The great spell of weather we had throughout early November has allowed us to have all the heavier land ploughed early this autumn and in ideal conditions.
We have been very fortunate in this area once again, with some parts of Scotland receiving 50mm-125mm of snow, although we did have a couple of nights where the temperature dipped to -2degC.
Up until then young grass direct reseeds sown after early harvested spring barley were growing very well and have kept growing despite being grazed by gimmers.
The last few years we have tupped our gimmers on these reseeds and this is the first year I have had problems with them being so fat they have been sticking on their backs.
Winter cereals have grown well and look good. As well as the winter barley having been sprayed with a tank mix of herbicide and manganese, the winter wheat has also received the same treatment. What a difference compared to last autumn, when we were not able to travel over these fields because the ground was so wet.
Most of next season’s nitrogen has been ordered, with several loads delivered home already. Once again I have stuck with liquid N for all the cereals and only purchased a small amount of solid for the permanent grass areas where it can be difficult to travel with the sprayer.
Competition is always a good thing and now CF Fertilisers has bought over the old GrowHow UK business, it puts competition back in the national fertiliser market.
Cereals prices remain too low for the cost of production and I still haven’t sold any wheat apart from the tonnage committed on a forward January-March pool contract.
Because of the local distillery using imported maize, wheat is no longer gaining a premium in this North East corner. It is now only trading for around £5-£7/tonne over feeding barley. I am currently buying feed barley for the pig unit, but I think it is time to start using wheat in our rations.
The only problem is our mill is automated and draws its own straights from bulk bins and transfers this to the mixer, where it is distributed to the different ration silos.
Incorporating wheat would require either another bulk bin or forming a wheat–barley mix in one of the existing bulk bins.
The most annoying fact about the pig sector is it was far more profitable when feed barley was £140/t and the pigmeat price was 38p more per kilo.
Most agricultural commodities are depressed and with five new anaerobic digestion plants being built locally and several thousand acres being used to feed these plants I wonder if I am wise? I seem to be the only one in the area increasing my acreage of cereals and increasing our beef cow and breeding ewe numbers.
I did try for five years to obtain planning permission for a wind turbine to generate power to supply our pig unit. Despite being near to RAF Lossiemouth, the air base had no problem with our plans, in fact it was very helpful, more than could have been said for our local planning committee.
After finally being declined planning, I opted for a 100kW solar panel system on top of a new grain store next to our pig unit. This has been very successful and has performed better than expected in its first full year.
As I write this in the first week of December, we have still not been told by any local maltster what varieties or quality of spring malting barley they will require for harvest 2016.
Although Concerto will be the main number one variety, it would be good to have at least another one to spread the risk of something going wrong with it during the growing season.