Friday, 27 April 2012

Molson Coors Growers Group Spring Meeting

On Tuesday we were excellently hosted for our first Molson Coors Growers Group spring agronomy meeting by Richard Tongue at Priory Farm Hazelton up in the Cotswolds.  We met up in the yard and had a brief summary of the evening by James Cox and then it was off to the field to look at some spring barley at about the 3-4 leaf stage. Richard was one of the runners up in last years MCGG internal barley competition so we were interested to learn about any new techniques he was employing.  It is the real beauty of being involved in a group like this, ideas are forthcoming and we can have a really good discussion about the crops and how we grow them.
We talked about cultivations as some of the fields are in overwinter stubble options (like us) and seed rates, seed dressings and fertiliser timings and rates.  Richard has just bought a new drill and was placing nitrogen down the spout with the seed which was interesting and logical.  John Vickery (Agrii Agronomist) was there to talk about herbicides and fungicide strategies for the coming few months, depending on the weather over the coming months.  There was some discussion about BYDV (Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus) and the areas affected after last years warm autumn and how these patches are very similar to Rhizoctonia solani (a soil born fungus).
After we had exhausted the conversations in the field, and it was getting colder, we headed off to the local pub for a pie and a pint which went down very well.  How many beer drinkers know how much effort and dedication goes into this stage of the brewing process?  The nitrogen levels we apply will have a massive effect of the quality of the grain and its suitablility for malting, let alone the effect that the weather has, which is obviously out of our control, perfectly demonstrated this spring!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sainsbury's Distribution Visit (Hams Hall)

At the last Sainsbury's lamb Development Group meeting we were treated to a trip around the Hams Hall distribution centre just north of Birmingham.  I have to say that it took our collective breath away!  The site covers about 3/4 of a Hectare, in a single span shed and with 167 loading bays, that during peak times are used more than once a day!  It was very impressive to say the least with over 300 journey/day being dispatched from the site on over 160 trailers based at this one (of 10) site. The picture above shows the ambient storage area where non perishable goods are stored, such as toilet rolls, fizzy drinks, beer, cereals etc.  these are picked by specialist 'pickers' scooting around on forklifts, computers attached to their wrists telling them what needs to be picked next for the particular store they are collecting for.  All of the routes for every product are timed so targets for deliveries are very tight.  There are also signs around to building telling the staff if they are ahead or behind the schedule.  A great incentive for the team.
The area (above) is the chilled distribution section which is where the pallets of chilled goods are broken down by hand before being sent around an automatic sorter to the pickers.  The whole area is chilled to 3 degrees.  The pallets are given a bar code as they arrive and are automatically tracked from the storage area through the whole system, right up until they are loaded on to the lorry.  This tractability really gives confidence that products are being store and distributed correctly.  We found lamb from one of the suppliers, along side some from New Zealand all destined for stores around the west midlands.
I couldn't help taking a shot of this pallet of Carling, especially as we supply lots of the Malting Barley throught he Molson Coors Growers Group, so I really felt the supply chain was coming together.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Feasting on Forage

Following on from last years grassland meeting, organised with Salisbury's and AB Sustain we planted 8 small areas of the farm that are coming out of arable cropping under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.  In total 18 Ha's have been planted with specific grassland mixes to complement the permanent pasture that covers the bulk of the grassland area.  This mix has really taken off and ideally the sheep should have been grazing it a while ago (they've never seen so much grass) but we had trouble with water and no permanent fencing, (in the program for capital works in 2013).  We applied 50Kg of nitrogen in March and it has really taken off.  The mixture is based on high sugar grasses with varieties such as Aberfarrell, Aberavon and Rodrigo.  In addition to these perennial rye grasses I have included some cocksfoot and timothy for good ground cover and to help fill the late bite,  there is also some Aberherald, which is a small leaved clover which if we're lucky should be able to provide some of the nitrogen needed by the grass.  
The are currently 100 ewes and lambs on this 2.5Ha area so it won't last them long, but we have sorted out their next move and so should be able to move them across the fields fairly quickly to get on top of this first flush of grass. If they can't keep on top of the grass we can always shut some up and conserve it for silage.