I am stockpiling wheat and barley!

In the latest issue of Pig World, Red Robin, our producer and industry insider, discusses what positives might emerge from the coronavirus pandemic

I write this near the beginning of the coronavirus ‘social distancing’, so who knows where we will be by the time this is published. Although we will be affected by this pandemic, I think we will be fortunate compared to the hospitality industry and some elements of retail.

Aside from that, the land is beginning to dry out and we have even managed to do some drilling.  There have been times over the last six weeks when I really thought we were going to end up fallowing everything that wasn’t drilled in the autumn. Fortunately, we had a big harvest last year and I didn’t sell the surplus, so that is staying put. 

Most people are stockpiling loo roll at the moment – I am stockpiling wheat and barley! Our seed beds are reasonable after the wettest winter I can remember, which is good news.

Our biggest problem will be slurry – we don’t have as many winter crops close to the farm this year, so we may end up having to spread little and often.

This is always a nuisance, because you have to undertake the challenge of getting the contractor here when you want him more often and we have to keep paying setup charges for the umbilical rig.

Our cropping has had to change – we are growing linseed and peas instead of oilseed rape and winter beans to try and keep some normality in our rotation. It means we can keep the break crops and preserve our first wheats for next year.

But I don’t relish the thought of linseed. It’s a lousy crop to store and leaks out of every gap in the combine. On the plus side, it doesn’t get flea beetle, so we might have to look at it more seriously as an option in the future.

The positive side of coronavirus may be that it focuses the Government’s mind on imported food. We have quickly seen very empty shelves and the supply chain is taking a while to catch up. 

If one of the outcomes is a greater value placed on UK-grown food, then that will be a really good thing. People had become very complacent about the abundance and choice of food available. At home we will be OK for beef and pork for some time, but may suffer from scurvy later on!

It will be interesting to see the effect of coronavirus on the spread of African swine fever. There would be some irony if a human pandemic protects pigs from global spread of this disease – it would be like something out of Animal Farm.

I will always be an optimist and hope for the best. The sun is shining and our pigs look great at the moment.

We will cocoon ourselves from the outside world and enjoy the confines of the farm and count our blessings that we are lucky enough to have the space and enough to keep us occupied.

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