Spring barley harvest started here at Corskie on the August 8 – one of the earliest starts in my memory – with the spring barley coming off the combine at 14.8% moisture, and yielding 6.9 tonnes per hectare. At this point I was optimistic harvest would be a dry, straightforward affair. How wrong could I be?
At 8pm on August 10 the tail end of hurricane Bertha hit Moray with 104mm of rain falling by 10am the next morning, accompanied by extremely strong winds. Over the following 14 days the already soaked ground was waterlogged further by another 107mm. The situation became even worse, with no harvesting being carried out during this time, and then within one seven day period we were only able to cut 2.5ha. This was frustrating in the extreme. By this time, not only was all the remaining spring barley acreage now very ripe, but also both the wheat and oats were in urgent need of combining. In all, 510ha remained uncut.
After several phone calls to machinery dealers south of the border, it was evident that despite not having our extremes of weather, England was still struggling to complete harvest due to unsettled weather. As a result spare combines nationwide were a rarity, and a machine with the four-wheel drive and GPS requirements of our farm was impossible to find. After walking the un-harvested fields it was decided to fit dual wheels to our combine, in order to keep it going. Then, with a weather window of four days’ sun on the horizon a major decision was taken: to purchase a second combine. We were fortunate to be able to buy our local New Holland dealer’s demonstrator model, which not only had four wheel drive and our GPS compatibility but also had the correct wheel size to allow us to fit existing tractor dual wheels to this machine.
At the end of the weather window we were just left with 58ha of winter wheat and 12ha of spring oats to harvest. With all other cereals secured in the store I felt a great relief, and an appreciation of how lucky we were that both machines had dual wheels and four-wheel drive, as several of our neighbours have been unable to travel on their fields even with tracked machines. Despite having dual wheels fitted, the combines have left deep tracks in some areas, which will need to be levelled and tidied once the ground dries up, in order to aid ploughing.
I was very honoured when asked to be involved in the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ World Congress 2014, which was hosted in the North East of Scotland. Over two days 100 delegates visited our farming enterprise. The attendees had a presentation from the British Simmental Cattle Society secretary on estimated breeding values, an update from Agrovista’s technical manager on precision farming, as well as a guided tour of our continuous cereal land, machinery and our pedigree Simmental herd. It was very interesting to hear from the delegates the challenges faced by the farming industry of Scotland are very similar to those faced by farmers worldwide. Saturday culminated in a fantastic dinner and ceilidh at the Thainstone Exchange in Inverurie. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and even tried the ceilidh dances as part of their cultural education – with varying success.
Once again the weather let us down during these visits; it was cold and wet, but it was a good excuse to allow the delegates to sample some of our locally-produced whisky.
As I write this article on September 8, we still have 58ha of winter wheat and 12ha of spring oats to harvest. Hopefully the weather will allow us to bring harvest to a conclusion soon. To date, no winter cereals have been sown, and unless we have a dramatic turn around in the ground and the weather conditions I would question how many acres will be in a condition fit for drilling this autumn.