After discussing my cropping plans with our local maltings and being given the opportunity to try the new variety Laureate, I have changed my mind on spring barley varieties for this spring.
I have confirmed with our local grain merchants I will only be growing Fairing and Olympus for the high nitrogen market and Concerto and Laureate for pot distilling.
This grain will all be priced on wheat future-based contracts, with a premium for malting barley. The biggest decision will be when the wheat futures will hit the top price.
Short-term wheat prices have continued to fall and with local wheat now trading at about £100 and feed barley at about £95, I have for the first time ever started to use wheat in our own home-produced pig rations, reducing the tonnes of barley required.
I was concerned about how the wheat would process through the hammer mill but the finished meal looks perfect. We will have to wait to see how the pigs perform on their different rations.
I have recently negotiated a deal with our local agronomist to grid sample all our arable land. It is five years since we first started applying variable rate potash and lime.
Yield maps from the combines show the yields to be more even over whole fields, but I am keen to see if the pH and potash have evened out.
As well as discussing the soil sampling I also brought up the price of agrochemicals, which will have to come down in price along with all our other inputs, I don’t think this went down very well but it is a fact.
It is most frustrating the Scottish Government has failed to deliver on time the payments from the new Common Agricultural Policy reform scheme. It has said it has been working extremely hard since 2014 on its IT systems but has only managed to pay just fewer than 30% of all applicants so far.
The cost of the IT system and the work involved has been immense – more than £170 million so far and rising on a daily basis.
Winter barley is still looking very good but my local friendly agronomist took great delight in appearing at the office with a pail filled with green leave tissue which he had taken from one of the most forward crops I have.
The green leaves were covered in mildew but it didn’t look very active – I would suspect it got a knock with the frosts we had in mid-January.
Hopefully the colder weather will keep disease at bay until the ground dries out and allows us to travel with the sprayer to apply a fungicide and manganese mixture. This will be followed with the first application of liquid nitrogen as soon as the nitrate vulnerable zone restrictions allow.
Calving and lambing are due to get underway soon. Out-wintered spring-calving cows look in perfect condition for calving. All the ewes have been getting liquid feed with acetona, which, over the last few years has been a great help in preventing twin lamb disease.
The ewes having singles are only receiving this liquid feed and hay while the ones having twins and triplets are also being fed 18% protein rolls.
As well as calving and lambing we have more than 517 hectares of spring cereals to drill, grass to fertilise and roll, winter cereals to spray and top dress; I don’t think any of us will be idle for the next few weeks. I only hope the weather is on our side.