To say this years harvest has been a trial is somewhat of an understatement – We began cutting in August and finished at the start of October!

This last week has been busy drying and loading the spring barley, but despite the poor weather delays and resulting issues, so far all of our spring barley has passed for malting. We can now see the end is in sight!

Rightly or wrongly we sowed our winter barley for next year’s crop last week. Much later than we would have liked but hopefully a milder back-end will help it to establish quickly. Winter barley has worked well in our system, principally as it secures us feed barley but also allows us time to have the straw baled, wrapped and treated early.

There is then not the same time pressure when the harvest runs later such as this year, plus it ensures we are ready for when the cattle come in for winter housing.

The next week will be spent clearing the fields and wrapping straw before starting to get the sheds prepared for taking the cows and calves in to housing at the start of November. We will also be

scanning our synchro cows in the coming weeks and will be able to give some results on our progress in next months update.

The harvest has put the erection of our new shed on the back burner but we have started to move things on recently. The shed had a previous life on a dairy farm on the English-Welsh border and following a visit to see it last year it was dismantled and transported up to our Aberdeenshire farm.

We have fabricated two extra bays to extend the size and will also add a six-metre wide ventilation ridge sheeted with translucent sheets, creating a well ventilated and light environment for the cows. Most of the welding is now complete along with the foundations and we aim to have the steel blasted and painted over the coming weeks with a view to start erecting in November with aim to be completed by the start of calving in February. All of the steel work has been drawn up and checked over at key stages by a structural engineer in order to certify the building for

insurance purposes and ensure quality standards.

In fabricating much of the shed ourselves we hope to achieve cost savings and estimate the complete build will cost around £90,000 with a saving of approx £70,000. When finished the shed will have a cattle court of 180ft x 100ft housing approx. 200 cows, along with a new feed store at one end of 100ft x 40ft.

It will make huge improvement to our operation as we have lacked in shed space while we have grown our business and the building should now make all the difference.

In years like this, we remind ourselves how fortunate we are with our farms location. Our ground is very free draining so have had very little problems due to the wet conditions this harvest and even the grazing fields are still looking well with poaching only around the feed rings and bunkers. Our cows and calves are maintaining condition and thanks to the drier weather last week the ground has recovered well under-foot.

It is concerning when you drive around the country and see the conditions that other farmers are having to work with.

Hopefully the weather will continue to be settled over the next month to allow the straw across the region to be baled as it’s foreseen to be in short supply and already becoming expensive.

We will try to be frugal with our bedding up until calving starts and continue to use our bedder that was built by ourselves last year which helps us to spread the straw in the court more evenly using fewer bales and retains the structure of the straw maintaining its absorption qualities. This will allow us to conserve straw and save on buying-in later in the season.