It has been a wet autumn in England, but a Kiwi help has made a huge difference to Robert Hodgkins’ operation.

Like everyone I am sure we are constantly finding new and exciting ways Covid has managed to bugger up our business.

The kids have been in and out of school during the lockdowns and we have been trying our best to homeschool. In case any English health and safety officers are reading this they definitely have not been helping me on the autumn tractor work.

In the UK, it has been wet, as in very wet. We have had to abandon our Vaderstad rapid and made an emergency drill buy of a wee little four-metre KV tine drill just to try and get some wheat in the ground somehow. The 235hp seemed a little excessive to put on the front but a wise kiwi”once told me “no kill like an overkill!” We may have run out of traction in a few places but we never ran out of power!

We have managed to slot in 300ha with the drill in between rain storms. Monty White, the Kiwi lad who started with us three months ago has been a bloody legend, tirelessly working to try and make sure we have something to run a combine through. On the whole it looks good, some of it has been mauled in and the headlands on a couple of fields look a state but we are hoping to redrill on the frosts. Monty and myself were running the drill 20 hours/day between us when I had a minor mistake. We drill using RTK so don’t bother using markers. Unfortunately I hopped in at 4am to take over and must have pushed the tramline advance button. We have 40ha with tramlines every 4m, s**t.

Lucky it’s all by the road so at least it will cheer up my neighbours and get them out of the covid depression everyone seems to be in!

The constant rain has been awesome for grass growth and cover crop growth. We have never had so many lambs finished and away early. We did take our eye off the ewe lambs slightly and their weights are not quite where they need to be. We usually like to be at 40kg at tupping but closer to 38kg. They have been wormed, bolused and are on stubble turnips for the next four months so I am confident they will catch up quickly. We are tupping 640 ewe lambs this year and really need every lamb possible to keep the bank manager happy so we will see how we get on.

We got our second year of SIL results back thanks to the awesome help of Barb Beckett, Zoetis and especially Jo Scott. Last year our top ram on the NZMW (NZ maternal worth) was 2300 and we had 6 above 2000 this year our top ram was 2800 and we had 50 over 2000. Modest figures for sure but it shows we are moving in the right direction and at a fair rate of speed. Jo is harassing me with the fact that the average ewe’s NZMW is now 1800 points. So we will have to have a big cull of recorded ewes next year. We will try and have this as our minimum level to enter the recorded flock. We are recording 500 ewes so it’s not a massive operation, but I do get a lot of enjoyment out of it and it’s nice to see the progress of the flock.

Myomax is now firmly taking root in the flock’s DNA. This year we used the top 50 ram lambs across the commercial flock and used the top five in our recorded flock alongside the five NZ rams we imported from Andrew Tripp three years ago.

The Government has proudly announced that farm subsidies will be ramped down over the next four years to zero. Money will be available for “public goods” more footpaths, wildflower meadows etc.

Seems ag production is falling off the radar. I get the feeling farmers will be cut into two groups, those who farm food and those who farm government money. Rents traditionally have been made up with the understanding that BPS (Basic Payment Scheme) is factored in. Will landlords be happy to take a 50% cut in rental prices? True farm income can’t suck up the loss by itself?

We shall have to see how the economics stack up. I would like to think I will be one of the first group, but pride doesn’t pay the overdraft.