As I write these notes the wind is howling round the chimneys and I anticipate the rain starting very shortly to celebrate Plough Monday in memorable style.  Apart from concern at what the forecasters amusingly call ‘possible structural damage’ we are ready for any type of weather that will come.  I love the term structural damage!  It can cover anything from a few twigs blown out of the hedge to a Dutch barn roof coming at you from the next parish!   Hopefully our benign Suffolk weather will not treat us too badly.

Our last sugar-beet were lifted a week ago and were delivered to the factory within a couple of days.  The beets were some of the largest we have ever produced thanks to the mild weather we have had all autumn.  Jason had the old Track Marshall ploughing in the field right behind the harvester and, apart from one wet corner; all the land has now been ploughed.  Hopefully a few frosts will break up the clods and prepare the field for spring barley sowing.  There is a considerable surplus of sugar in Europe at present which is putting pressure on the sugar companies also wheat prices have dropped along with many other food staples.  This will cut our price for beet next year.  British Sugar have asked for volunteers to take a year’s sabbatical from growing beet to help cut the sugar mountain and we have decided to accept the offer.  Over the years, sugar beet have been our most profitable crop but as walkers last week probably discovered they do make a mess of the farm when lifted late.  Whether a year off will encourage us to pack up growing them for good remains to be seen.

Our Christmas holiday from pigs is over and a new batch arrived from a farm near Swaffham on January 8th.  They look strong and vigorous and come with a good reputation so we are hoping for fast growth.  There were about 50 less than I would have liked which will cost us £500 in lost income but if they grow well we will get some of that cash back in bonuses.  I am pleased that the general health of these piglets seems to be improving over the years.  Quite rightly, the use of antibiotics is being watched more carefully than it used to be and non anti biotic solutions to disease problems are being adopted far more frequently than they used to be. 

The next few months sees the long awaited introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy Reform Package.  More of this as it unfolds but I am sure the government watchers will not be surprised to hear that there are problems with the new IT package!!  Over the last ten years any online activity with Defra has happened through the Government Gateway Portal.  For some reason the new scheme has abandoned this route and has new access arrangements.  Surprise, surprise there are serious problems with it.  We have been warned for the last twelve months that we must get on with the new application which has to be in by May.  It can only be done on line.  We still cannot access the site and are told that it may be another month before we can make a start.  Frustrations levels are running high!