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Talking Arable with Iain Green: What a difference a month of good weather can make!

What a difference a month of good weather can make. As I write this article it’s not even the middle of March and the ground has dried immensely. We have more than 100 hectares drilled with spring barley and spring oats. The out-wintered spring calving suckler cows have been moved off the stubble fields onto grass leys and those near calving taken inside. With the fields empty this will allow us to keep the ploughs going.

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We are just about to start to rip up and level in front of the ploughs the tracks left after last year’s wet harvest on the heavier land. I am fortunate the manufacturer who makes both our drill machine and ploughs has kindly offered an extended demo of their latest deep cultivator complete with discs and a heavy duty press roller; hopefully this will do all the ripping and levelling required in one pass.


I am also going to drill the last light ground field having only had a run with this machine instead of the plough just as an experiment. The only drawback I can see this field will miss out on this year’s annual application of muck. We still have 55ha to finish applying muck to and about 240ha of the heavier land to plough. We have had gale-force cold winds again, exceeding 70mph. These have helped dry the ground well but I was glad we hadn’t drilled too much before they came or the light land would have been blown.


Grass and winter crops are very slow to show any signs of growth due to the frosty cold winds we have been getting. We had more grass in December than we have now, with fields which have been grazed by sheep looking grey instead of green. We should have been started applying liquid N35s to these crops, but a breakdown on our self-propelled sprayer has prevented this, I have been assured it will be fixed in the next few days. Once the fertiliser is on hopefully this combined with some warmer weather will kick start their spring growth.


It is most frustrating after planting several thousand metres of hedging during the last 10 years the EU is implementing new rules. We are now being penalised for this in we must not cultivate or drill within 2m from the centre line of the hedge. We already sacrificed ground for the hedge, now we will have to leave the land next to it unfarmed too. This will only be an area for brome, wild oats and couch grass to multiply. This coupled with the new Ecological Focus Areas will only lead to less production. Seems really strange when as a world we should be trying to produce more food.


The Simmental breed enjoyed a good steady trade and a tremendous clearance rate of 80% sold at the recent Stirling Bull sales. We received several prize tickets including senior champion, reserve overall champion and went on to sell one of our bulls for the joint top price of the day of £12,600. We also recently received a first, second and reserve champion at the Royal Northern Agricultural Spring Show, with both bulls going on to sell for £5,775 each.


It is good to see the commercial suckler calf producers realising the benefits of the Simmental breed both as terminal and suckler cow replacement sires. Store cattle prices are holding up well and I have decided to hold off selling any until our Aberdeenshire buyers have grass, hoping this might encourage them to give us the little extra return required to keep suckler cows.


The next few weeks will see us lambing, calving, grass and cereal rolling, spraying, fertilising and drilling spring cereals. Hopefully the weather will be on our side and give us an early spring.


Iain Green farms in partnership with his parents Jimmy and Nan Green at Garmouth, Morayshire. He is currently president of the council of the British Simmental Cattle Society and is a past president of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society.

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