Horrendous weather over the past month is proving a nightmare in many parts of the country as farmers struggle to get machinery onto fields to combine over-ripe crops, while others have seas of wet straw waiting to be baled.
Add to that the real possibility that some farmers will fail to meet cereal contracts and the continuous unsettled spell of weather is affecting livestock and more importantly, livestock sales, with the first of the suckled calves to come to the market, failing to hit the high spots expected.
With prime cattle values well up on the year for most of 2017 and still some 15-20p per kg deadweight ahead of last year, there had been high expectations for the suckled calf trade. However, the first few have seen only slight improvements.
“The past three or four weeks, have been the worst I have seen up here for at least 20 years,” said Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ cattle auctioneer, John Angus.
“There are still large areas of cereals to be harvested in the Huntly/Turriff area and straw lying about everywhere waiting to be baled. 
“The weather is really starting to affect morale now as people don’t know when they’ll be able to get their harvest and whether or not they’ll have enough straw for cattle bedding,” he said pointing out that straw supplies were already going to be limited due to the increasing acreages put down to growing rye for digesters.”
As a result, Mr Angus said the first of the weaned calf sales at Thainstone, last week, saw bullock and heifer averages rise just 5p per kg on the year to 232.5p and 224.7p, respectively, which compared to the store sales throughout August at the same centre that were up 10-12p on the same sales in 2016.
Similarly, he said breeding cattle with spring calves at foot needing housed, were also back on the year, with the firm’s big sale earlier in the week, averaging £2060 – down £120-£130 on the year. In contrast, spring calvers were unchanged on the year as they don’t require housing just yet.
Many cattle are not looking as well as they have done in previous years either, due to the weather.
“Depending on the ground where the cattle have come from, a lot of cattle are looking weathered and that costs more money to put right,” added Mr Angus.
The poor wet weather is also affecting the first of the weaned calf sales at Borderway Mart, Carlisle, too, according to sales director, Scott Donaldson.
“There is no doubt the wet weather and harvest is affecting trade as people don’t have the time or the money to buy cattle as they’ve still to sell their barley. 
“There are still a lot of crops to harvest  and straw lying right down into Yorkshire,” said Mr Donaldson, who pointed out the first weaned calf sale at Carlisle, saw more weathered calves forward and fewer buyers as a consequence.
Despite these factors, trade held up well with the bullock trade rising £25 per head on the year to level at £1072.50, with heifers slipping £5 to £1002.95.
“We have seen a strong cattle trade all summer but farmers have been severely constrained by the poor weather, but once they get the harvest completed trade should improve.”
On a slightly more positive note, prime cattle values in Scotland have improved on the week, despite an increase in supplies, while all sectors south of the Border slipped.
Latest figures for the week ending September 23, show the overall Scottish steer average levelling at 392.3p per deadweight kg, which is on a par with the previous week, for 0.6% more, while heifers cashed in at 395.3p, up 2.2p for 6.4% more. Young bulls increased by 0.4p to 369.1p for an 8.4% rise in numbers.
In contrast, steer and heifer prices in England and Wales averaged 367.3p and 368.0p, down 1.0p and 2.6p, respectively, for a 0.9% increase and a 2.1% slip in numbers. 
Young bulls fell 0.5p to 348.3p for 4.4% fewer.