Floodwater is helping to wreck roads for the spring


Appalling weather conditions continue and I have lost count how many inches of rain we have had now.

The roads have been treacherous with many accidents as the conditions catch people out; flooded cars litter the country roads with the modern air intake placed low under the bonnet, ideally placed to ‘hoover’ up flood water.

The roads themselves, appalling as they are, can be seen to disintegrate by the day as the water eats them up. With no maintenance whatsoever to ditches and culverts, the water finds our roads in many places the path of least resistance, and all the little heaps of gravel have been mined from underneath, leaving the whole structure totally vulnerable to frost. Our roads will be in a far worse state by the spring, something we thought impossible a month or two ago.

It is now 2014 and getting used to writing that down or typing it will take time. You can tell that it is January by the amount of pure nonsense and attention given to various diets and advice on how to lose weight. I find all this puzzling, just as puzzling as bottled water in fact.

To lose weight one simply has to eat a little less for a very long time.

If that was easy then countless millions would not be made by telling you what you want to hear, or giving you such complicated nonsense and useless jargon that it all ends in failure anyway. The only good piece of news is that a crash diet for Type 2 diabetics has been shown to reverse the condition according to work done at Newcastle University, but it will take more work to see if the reversed Insulin levels stay that way.

We are past the shortest day and the days will soon start to lengthen. On Sunday we did not notice the sun as it was dark and raining hard most of the day, but had we been able to see it, we would have noticed that it was slightly bigger as the earth was at its ‘perihelion’; closer to the sun than at any other time of the year.

Due to the elliptical orbit, our earth on Sunday was merely 91 million miles from the sun (an average lifetime mileage for a run-of the mill Toyota), whereas in early July at the ‘aphelion’ we are 153 million miles away.

However, due to the tilt of the earth’s axis, we are denied the extra warmth at the expense of the Australians; as if winning the cricket is not enough (the only consolation of the widespread power cuts for many was having no TV to see yet another drubbing)!

The storms have caused widespread disruption to UK farms and farmland, with insurance claims for repairs expected to be very high. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all been hit, coastal areas particularly badly, with flood plains being hit 48 hours after the 23rd of December deluge, and again last week.

Our builders have started drifting back to site with much head scratching and lifting of bonnets to see if any life can be coaxed from the various machines which were submerged under water on Christmas Eve, and still have three foot of silt surrounding them. With deliveries of stone arranged for this week, they had better sort something out fairly quickly.

We have been moving muck out to maize fields as we are still producing twice as much as the AD plant needs until the new tank comes on stream.

Milk production has lifted a bit and the cows are now averaging just over 28 litres a head per day which is not bad considering the upheaval and the noise and distraction around the place. It will be six months after all work is completed before we are back to normal and we once again have a stable performance platform to measure from.

One big difference we have noticed is that with our silage in ‘Ag-Bag’s we find ourselves feeding field to field; that is rather than having a large silage feed face which has all the fields ensiled in layers from top to bottom and all being mixed in, we are actually going from one field to the next.

We are feeding second cut grass silage and the difference in dry matter is noticeable considering it was all mown on the same day and picked up in the same order the next.

However, if we keep detailed notes when silage making this year, we will know not only which field produces a lot of grass, but which field produces the most milk.

The maize is more constant and we know which bags have each area of maize and we already know that the maize I cut early in order to feed cows with it produced less milk than the maize we are feeding now which was cut at the right time.

We do have some maize which was cut rather late for my liking, and I’ll be interested to see how it performs. The real eye opener though is the grass silage, it is extremely variable and I would never have guessed how different it could be from field to field.

As I start thinking about next winter’s diet and when to lock into contracts for feed, the Chinese seem to be single-handedly redefining world food supply.

As their economy grows at over 7% a year, they have a fast growing middle-class with an appetite for western diets and high quality food. They are the biggest buyers of soya-bean currently at 60%, and the USA is responding by planting more soya instead of wheat which will affect wheat prices later in the year.

However China is a massive opportunity for UK and EU exports and they are buying a huge amount of dairy which will protect us from the usual dip in the market this spring. India is also growing as a major consumer and importer which means it will soon be another major influence on the availability and price of staple commodities.

The New Year was barely a few days old before we were warring with the old enemy - France. They called our Prime Minister a ‘little man’, and I take offence at that; we are more than capable of belittling our politicians, we do not need any help from the French thank you.

Cameron had apparently started showing off having seen that there is the merest whiff of an economic recovery in the South East of England, but he likes showing off and he could not help but lecture those who had not taken austerity measures seriously and followed the Cameron/Osborn model.

France or Mr Hollande to be precise took huge issue with these comments and being very thin skinned felt that our prime Minister was having a go at Le Republic. Perish the thought.

This is now seen as more anti EU rhetoric and we can unfortunately look forward too much more of this during 2014, with the three parties slugging it out as we approach the 2015 general election. How many more MP’s will we see hanging around airports and ports looking out for Romanians and Bulgarians; Bulgarians whom have been officially invited here to work by open letter from the ‘Economist’ magazine; a real poke in the eye for the government and its rhetoric.

I must admit however that I was wrong when I predicted that the coalition would not last, wrong that there would be no tolerance for Clegg and his band of merry men, in particular Vince Cable.

I never thought that the Conservative party would put up with the Liberal Democrats interfering in policy and claiming credit for that on the one hand, openly being disloyal the next as they criticise their Conservative coalition partners.

It does seem that Nick Clegg has his cake and eats it too! Big question for early 2014 is will Ed Milliband fire Ed Balls?

He needs to if he is to win in 2015.