It has been a long cold winter; we have even had enough snow to go sledging twice in one winter.
The dry weather in March has been great for lambing the spring ewes, with all of the lambs being turned out on dry days easing the pressure on the lambing pens. I hope you saw some of the lambing live programme on the BBC; it was very interesting and a true to life depiction of lambing on a farm. We are busy at the moment planting hedging trees such as hazel, blackthorn and hawthorn on our new hedgerows. In our woodland we have planted 750 broadleaved trees in areas that we cleared of laurel last summer which you can see if you walk the woodland path. In a couple of our pasture fields we are planting a few individual parkland style trees. These majestic trees of the countryside can take many years to become mature and we hope our children and grandchildren will enjoy their beauty in 50 to 100 years time. To be effective it is important that we fence the hedgerows and the parkland trees otherwise the farm animals will just chew the young shoots. This fencing is expensive to erect and this work is supported by our Farm Environmental Stewardship Scheme.
The TB story continues: hurrah we have had a clear test with no animals testing positive. This is a great relief to us as it now means that some of the trading restrictions have been lifted as two of the farms are now classified as free of TB and the other farm now needs another clear test to follow suit. We have replaced our TB infected bull and another older bull by purchasing three new bulls - one for each brother Lobb to introduce to our cows. The three bulls are all of the same breed, namely the South Devon which are a traditional west country breed which excel at producing top quality beef from grass. The bulls' names are Jubilee, Eclipse and Trusty; we hope they live long and prosper. Jubilee one of our new Bulls The prices farmers receive for grain has recently plummeted from £120/ton to £80/ton. We were hoping to get £130/ton for our crop this year which we feel is a level that we can begin to make a profit. Instead we have the disastrous scenario where we are planting and managing crops that are going to create losses in their production. What do we do? We have to harvest the crops to get some of our money back but should we order seed for next year? How are we going to store this year's crop as our corn store is still partly full with last year's crop? Do you remember when the price of grain went up to £180/ton? There was a big fuss in the press and the prices of bread, cakes and lots of food items went up; well they haven't gone down yet!!! I wonder if they will? With wheat at £80/ton the farmer's share of a kg of flour priced at £1.35/kg is: £80 divided by 1000kg (ton) = 0.08p, £1.35 divided by 0.08p = 6%. When that flour is made into bread each kg could make two loaves for sale at roughly £1.20. The farmer's share of a loaf is: Two loaves worth £2.40 divided by 0.08p = 3.33% When you hear somebody say that food is expensive please do not blame the farmers. Most of the money is made further along the food chain in the baking, transport, packaging and the supermarket's margin.