The countryside changes quickly this time of year. Only a short time ago everything was lush and green, just at the moment fields are empty, the harvest for most is over and the autumn cultivations have begun.
The general view is that harvest has been a good one for most and the wheat prices are slipping as a consequence, the hedge funds are said to be back in to their short positions indicating that they expect prices to slip further. That said, I think most people that I have spoken to are satisfied that what is in the barn is adequate reward for the year’s endeavours. Milk price is stable for some, so perhaps for a moment we can sit back and feel satisfied. But for how long?
As an industry we tend to look on the optimistic side of things, mother nature will provide and, or will balance up if things one year are in deficit or surplus. It’s a nice mind set to have if perhaps a little naïve, because outside of this little bubble I have painted for myself it appears somewhat chaotic.
Our parliament seems in complete disarray with calls for an election by some, we want an election but not just now by others. There may be no parliament at all, Scotland wants to leave and so does the speaker as he is off. To say you couldn’t make it up is a cliché but it’s not far off the mark, as a consequence the pound has taken a tumble, which normally for agriculture is a good thing and there may be a positive in the exchange rate for BPS which is set sometime in September but that’s about it. Certainly the beef and sheep prices don’t seem to have benefitted from a low pound just yet, we do appear to be more akin to a Greek or Italian administration that we so looked down upon in their moments of crisis.
Now this may be a clever plan, perhaps a masterstroke of political brinkmanship that is yet to play out or our affable bumbling Boris may turn out to be little more than just that, I really can’t call it, he doesn’t seem to have got off to the best of starts, losing his first three or four votes in the house and lost his majority. Time will tell. There may be a silver lining to the dark clouds that appear to be looming, I hope that’s the case otherwise there may be a high price to be paid by the ordinary Joe in the street and by our industry in the form of cheap tariff free food imports and or high tariffs on our exports. How sympathetic will the banks be in the response to requests for increased borrowing in the face of thinning margins and possible lower land/security values?
On a more mundane level the day to day work continues. The straw is all collected and stacked, and the maize continues to develop, perhaps a little slower than I would have expected. The muck is being spread out on the land and all the usual autumn jobs. The dry weather is certainly helping the timeliness of operations. Those that continue to grow oilseed rape have been busy planting and while it is quick to go in the ground it appears by looking over the hedge at least somewhat slower to come out, but then the easiest part of growing any crop is opening the seed bag at the start of the process.
Unfortunately with the abundance of straw around the Kent/Sussex/Surrey areas, the export market would appear to be non-existent at the moment. We can only hope that post Brexit it will make a comeback. The large number of dairy farmers that have stopped farming would also appear to have a huge impact with the South West of the country seemingly having enough forage to support themselves though the winter months. The hugely inflated prices from last year would appear to have been cut by around 50-60% at the moment.
Fergus has settled into university life very well (beer included!) although, we miss him terribly and now realise how much work he did! It would always appear to be harder to let the oldest child go although I’m not too sure I’ll be very good when the next one comes to leave. I’ve no doubt that he will be home (if only for a bank balance top up). We had our final trip to Blenheim before university, where he pinched Zara’s pony to compete. A brilliant couple of days.
Monty is learning fast on the roles that he now must achieve! Driving the tractor is number one priority. He recently sold three of his Billy goats at the market for an absolute pittance, it is fair to say that a goat sells better when it’s in a box ready for the freezer. It was a sharp learning curve for him and one he will reflect on.
The Christmas word seems to be creeping into the shops this month… Harvest would appear to only just be over and the shops are screaming “Christmas”. Every year without fail, I am determined to be prepared early for the festive season, every year I spectacularly fail. This year is going to be different! I shall be prepared, organised and stress free… only time will tell! Any ideas for an 18,14,10 and 2 year old would be gratefully appreciated. Oh and a birthday on boxing day! What fun!