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First year without dairy herd proves challenging

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: October 01, 2008

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Wilmington Farm is a Duchy farm of 320 acres, with a further 250 acres of outlying land. The Keelings have been in residence for the past four generations, with father and son, Mervin and Matthew, managing the business.

THIS year's wet summer has had a serious effect on the harvest.

Although we cleared the barley and rape quite quickly, we were not so lucky when it came to cutting the wheat, the bulk of our crop.

By mid-August last year, we had finished cutting and were well on the way to drilling for the following year.

As a stark comparison, this year we started cutting on August 22 and took a further four weeks to finish the job.

The main problem suffered by the crop when bombarded by persistent rain is that the seeds begin to shoot.

This ruins the quality of the crop, making it no longer acceptable to use for human consumption.

There are many varieties of wheat to choose from.

At Wilmington Farm, we tend to favour growing three different varieties, that can prove beneficial when the crop has to cope with changing weather conditions.

This year, we grew a second-year variety called Istabrap, which yielded well with no signs of shooting.

The Humber, which was drilled early last year, also faired well, but the third variety, Alchemy, shot very badly.

Another problem we encountered was the need to use an excessive amount of gas to dry the corn.

For optimum storage and milling, the moisture content of the seed must be maintained at 15 per cent.

So, with fuel prices at an all-time high, this extra overhead has certainly not helped.

As a result of the late harvest, our preferred crop rotation of rape after wheat has proved challenging.

Rape needs to be drilled by mid-September but, with the wheat not being cut in time, we have had to modify our rotation to include using beans as a break crop for next harvest.

When it has comes to selling our corn, buyers' policy states that market prices will not be affected, so long as a standard of not more than six per cent of the crop is shot.

At this level, the corn can still be graded and used as animal feed.

We have, therefore, separated the poorer quality corn to use as our own animal feed.

With the summer now drawing to a close, we can only keep our fingers crossed that next year will not hold a repeat performance.

This has been our first year without the dairy herd and I was hoping things were going to get easier – little did we know.

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