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G.M.Hunter Ltd.

Tilbrook Grange

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Winner Best local product

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Devon Cattle Breeders Herd Competition 2016

P1010580

August 18

By jameshunter1, Jan 23 2019 09:26PM



Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)


It seems like a long time ago but the most important thing to report is that harvest is all safely gathered in. The hot weather in June just got hotter and the cereal crops very soon burned off. We knew it was never going to be a record harvest as the blazing heat shrivelled up the grain. James, the combine driver, had to cut short his holiday as we started harvest weeks earlier than normal, on Friday 13th July. We did not spray the rape off to hasten ripening, as we have done for the last 20 years. We took a gamble that the heat wave would continue and that it would not come to an end with a thunderstorm. A storm on ripe rape is disastrous; it all shells out onto the ground. It was so hot the rape was so dry we had to stop after lunch each day. It didn’t matter as we had already done 8 hours combining. Some others started cutting as early as 4am.

We finished harvest on 8th August, the date we started the cereals last year. Quantity was down and the quality was not as bad as it could have been. Our heavy clay land retains its moisture better than sandy ground. As most of Europe was baking like us & Australia drought continues the cereal price has risen. Overall we can’t complain. We have sold the spring barley for a malting speciation at a record price. £215/ tonne, the hope now is that it is accepted at the malsters in October!


The ground was too hard & dry to rush into cultivations. We have now got all the oil seed rape planted and it is emerging better than the last few years. There has been enough moisture and the pests are not at present active. The cost on wearing metal in the ground has been high but we will have swallow the expense and hope it grows!


On the cattle front they are much happier now the grass is growing again. We had to give them all supplementary hay & straw in the heat wave. Luckily we don’t stock as heavily as some farmers and the traditional breeds don’t demand as much fodder as larger continental types. We got through without major complications. Calving has started and has got off to a flying start. 4 sets of twins so far and all doing well, I will give a full report next month.



Finally, I now break from the traditional combine picture. When in a Tilbrook field a took a picture of 3 mature Huntingdon Elm trees (Ulmus x hollandica 'vegeta' ) The county lost nearly all these beautiful trees in the 70’s to Dutch Elm disease. We had 2 survive near the farm for a long time, but lost them in a storm about 10 years ago. I guess most people concentrate on the bend in the road & don’t admire the trio. They never looked back in the drought and are in full leaf at the end of August. Elm wood is strong and durable with a tight-twisted grain, and is resistant to water. It has been used in decorative turning, and to make boats and boat parts, furniture, wheel hubs, wooden water pipes, floorboards and coffins.

Huntingdon elm is highly susceptible to Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease which devastated populations of elms since it arrived in the UK in the 1960s.








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