Carola Godman Irvine. Farmer, Campaigner & Columnist. 06-04-22

  • Written by Carola Godman Irvine
  • Posted on Apr 06, 2022
  • Articles

I have bought a new chicken house and pen. I can with a bit of help, move it daily onto fresh grass, which has cheered my four hens up immensely. They are all called Audrey - it’s a long story – but only two are currently laying. I have yet to find out which two, and when I do the others will probably be heading for the pot!

The chicken industry has a had a difficult year. Avian flu lock down, the increase in the cost of feed, fuel, and labour if they can get it, has made things difficult.

The price of our Sunday roast can apparently range from £3.50 to £52 a bird! The vast disparity seems absurd. However, farmers selling at the lower price can hardly be making a living, particularly with the soaring cost of production.

It is vital that we buy British and support all farmers across the industry. The cost of food is rising but on reflection perhaps this is not such a bad thing. For decades, the cost of home-grown food has been low as much of it has been subsidised by farmers, government, and supermarkets. Bread, dairy produce, vegetables, and chicken are often loss leaders, whilst tempting shoppers to into the stores.

The public have been lulled into a false sense of security believing we are paying the true cost. Consequently, the amount of food wasted has been phenomenal.

Our mothers and grandmothers would be turning in their graves to see how little we value food. They had to make do with very little during the War and after. They valued food and knew how to do without, something we have been privileged never to have experienced.

It is of course hard for those on low wages and fixed incomes, as every pound is being stretched to its limit. Perhaps this is the wake-up call the country needs to ensure we become more self-sufficient and understand the value of home-grown food.

The price of fertiliser has gone through the roof. Farmers need to think carefully about how much to apply to growing arable crops. Nitrogen increases the yields of grain, and grass to produce hay, silage, and grazing.

Less than a year ago we paid £265 per ton. Today you would be lucky to get it delivered for under £1,000/ton.

Farmers like everyone else are facing spiralling costs for fuel, feed, chemicals, power, and other substantial overheads. If we cut back on fertiliser our yields will reduce, just when we need to produce more.

There are alternative natural products which can be used to encourage healthy growth based on beneficial micro-organisms which feed the soil as well as encouraging the growing plant to access so-called ‘locked-up’ minerals. These include Phosphate, Sulphate and Ammonium Nitrogen, so essential to encourage healthy growth and yield, thus also reducing reliance on fungicides.

We use Soil Fertility Services which have been promoting these concepts for 25 years. In 1996 Robert Plumb was the first person to dig a soil profile pit at the Cereals Event, showing worm counts, root structure and organic matter. He said, “Soil is not dirt, the difference is, there is LIFE in your soil.”

He regularly takes soil and leaf samples for analysis to ensure we work with the soil using his products, not against it.

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