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Rodney Down: Recovering from the rain and wondering about the milk price war


The moment I gave in and housed the out wintered cattle, I knew it would stop raining.

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A total of 482mm (18.98 inches) of rain in January and February took their toll and I did reluctantly give in and house the whole group.


I try and convince myself it was a force majeur as we had more rain this January and February than the last four January and Februarys combined.


Halfway through this month and at last we can get out and do some field work. Wheat plant populations are between 400 and 800 tillers/sq.m so only the crops in the lower end will have fertilizer before GS31, and late-drilled November crops that really need a good kick.


Grazing and silage leys will all have 125kg/hectare of urea but, with an average cover of 1,565kg DM/ha, it will be at least another week before even the low yielders go out.


The question now is do we plough for maize or wait and plough in front of the drill to conserve moisture? On our heavy land, turning over wet clay now and allowing it to bake if we do not get any rain or frost on it will be fatal to this year’s maize crop. So far, we are planning to plough land coming out of long-term leys but leave everything else.


It would be wrong not to comment on the milk price wars. Mad economics this week as Tesco dropped retail prices while some producers’ prices went up. But look at it on the bright side. This month I will be paid 80 per cent of the retail price, the highest ever. Who would want to be a retailer or processor at the moment?


It was interesting to read in a survey of price increases on our everyday consumables that beer has gone up 2,000 per cent since 1973 (before my time) and milk only 667 per cent, the lowest of all consumables.


This month will see Lauren undergo a big test to see if her treatment is working. She is desperate to get better as, with a newer combine to ride on, both kids tell me they are definitely going to be farmers now.

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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