December on the farm (2023)

High Speed Rail Works at Sulgrave

Richard Fonge writes:

The wet autumn is now turning into a wet start to winter. Our forecasters do seem to over hype the weather more than they used too. We have had many seasons or periods of weather like this before, and for those of us who earn a living from the land, where the weather/climate plays a vital part in our businesses  we in general take it in our stride.

The winter wheat on the Stuchbury footpath is looking sicker, due to water logging and on the maize ground on the other side of the hedge, pools of water are now evident, which is a result of compaction. This continued wet will be making it difficult to harvest potatoes and other seasonal vegetables, mainly grown in the eastern counties, thereby making it a possibility of Christmas shortages.

Vegetable waste and surpluses are used for animal feed. Potatoes and carrots are fed to cattle. When farming near Northampton I used to buy twenty five ton loads of them to include in the dairy cow’s diet. The milking cow’s diet as is the beef animal is a precise science. Most dairy farmers employ a nutritionist to formulate a balanced diet with the food available at the time, with grass the main ingredient either grazed or ensiled as silage. The other product widely used are brewers grains. These are a by product of the brewing industry after the malting process. High in energy and readily available in this area from Carlsberg in Northampton. Sugar beet after the sugar has been extracted is another by product sold in pulp form for animal feed, with the green tops left in the field at lifting being fed to sheep. Waste not want not comes to mind.

As this year draws to its close the continued blight on our landscape of the HS2 works get greater and more unsightly. Never did any of us imagine that so much land and hedgerow would be destroyed in the name of progress.

Finally a true story from the past when tractors had to be started with a handle. Len an employee of my Father’s had a bad day trying to start his, swinging the handle many times. Next morning he said that he had dreamt about it and was woken by his wife as he had got a piece of her nightdress and was turning like his tractor starting handle!!  

Happy Christmas and New Year.

Richard Fonge.


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