balance the books next year. Of course we all know the easiest way is to up the milk price. So I ask all dairy farmers to make sure they are asking the questions of their processor, or in my case my co-op; what are they doing, or why are they not doing anything? In a co-op’s case, if we own the processing surely change can happen more quickly…right?


Rodney Down, Somerset

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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