We have been very lucky in this area to have a dry spell of weather which has allowed harvesting to progress well. Although we started later than last year, it has been much easier because of the dry ground conditions.
The weather has been very kind to us in this corner of the country and thankfully allowed the upland and later areas to finally complete their harvest. The fine weather has also allowed us to finish drilling all our winter cereals and to fill the dutch barns and sheds with dry straw.
Once again, all winter cereals were established by ploughing and pressing on the light land and just ploughing on the heavy land, followed in both cases with the one-pass power harrow drill combination. Both winter barley and wheat look excellent and have emerged very well.
Most of the winter barley has been drilled on the lighter land and was all rolled after drilling. The wheat on the heavier land, which is stone-free, has been left unrolled behind the drill to prevent capping. The barley has received its first spray consisting of a tank mix of herbicide and manganese.
Autumn ploughing for spring cereals on the heavy land is continuing well. What a difference compared to last year, when at this time we struggled to travel on the land to take the straw bales off.
I was surprised at harvest how even the crops were. I was expecting to see signs or marks of the deep tracks left from last year’s wet harvest. But with no such evidence, it was the correct decision to wait until the land had dried out in the springtime before we ripped it open and levelled the deep tracks.
We have started taking our young heifers inside for winter, but spring-calving cows are still enjoying the grass which has continued well this autumn. Once it turns wet and they start making a mess of these fields they will be moved to dry stubble fields or grass leys which are due to be ploughed in spring.
We had a very successful Stirling bull sale. Our entry of eight bulls picked up several prize tickets including two firsts, two seconds and senior champion. They all sold well and averaged £7,376 and to a top of £12,600. I would like to thank all purchasers and wish them good luck with their new bulls.
This harvest was the last year we had rolling contracts for our malting barley to be supplied to our local three maltsters. These contracts had allowed us to lock in forward at any time once the wheat futures had opened. The wheat future part of the contract was only a percentage of the total and never the full tonnage, but it did allow us to help increase the average price.
The balance tonnage was always paid as the average spot price which this year the maltsters have confirmed to be £105-£110 per tonne, which is very disappointing considering we are now paying £100/t for feed barley. It may be time to re-look at the viability of growing spring barley for malting and go for new high yielding feed varieties and feed all our cereals through our own livestock.
We have reduced our normal acreage of winter wheat by 24 hectares because our nearest grain distillery, which took most of the wheat from our area, has changed over to maize and decided to use nothing but imported maize in the future. Therefore, the local premium we used to get has gone, leaving most of the north wheat having to travel 160 miles south to another distillery.
This reduction in wheat will be replaced by mainly grass and spring barley to be used in our livestock enterprises.
It looks like a period where growing cereals will not be profitable without a reduction in input costs and where it may be difficult to justify new expensive machinery.