About Us

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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Day of Calibrations


Last Monday, our two main applicators of expensive oil-based chemical and nutrient products came under the spot light. Our Sands Sprayer had its National Sprayer Testing Scheme MOT and our Amazone Fertiliser Spreader was tested for its efficiency when applying granular products.
These two important exercises happen each year for the sprayer, under government recommendation, and every other year for the fertiliser spreader, which is for our peace of mind and for the odd crop inspector that comes on the farm. The machines have to be kept in top working order to pass both the tests and we have to keep the records of the tests, otherwise our farm would not pass our Crop Assurance Scheme which is the standard of crop production that we must maintain in order to sell our grain to all the different food markets in the country that are open to us. (More information can be found at the CMi website www.nsf-cmi.com)
The Sprayer test is really important, as it is a full MOT such as your car goes through. Everything is tested from road worthiness and safety to the water carrying components and the application parts of the sprayer. The trained tester has a 50 point test which he works through on arrival at the farm. He inspects the ins and outs of the sprayer but the really important part is the calibration of how much and how accurately the sprayer applies the chemical/water mix onto the crop. The tester fills the sprayer with water and runs the motor to do pressure tests on the pump, checking that it is running at the correct 3bar. He then checks a few other places along the water line to make sure the pressure is constant. If it is not constant then he will investigate the reasons: possibly dirt in the pipes or a blocked filter. However, our pressure tests were all constant.

He then does jug tests on a set number of nozzles along the sprayer boom. Our boom is 24m wide and has a spray nozzle every half metre and there are 3 types of nozzles attached to the boom for different applications. He runs the sprayer and holds a jug under a single nozzle for a minute. He then measures how much water comes out and records the amount. The amounts should be what the manufacture of the nozzle states should be delivered from that type of nozzle, at a set pressure. If the amount is not what is stated, then the nozzle is either blocked or has become worn. A nozzle is made of plastic normally, so with water and chemical particles being pushed through each of them, they do wear and the size of hole increases and therefore more chemical/water is applied to the field, which is not what we want.
Our sprayer passed with flying colours. We only had a precautionary note that one set of nozzles was starting to wear but Nick our sprayer operator was already aware of this and was going to ask if we could replace them.
The Spreader test is a pattern test for us, the farmers. Uniform nutrient application is vitally important as we need to have the small granules of fertiliser applied evenly over the whole field otherwise we will have uneven crop growth. Also, if over-application occurs, it can mean that high levels of fertiliser can leach into the watercourses causing algae blooms that have a knock-on effect on wildlife and drinking water quality. It’s also not very economical for us to buy all this expensive fertiliser and not know where it is all going. We have to be so accurate now because all granules that miss the target area on the field are wasted pound coins!
The test involves a quick check of the spreader and the PTO speed, so that all is in working order. Then a bag of fertiliser is put into the hopper and the spreader is ready for the test. The tester places a tray on the ground every metre for the whole 24m and the next 6m each side. These trays have baffles in them, so when the granules hit a tray they do not bounce out. The spreader is driven through at full operating speed and rate and the trays catch the fertiliser. Then the trays are poured into a set of tubes which are all fixed together. The results indicate the distribution of the fertiliser over the full width. What we want to see is a flat level across the whole width. This will mean that the pattern is uniform over the whole area, which is good for us. If one side was higher or lower then the machine is not set up right or the discs spinning the granules out are worn. As you can see from our pattern, it is very uniform and so we are confident that all our expensive plant food is covering the fields evenly whenever we are out applying the Nitrogen, Potassium or Potash. 
These calibrations are good exercises for us farmers as it reaffirms that we are applying everything as accurately as possible, so that our natural environment is protected from bad practice and badly looked after machinery. 87% of all Sprayers in the Country are tested yearly and many more Spreaders are tested privately by farmers, as they want to know where the money is ending up. The two tests cost us a total of £380 which is nothing considering we spend over £180,000 a year on oil based nutrients and agrichemicals!! BWB


Monday, 23 January 2012

Supplement feeding and the new camera.

During the winter we supplement our areas of Wild Bird Seed Mix with wheat sweepings and the cracked wheat which is cleaned out during the seed preparation process. We try to keep a regular supply of food out through the whole winter especially during the hungry gap which is from the end of January through until early March when the natural food stocks are exhausted and before spring starts. The main beneficiaries of this food are the game birds and ground feeding passerines such as Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Dunnocks etc but with the new camera I thought it would be interesting to see what else is using these areas.

Roe deer
 Muntjac

Brown Hare
Grey Squirrel

and some pheasants.


Total species count for the weekends photos - Pheasants, Roe Deer, Muntjac, Moorhen, Pigeon, Rabbit, Mouse, Squirrels and Hares.


Friday, 20 January 2012

A new toy from Father Christmas

I was fortunate enough to be given a remote outdoor camera for christmas (from Brian) so hopefully and time goes on we can build up a more thorough picture of more of the wildlife that is about on the farm. On day 1 I put it up in the Dutch Barn just to see how it worked and was rewarded with the picture below. I will share what I find as I find it... PJB.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Flat caps and Tweed, tweeting away!

Having been away at the Oxford Farming Conference last week I was catching up with the multimedia world: Twitter was red hot during the Conference, reaching number five in the Trends list, which either shows the delegates were bored or the power of tweeting has hit a new market. My favourite tweet I read was: ‘#ofc12 can’t believe it has hit no.5. Can’t imagine farmers in flat caps and tweed, tweeting away in Oxford. But just for the record there was not much tweed, no flat caps but plenty of hot air spoken about topics that will direct our industry in the next year.
We attended last year and then, with the uncertainly of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform slowly showing its head, we heard how it might change our business in the long run after 2013. This year, Patrick and I were again kindly sponsored by DHL AgriFoods and we listened to how the CAP reform would change our business, a year on - and we are still in limbo as to how it will affect our family business. There have been leaked EU documents, rumours of conditions and no one really knows. We are waiting for the EU to spell out what they want and see how our Government chooses to implement the aims of the EU Commission.
We hope the rumours are true that production subsidies will be removed and the emphasis will be put on rewarding farmers that deliver the three pronged fork of increased production efficiency, increased farmland biodiversity and increased resource protection.  However we don’t want this three pronged fork to be turned into the devil’s trident, where the government uses it to restrict farmers who want to do more and allow the farmers who are not delivering to wriggle out with no harm or change by not fully utilising the good work that has been started under the Environmental Stewardship Schemes. We have tried and tested these schemes over the past six years. Ok, they are not perfect, but all the elements are there ready to deliver if farmers are given better value for money and given constructive direction in how to manage these new habitats correctly. Our yields are up, our biodiversity is most definitely up and our soil and water are in great condition due to being protected from any harmful over-use of inputs. We are delivering already, we want to do more but we are apprehensive about how our government is going to take this challenge forward. Time will tell!
Many people enjoy BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ on a Sunday evening. I enjoy it but feel that they should do more for our farming industry as a whole. We have met Adam Henson and he is doing a great job of introducing the general public to the ups and downs of life as a livestock farmer, with the whole TB epidemic that grips our countryside. I watched this week’s program on Sky+ and really enjoyed the special John Craven Investigates with his interview of our Prime Minister David Cameron (catch it on iplayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b019h9lz/Countryfile_08_01_2012/). This was interesting after all we had heard at Oxford. The second part is next week and we will see if the messages given by the PM will mirror the Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice’s and Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for DEFRA’s, speeches at Oxford. They have set their stall out but will they - and when will they - deliver all that is promised? The farming industry waits with baited breath and, by the sounds of it, tweeting fingers at the ready! 
The other thing discussed at Oxford was by Patrick and me, setting a New Year’s Resolution of, each week, one of us writing a post for this Blog! Hopefully it will happen!  Time again will tell!       BWB  

Monday, 9 January 2012

Goldcrest


Regulus regulus
The Goldcrest is the smallest European songbird and is a member of the Warbler family. It is a fairly widespread species, closely associated with coniferous forest.
Goldcrests has olive green upperparts and pale buff underparts. The whitish ring around the eye and the black-edged orange-yellow crown are very distinctive. The male's crown has a small patch of red in the yellow. Juvenile birds lack the colourful crown marking.
Size
9cm
Weight
4.5 - 7g
Habitat
Woodlands, particularly conifer trees. Also visit gardens with trees.
Nest
Made of moss and lichen and held together with spiders webs. Lined with feathers and hair, the nest is slung underneath foliage near the end of a branch. Growing Spuce and fir trees in your garden may encourage them to nest once the trees reach 2m (7ft).
Eggs
2 clutches of 7 - 10 brown-spotted, white or buff eggs in May - July.
Food
Peanut Cake, insects and grated cheese.
Voice
A high, thin warbling song; a high 'zee-zee-zee' call which is used in pairs and flocks to keep in contact.
Characteristics
This tiny bird behaves rather like a tit, searching amongst foliage for insects and spiders. In winter Goldcrests join with flocks of tits and other woodland species. The Goldcrest is sometimes confused with the similar Firecrest which is slightly smaller, has brighter plumage and a dark eye-stripe under a white "eyebrow".
BTO Statistics
Goldcrest populations have suffered declines recently, hence its inclusion on the Amber List.
Breeding
Goldcrests form monogamous pairs and nest-building is undertaken by both male and female birds. They build their nests in Cypress, larch and other conifers, and also in ivy and gorse. The female usually lays the second clutch before the first have fledged leaving their care to the male. Having 2 large broods each year allows the Goldcrest to sustain population figures despite huge losses in cold winters
Feeding

The Goldcrest eats many kinds of spiders and insects, especially flies, aphids, and beetles and their lavae, but they occasionally also take larger types of insects, such as adult moths. Goldcrest rarely visit garden feeding stations, but in extreme cold weather they may take Peanut Cake and grated cheese.