I could have rung son Max but I didn’t. Anyhow, I said to myself, he’s probably zooming around the country which he seems to do a lot in his full-time job with the IFA.

They’re keeping him busy which is good and I’d say they’ll be more appreciative of his capabilities than ever I could be. I know that sounds a shade harsh – but I think it’s generally true in the complexities that are family situations.

Father-son relationships can be a bit tenuous at the best of times and Max and I are no different to anyone else in this regard. Though, thankfully, we do get on well and there’s mutual respect which is good.

But farming father-and-son relationships are unique. Highly qualified children with a real interest in farming are, naturally, a great and very welcome addition to any family farming business but it can be difficult to integrate them into a new role.

Such a role invariably means a standing aside of the parent with a shift in responsibility to the offspring.

This isn’t always easy and writing this on my 61st birthday, I think I’m too young to step aside. I see this as a positive. It allows Max to work in the wider world and build up experiences before returning to the farm.

All things being equal, he’ll be here for long enough. I didn’t have this luxury as my late father wanted to hand over responsibilities quickly because he had other business interests at which he excelled.

Ideally, to my mind, any farming duo should have their own responsibilities with, perhaps, the new blood starting their own enterprise. But this may not always be possible because, as they say, apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Genetically, it was unlikely that I’d produce a son who was dying to be a dairy farmer and so it is. I call it the BDGP scheme for humans.

As we are tillage farmers, albeit with some cattle, there isn’t sufficient year-round activity to meaningfully occupy both Max and myself. I’m busy enough – I flute around with a bit of writing but he’d be wasted. We’d need another, ideally related, enterprise.

So now we probably have the best of both worlds, without breathing down each other’s necks. Max is just a phone call away and I bounce everything by him. He certainly keeps me on my toes and abreast of stuff that I couldn’t be bothered to do – but should.

But I’ve digressed badly – now to return to that phone call to Max which I didn’t make.


We’ve been trying to reduce our dependency on insecticides. No longer do we use a wheat ear insecticide or for pollen beetle control in flowering oilseed rape. I said at the onset of this autumn that it was our intention not to use insecticides for aphid control on the winter cereals.

I didn’t expect it’d remain so mild and insect activity so high.

So I got a derogation from Max a month ago to spray the September-sown cereals.

Principles are fine but the potential yield loss due to not spraying was too high. We are, after all, commercial, non-organic farmers but regenerative? I think so. The October-sown cereals duly emerged and no, I wouldn’t be spraying them. No need – there’s less risk with later sowings.

Last week was ideal for spraying the herbicide onto these crops and, yes, it was still scarily mild.

Whoever expected midges to be flittering around your head while off mowing the lawn for the third time in November? I’d have to ring Max about including an insecticide. No, on second thoughts, I wouldn’t go there. I’d pull rank, spray the b*****ds and take the flak.