THIS year’s first Northumberland Monitor Farm meeting will focus on how farmers can benefit from working together to increase productivity.
The meeting, which takes place next Monday at Morpeth Rugby Club, will also consider the widely-discussed CAP reform.
The aim of the Monitor Farm project is to improve efficiency and productivity and share successes – and failures – with farmers in Northumberland and beyond.
All Monitor Farm meetings are open to every farmer in the region and are designed to be both practical and relevant. The meeting is at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and steak sandwiches will be served during the evening.
Last year, the first meeting of the year followed a mild winter.
By contrast, those attending this meeting can expect to hear from Monitor farmer Simon Bainbridge, about how the farm and his stock has fared in the second wettest summer on record followed by a cold snap of heavy snow and then a quick thaw.
“We have had many challenges this winter,” he said.
“Our silage crop was poor due to the weather and, as a result, we have had to review our feeding budgets.
“We start scanning next week and this will give us an idea as to what to expect in terms of lambing.”
Stocking levels at Donkin Rigg are around 1,400 ewes and 140 cows. Calving will start in the middle of March, followed by lambing in mid-April.
At the start of the project in 2010, Simon bought new breeding bulls and the farm is seeing the fruition of this breeding policy.
This spring the farm will have an extra 40 to 50 cattle to sell and, as Simon says, this welcome bonus goes some way to offsetting the extra costs of winter feed and the reduction in lamb prices.
However it’s not just the weather that is unpredictable, farming policies and payments are also set to go through a number of changes in the next few years.
Current reforms, designed to make European farming more competitive, look set to focus on those actively farming land rather than on production-based measures such as headage.
However in the interim period between the present and future scheme, there is still considerable confusion as to eligibility for the scheme.