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G.M.Hunter Ltd.

Tilbrook Grange

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Winner Best local product


Winner of

Devon Cattle Breeders Herd Competition 2016


By jameshunter1, Jul 22 2018 07:53PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

There is an old saying “ A dripping June, put’s everything in Tune” This means that a wet June gives the maturing crops a good drink to get the grains to filled up ready for ripening and harvest.

Alas in June I recorded just 0.5mm of rain. This helped with hay making which went well, despite dull days at the start of the month. All hay is safely in the shed ready for feeding. Will it stay there till November? I have already heard of some farmers up north who are using their winter fodder already. The grass is not growing, when did you last mow your lawn? Grass very soon recovers and grows again as soon as it gets a drink. Remember 1976? The minister of drought? I recall my father grazing the cattle on the grass verges. When the rain came everything soon turned green and it kept raining for ages.

Pedigree bull sales have picked up this month. Several have gone and another is scheduled to go tonight (Sunday) when it is cooler for travelling. One of the buyers used a different mode of transport. He left North Yorkshire after lunch, spent a couple of hours looking at the cattle & back home again for his tea. As you can see from the picture he couldn’t hook on the trailer to take the bull back!

One of the advantages from the heat wave has been lots of barbeques, burger sales have boomed. Tilfest used to be our best order but this week I thanked a chap from Tilbrook who broke that record. Just under 1000 have gone out this week. Those in Tilbrook yet to try them have been missing out.

Any new customers will be made welcome.

I read an interesting snippet in the Farmer Weekly as follows “British farmers could be sending beef to China by 2021 after the country lifted a 22-year ban on beef imports.

The move, which is likely to help carcass values by increasing demand for cuts not favoured by British consumers, is still subject to negotiations on market access, which are expected to take three years. China took in almost 700,000t of the meat last year, and is now the world’s second-largest beef importer after the US.

Termination of the UK ban, which was put in place at the time of the BSE crisis, comes after a successful inspection visit in April 2018 by Chinese officials.”

As the White Horse is about to open I thought a few facts about beer may be of interest.

• 82% of beer sold in Britain is brewed here primarily from British Barley

• UK farmers produce 2 million tons of malting barley / year. Enough for 23.3 billion pints

• The beer & pub industry provide 900 000 jobs in the UK. 44% filled by 16 to 24 year olds

• We export over 1 billion pints of beer to 110 countries annually

• UK beer sales generate £13 billion of tax revenue annually

Finally I have a new favourite number in my phone. In one week I dialled this number more than any other. No, there is not a secret romance and it is nothing to do with farming, family or work. You may recall that I broke my wrist in March. The thumb is not moving correctly and is has been a very considerable struggle to get the hospital sort it out. Hopefully it will get resolved.

By jameshunter1, Jul 22 2018 07:50PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

I have moaned about the weather in the past but not this month! It has been very kind and crops are growing well. The late drilled spring barley is storming through it’s growth stages. There has been enough rain with warm days & nights. Not too much wind, so we have been able to spray in near perfect conditions. Long may the favourable conditions continue for hay making & then harvest.

During the month all the cattle yards have all been cleaned out. The muck was much deeper in the sheds than normal as the winter was a really long drag. The heaps in the fields will be spread straight after harvest.(picture attached)

Gavin was delighted to be invited to judge the Devon cattle on their home ground at Devon County Show in the middle of the month. There was a strong entry with herds from Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Worcester all competing for the coveted prize of having the best Devon animal at Devon County show. It is a very desirable award to be Champion on the breed’s home ground. The substantial solid silver cups are very old and show the winners for decades and have a combined value over £50 000.

Gavin decided to award the championship to a young bull. The owners were delighted as it was their first time of winning Best in Breed, and they had had a terrible year last year with losing a large percentage of their herd to an outbreak of Bovine TB. (picture attached)

The number of cases nationally is still very disappointing. I copy official figures. • Total animals slaughtered due to a TB incident in England in the 12 months to December 2017 increased 14% on the previous 12 months to 33,238. In Wales the number slaughtered was 10,053, an increase of 1%

Luckily we (Cambridgeshire) are in a low risk area and only have to have to test the whole herd every 4 years. Others in high risk areas have such dreadful statistics, I will not report.

The Basic Payments Scheme forms were all submitted before the deadline to the Rural Payments Agency. We have these for two more years until Brexit’s new scheme is started. We had to submit a further 21 pages as well as the prepopulated forms as their computer removed 6Km of hedges! All are hoping that the RPA do better than last year in processing the forms. The EU fined the UK £230m for poor performance. Minister Michael Grove described the RPA feat “as slow as a snail with arthritis!”

Last week we sold 14 lorry loads of wheat for October delivery. This is a calculated gamble. Firstly we will get it in the store & that the price was a good deal on the day. The reason was simple; the price had risen sharply in the last fortnight. This was caused by various reasons, Argentinean weather, Politics in Korea and President Trump. Currency Euro V £. Further the harvest predictions in Europe & the UK not expecting a large surplus. These days it is global conditions that have drastic influence on the market.

Finally I attach a picture of a trailer made by Ted Tirrell who sadly passed away last month. It was made from a Bedford QL lorry. My father purchased these as surplus war stock. The cab and engine were cut away and a new body built and fitted on the rear chassis. Ted made us three as the old lorries were scrapped when the petrol engines packed up in the 70’s. We still have one on the farm & it is used all winter for cattle feeding.

By jameshunter1, May 6 2018 08:12PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

We have snatched every opportunity to get field work done. James Young has completed all the spring barley drilling while I have been recovering from my broken wrist. The weather turned warm for a few days after seeding and the green shoots were emerging just six days after the drill left the field. We also managed to apply the pre-emergence herbicide. The attached photograph shows the rows up & down the hill. This is the normal way of doing the job. However the Environment agency would encourage us to work across the hill. This we did in the next field to the photo. Last autumn we were struggling to pull the plough up the hill because of the wet. James ploughed the field across the hill. This method is discouraged by the HSE, and is more difficult tractor driving. We also drilled the barley across the hill. The idea is that the water should not run off down the hill but seep in. The high volumes of rain have given the experiment a good test. My conclusion is that water flows downhill!

The larger capacity sprayer has enabled us to apply fungicides to the wheats and apply another dose of liquid fertiliser. Depending on the conditions and the dose of product being applied we can achieve 40 acres treated per hour.

While I am on light duties I have attended several meetings in the month.

Firstly at Kettering, Catchment Sensitive Farming organised a day to educate us on water and the importance of good drainage. It was a useful informative update and CPD point collector.

A few days later I attended again with Michael from Covington another meeting. The 8am start at Marston Mortaine drew a room full to hear about the Consultation on sustainable Farming & Food Production. This is a DERFA consultation post Brexit. The decisions will influence agriculture for the next generation. It has been described the possible biggest change since 1947. The environment is a major part of it which has been in the press. The talk was led by Nick, a very knowledgeable chap from NFU HQ. He had toured the country for three weeks giving every NFU member the chance to see where we could be heading. Whatever happens I am sure that there will be a lot of changes.

The following week I attended another meeting, this time in Shroud on Endurance wind turbines. Organised by a green energy company with environmental green ideas; we even had a vegan lunch! I spoke to delegates from Cornwall to Scotland and the main speaker was from Canada. The Endurance manufacturer is in receivership. Many turbines have been suffering severe breakdowns. Luckily we are further inland and the greater gusts have smoothed out before we take the power from the wind. Long may ours continue to rotate without problems. Others have not been so lucky.

My last meeting was with the MP Jonathan Djanogly. We discussed the DEFRA consultation. He knows a lot more about it now, and other local rural political issues.

Finally, I mention & congratulate Robert Burton. He is 18 years old & I have known his parents & grandparents for decades. They farm between Stonely & Easton. He was on BBC TV last Friday in the final of the woodwind section of young musician of the year 2018. He plays a Saxophone (well) and was up against flautist, bassoonist, a recorder player & a clarinettist. He won! I wish him well in the grand final which is broadcast on 13 May.

By jameshunter1, Apr 16 2018 08:08PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

It has been the most disappointing month in the five years I have been giving a monthly report.

I start my mentioning The NFU conference again. At one of the breakout sessions on the back of each seat there was a hi-viz jacket. In every row there were a couple of red vests rather than the normal yellow ones. This broke the ice and started us chatting. What were they for? We all had to put on & keep the jackets. I had a yellow one but knowing what I do now, I should have had a red one. They indicated the percentage of people in farming who would be involved in an accident. The industry has a dreadful record, and the point was made well. A fortnight ago I was just two rungs up a ladder, drilling a hole, when the ladder slipped away. I fell, knocked my head, and broke my wrist. I am not looking for sympathy as I was my fault & I should know better. It just emphasises the fact that these little jobs are all a risk and accidents can happen so quickly. The eight hours in A & E was not pleasant, there are better places to be on a Friday evening up to midnight! In the following week I had an operation to put it straight, pin & plaster it. I am now making progress.

In this report last March all the spring barley had been drilled and the cattle were all out at grass. So far we have done just one day’s drilling and the ground will have to dry out a lot following the wet Good Friday (21mm) before we shall be able to continue.(pictured) All the cattle are still in the buildings. The grass has greened up and is starting to grow but the land is far too wet for the cattle to be on it. The cost of feeding for an extra month is considerable. We have enough hay & straw but would have preferred to be selling a couple of loads & watching the cattle grazing the fresh grass.

March 22nd there was the annual Devon Breed Spring sale at Sedgemoor market. This year it was Tilbrook Altas’s turn for the long journey. He is an 18 month old bull with Tilbrook, Australia and New Zealand breeding in his pedigree. (pictured)The prices in the auction reflected the confidence in the current state of agriculture.

Sadly I have to report the sad loss of a past employee. My father set on Jim Old as tractor driver & general farm worker in 1977. He was a young chap from a farm near Rushden. He worked hard and lived life to the full. He was always out and about after work & ran a disco in the evenings (loudly). After a few years he took the stockman’s vacancy and moved into a cottage on the farm. He looked after the animals well for many years. He enjoyed his work and was successful. Whilst with us he married Rachel and they had a daughter Katie. He moved on to fresh pastures at Ravensden in 1993. We kept in touch over the years; he would occasionally call in on the way back from Thrapston market & recall old times. He was very well known and respected for his skill by the farming community. He continued to work at Ravensden until his tragic untimely death. Our thoughts are with Rachel and family at this sad time.

By jameshunter1, Mar 14 2018 08:40PM

Life up on the farm (by James Hunter)

I am currently standing in for Michael Brown, as the NFU Huntingdon branch chairman. I congratulate him on the safe arrival of twin boys. All doing well. I am showing my age but I recall my father chatting to their Great Great Grandfather! My main duty this month has been representing the branch at the NFU conference at the ICC in Birmingham. I think most know that the NFU is a member’s organisation that lobby & work to help farmers. The vast majority of farmers are members & the subscription depends on farm size.

The first day of conference started with DEFRA minister of State Michael Grove MP. Mr Grove told the 1,500 delegates that the hopes, concerns and duties of the agricultural community are more relevant to Government now than they have been for 50 years. He was followed by David Drew, standing in for Shadow Defra Minister Sue Hayman, outlined the importance of British farming, its high quality food production standards and potential to thrive post-Brexit. The number of TB-infected cattle slaughtered in Britain last year breached the 43,000 barrier which caused tension in the hall as the numbers are still rising.

The first day finished with 1260 enjoying a wonderful dinner. We were amazed how they produced such a meal for so many, we all appreciated the shops & suppliers who sponsored the pre dinner drinks, fillet steak, cheeses, wine & the speaker.

The main topic of the second day was the election of the office holders. For the first time in the 109 years of the NFU a female president was elected. I am confident that Minette Batters will do a good job for us all. One of her challenges is for you to be able to enjoy the same good food at the right price post Brexit. I wish her well in her role. It was a very interesting & enjoyable two days, mixing with farmers & those who influence our great industry.

Last month I mentioned that we were trying to remove the charlock in the rape fields. It was a gamble to get frosts once the chemical was in the plants. We have been lucky; most of the weeds are now looking sick, thanks to the cold snap.

Several have mentioned that have seen the tree management in a Jaunties last winter & Six Yards spinney this year. We have taken out the dead elms. This has let the light in for the ash & oak to grow up. The removed wood is stored and the benefits are felt in the cold snaps. I heat the 8 bedroom farmhouse with a solid fuel burner. It is very hungry when it is cold! If I can lift the logs it goes in and heats the house. It can get through 100Kg of wood/ day (16 stone)

During the month we have had three attempted thefts. The first was an internet scam. We are advertising a fertiliser spreader in a magazine & on the net. A fraudulent foreign buyer was offering to pay more than we were asking for it. As I understand it we could have accepted an offer greater than the asking price. Then loaded the spreader away and also lost the payment. Second we had visitors in the night with a lorry in the yard who attempted to take 9 pedigree bulls 18 month old. Lastly a couple of chaps were photographing the Land Rover not expecting Gavin to be just the other side of it. They made a lame excuse about rabbits & made off.

Finally, it has been party time this year. Seven weeks in & I have had three 60th Birthday party celebrations.

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