August 2016: Will black-grass pulling help increase cereal prices?

It’s approaching that time year again when we’ve some idea of how much yield we’ll get from our arable crops, and that usually determines how little we receive for them. That, in turn, helps the pig producer to do some sort of forward feed costing, and then some third party decides what price we both get.

I have a reasonably clean farm, or at least I thought I had, but this year black-grass has made its presence felt considerably. Wild oats are easily pulled by hand as there are now not too many of them and most fields clear. Pulling black-grass, however, is a back-aching, frustrating job and I have spent the best part of a month doing that in areas where I haven’t previously had a problem. So, if other arable men have the same problem, there will be a yield decrease, which isn’t surprising if you’ve pulled a clump of black-grass to leave a gaping hole in the crop. Will that, I wonder, lead to an increase in price, even if it’s only a small one?

Something else has appeared in a couple of fields this time, and that’s Cranes Bill. It’s in large patches lying on top of the wheat and completely covering areas of crop. Will the wheat still ripen? I hope so, but a spray that works will have too be employed next year. It’s been an unusual year this year; lots of sprays haven’t done what they should, and if there’s one thing I hate to see is a dirty crop, it really bugs me.

I read with interest Chris Fogden’s article last month where he mentioned sheep and shearing, and related a bit of it to pigs where he thought they would not be able to be sheared. Well, I can’t remember where Chris went on his well-deserved Nuffield Scholarship, but obviously not to Hungary or he would have come across Mangalica pigs, which have curly hair that looks like wool. It might be an interesting experiment to try and clip a few to see if there would be a unique outlet for the hair/wool. Could be the start of something new.

It doesn’t take much for pig men to smile, a small increase in price and away they go. Hopefully the small increases will keep on going up gradually, and one producer told me at the beginning of June he had been offered 130p/kg for three months.

I wonder when, if ever, we’ll get to the price Neil Unger in Oz is currently getting for his? I mean the 190p, not the inflated price for his elephants, as he called them, that Matt took to the local market. Neil took me to that market when I visited him in 2010. It was a real education, with pigs of all sorts of shapes and sizes arriving from up to 200 miles away in various modes of transport.

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About The Author

Sam Walton is a Yorkshire farmer and former pig producer, and the founding editor of Pig World.