February 2020 Trip to Australia

February 2020

So the wettest Autumn in my farming lifetime is continuing on into the Winter months! This wet weather continues with the backdrop of the horrific fires in Australia. A country I have just returned from visiting and although fortunately I saw very little first hand evidence of the fires, we heard horrific stories from those affected. Almost the most chilling conversation I had was with a farmer who told me that their bush fire season is normally February and March and we were only in December, with the country ablaze. There can be no doubt that the climate is changing the world over.

We flew to Australia on an Airbus A380. These massive planes carry approximately 500 passengers and use 330,000 litres of fuel for a one way flight to Melbourne. That is over 9 years’ worth of fuel use on our farm, during which time we would produce wheat for 23 million loaves of bread, barley for 152 million pints of beer, peas for 700,000 cans of mushy peas and 500 cattle for prime, grass fed beef. Now I am not for one second saying that farming is perfect or that no one should travel in aeroplanes but within the farming industry there is a feeling that we are being singled out as the bad guys in the whole Climate Change Debate when actually we all need to look at our personal carbon footprint and all make little changes to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels; reduce travel (or swap the car for the train where possible), reduce food waste (as a nation we throw away 1/3 of the food purchased), buy local to cut down food miles, reuse/repair more and recycle more. If we all do a little it will start to add up!

Back at home on the farm, everything is still very wet, so much so that some of our cattle have had to come into the barns, to spare the land from being churned up by the animals’ hooves and to give them a break from the wind and rain. On the arable (crops) side of the business nothing is going to happen until the ground dries up significantly, at which point we will get very busy planting; not only on the land that we planned Spring crops for but also that which missed out in the Autumn due to the weather. There is some extra decision making to do, due to the wet Autumn, there is an expectation that much more Spring Barley will be planted across the countryside this year, which will drive down prices. How much Barley do we plant, and what else do we plan for land not yet planted? One factor which will affect this decision making will be how soon we are able to plant the crops, some like Spring Barley and Beans like to go in early, whereas Linseed, Peas and Lupins still perform well if planted later.

Fingers crossed we get a spell of dry weather and those in Australia get some of the wet weather from us!

Below are a couple of contrasting farms, the dry paddocks of a farm we visited north of Melbourne and a picture of our cattle the mist on our return.