Farming better, doing less

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Shropshire farmer Rory Lay, like many, wants to improve both his work-life balance and his farm’s productivity.

He told the visitors to his first AHDB Monitor Farm meeting earlier this month about his goals for the business, which included spending more time with his children.

Rory said: “I don’t particularly want to expand the business in size: instead, I want to do what we do better. I’m busy enough as it is! I want to have as much time as possible with my family.”

Richard Meredith, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, agreed, saying: “Farmers don’t talk about time management enough, or how to achieve a healthy work-life balance.”

Better for the planet?

For Rory, farming better is also about farming sustainably.

“It’s very easy to jump to the chemical can,” he said, “but looking forward farmers will have to come up with a different way to control weeds, pests and diseases.”

Thankfully, Rory’s farm is virtually black-grass free, although last year a 50-metre stretch of the weed did appear after the combine. The weed’s absence does not make it any less of a threat to him.

Rory said: “Three of us took five hours to hand rogue all the black-grass out.”

In Rory’s opinion, at this level of weed burden the best control is hand roguing. He also tries to minimise his use of insecticides.

Mixed farming

Rory said: “Part of the reason for joining the Monitor Farm scheme was to find out the benefits of my livestock enterprises.  One challenge will be to quantify the nutrient benefits that the manure bring to the arable enterprise.”

Richard added: “It’s a different angle from the Bridgnorth Monitor Farm group. We will be looking at Rory’s business in its entirety, with the aim of evaluating how much benefit each enterprise brings to the business.”

At the end of the meeting, Rory said: “It was great. It was very interesting to get the different farmers on my own farm. The SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats] analysis at the end was great too. Something to work on for the winter meetings! It’s always good to have other farmers on the farm.”

The Loppington Monitor Farm will meet again in the winter, when the group will have the chance to look at some of these topics in further detail.

For more information, visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk/monitorfarms or contact Richard Meredith on 07717493015 or richard.meredith@ahdb.org.uk