Looking Forward, not Backwards!

2021 is done and dusted meaning we can look forward with some relief! The Covid saga has dictated many of our lives, whether limitations for family visits, severely impacted socialising or reduced activities and holiday opportunities.

A lot has happened here in the last 12 months. The arable side of the business is now being managed by a contractor and this has gone very well. Main policy, purchasing and marketing is still undertaken ‘in house’ but it’s great having up to date equipment and technology working for us! Looking back to the harvest results our winter barley produced a disappointing yield at the outset. Conversely, the milling wheat which was our biggest area of cropping, yielded very well despite the vagaries of the season and realised a full milling premium specification. Brilliant for once, and
coupled with a season of low-quality crops in this country and abroad has worked in our favour. How we did it – goodness knows! The beans produced average results and will go for animal feed. The advantage of growing this crop is mainly to achieve a rotational break in the arable system and also provide a fertility builder which benefits the following crop.

On the sheep front we have expanded our pedigree Llanwenog flock having purchased additional stock from a breeder in Buckinghamshire. Five ram lambs from this year’s lambing have been
retained to see how they develop, and to enable us to learn more about the breed. The breeding cycle for lambing 2022 is well underway and the sheep will be scanned in the next few days to define what individual ewes are expecting! The sheep will then be batched depending on their expectations and rationed accordingly. Lambing at the end of February is generally late for us, but with constant adjustments to the sheep policy we are now aiming to turn ewes and lambs out to grass very soon after lambing which reduces the need for expensive feeding and is much better for the sheep than staying in buildings for an extended time. This is a far cry from the early lambing system we originally followed which meant lambing during December, breaking off for Christmas (in theory) and lambing for another month in January. We must have been mad!

During the summer one of our farm cottages was majorly refurbished involving a lot of effort by the building team. As ever, once you start improving something there is a tendency to continue upgrading and inevitably leads to a much bigger job than originally anticipated. Our workshops have remained full throughout the year with some tenants expanding their businesses. Demand remains high which bodes well for the future.

With inflation increasing generally and costs spiralling in farming specifically, the prospects for next year cannot be accurately gauged. What’s new – this is farming at the sharp end! On the back of high world gas prices fertiliser costs have more than doubled on last season. Luckily our farm buying group gave an early warning of these grim prospects and we were able to purchase all our needs at a realistic price. Despite everything we will seek to reduce fertiliser usage and optimise our crop management rather than maximise efforts to achieve top yields. This is a likely trend for the future as farming takes a close look at itself in relation to business economics, environmental considerations and the quest for net zero over the next few years!

Despite the threatened restrictions because of Omicron we can only look ahead with confidence. Hopefully the vaccination programme will work and restrictions will not be too arduous in the short-term. Christmas may have to be tweaked a bit to see our large family, but that is manageable and plans will have to be adjusted as necessary.

Our Christmas present is to be a new sheep dog puppy which will be picked up in a few days. With a mob of grandchildren around, chaos in this household is therefore guaranteed! Whatever happens, we intend to have a great festive time. Happy Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!