Last week, I found my three-year-old nephew attaching a bungee-cord to the front of his miniature John Deere Gator.

He then preceded to attach the other end to the back of his pedal tractor and told me that the Gator had got stuck in the mud and needed to be towed out.

It is a reminder how children can soak up so much detail from their experiences and the stories that they are told.

It also made me grateful for the recent dry weather – a tractor stuck up to the axles is all too often a typical summer scene in rural NI.

On the farm, grazing management is nothing if not variable. We have gone from a position at the beginning of May where we had almost no growth and cows grazing fields that had been set aside for silage, to the same week in June taking out grazing ground to bale with the remainder being pre-mowed.

I find that regrowths after topping can be much slower than after pre-mowing

I know that many grassland enthusiasts view the subject of pre-mowing paddocks as extremely controversial as they will claim that as cows are unable to sort through the material they will consume too much poor-quality, low-ME grass.

However, I find that regrowths after topping can be much slower than after pre-mowing. When cows have finished grazing a pre-mowed field, we use a single-rotor rake to row up any refused grass and remove it with the buckrake and dump trailer, thus avoiding the waste grass suppressing regrowth.

Mowing, strip-grazing, raking and removal of waste is reasonably labour-intensive; however, it is well worth the investment due to the quality of future grass growth. Good utilisation of grass is important as we strive to improve the proportion of milk that we produce from forage.

Red Tractor

Another controversial issue among dairy farmers is the Red Tractor scheme. I have recently encountered a number of people who have argued that it should be ended.

They see it as bureaucratic, unnecessarily demanding, and point out that they do not see a return on their investment in terms of both effort and capital.

I also have issues with Red Tractor. In many respects it has become far removed from the realities of day-to-day farming, bringing in environmental requirements that are already legislated for under cross-compliance.

Hopefully the body’s new chair, Christine Tacon, will be more suited to the role than the previous incumbent, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolf

Many consumers have no idea what Red Tractor represents and when criticised, Red Tractor have more poor excuses than an under-fire England football manager.

Hopefully the body’s new chair, Christine Tacon, will be more suited to the role than the previous incumbent, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolf, who voted against an amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill that would have given the Trade and Agriculture Commission more influence over future trade deals.

When farmers have friends like these we do not need enemies.

However, in an era when a Conservative government with a fanatical obsession with free trade is signing wide-ranging trade deals with large agricultural exporting counties such as Australia, we need an effective food assurance scheme the pubic recognises and can trust.

I strongly believe with revision and improvement

We must realise that the consumer has literally a world of choice when it comes to feeding their families, so we must give them the information to make the right decision.

Therefore I strongly believe with revision and improvement, Red Tractor can be highly effective and can inform the consumer of the high standards UK agriculture represents. The scheme gives us a fantastic medium to tell our story, and though a proper inspection programme it also allows our standards to be verified and shown to be the best in the world.


If those working for Red Tractor need an example of how to promote all that is best in our farming industry perhaps they should watch Clarkson’s Farm.

In the show Jeremy Clarkson does more to educate the public about the realities of farming life than BBC Countryfile could ever hope to. He highlights the long hours, physical and mental exhaustion and low margins that famers often endure. He also shows our dedication to our land, our livestock and our environment.

I highly recommend that you take out an Amazon 30-day free trial so that you can enjoy this informative, and very entertaining television masterclass.

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Stocked up and ready for first-cut silage

Dairy Management: grass growth, accounts and insurance