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Rodney Down: 'Robbery' the grain trader steps in to help with a 'pretty good' harvest

Insights
A slip of the finger a few years ago meant my friendly grain trader was entered into my phone as ‘Robbery’ instead of Robert.
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For years it felt like an injustice when on occasions he paid me more than £200/tonne. That was until I speak to him this harvest – when ‘Robbery calling’ comes up on my phone I know it’s going to hurt.

 

As fellow Nuffield Scholars we always try and put the world to rights. Two quotes stick in my mind from our numerous conversations: ‘Farmers are not used to these prices, when they are, then they will sell’ and ‘Farmers [meaning me] have forgotten what a big crop looks like’.

 

How right was he. Day one of harvest saw me with more winter wheat in store than we had all last year and the final day’s harvesting (on August 24) saw the grain store full and 40hectares (100 acres) left to harvest.

 

Thankfully, a call to ‘Robbery’ meant he got me out of jail and allowed us to deliver to the local feed mill direct from the combine. The price will remain secret, but let’s just say it does not do much to help my ‘average’.

 

Harvest 2014 was in all pretty good. Yields got better as we went through, all be it with a large range from 7.4t/ha to 11.2t/ha (3t/acre to 4.5t/ac). The surprise was our first 40ha (100 acres) of Diego feed wheat hit more than 12 per cent protein.

 

The plough is now in full swing to rectify our ruts and weeds. An expensive tool, but soils are ploughing over remarkably well. With a total of 260ha (650 acres) to drill this year, the ploughed fields have proved more weather proof on our soils in the past, so will allow a long drilling window.

 

Calving is now at full tilt, the only problem being some milk fevers up to two weeks after calving which is baffling us a little. The herd is milking well and they need to with the milk market in freefall.

 

I voiced my concern of not to rely on these high return markets of Russia and China at the last Arla conference. I just hope the management have got it right, as the last thing they will need is an uprising.


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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