By David Caldwell

An early snowfall has stopped the harvest giving me time to jot down some harvest notes for The Scottish Farmer.

We were a wee bit behind with harvest at that time as our crops have been slower to ripen – we usually spray most of the wheat with glyphosate to help it ripen evenly, but the hot dry weather we had been having seemed to hamper the kill off.

We tried different fields, but nothing was dry enough at harvest, so we have been using the grain drier more than normal. By the end of August we had only 350 acres of our 1200 acres of wheat done.

Our wheat premiums are paid on protein over 13%-plus grade and are partly based on colour, with the lovely red colour fading a bit with every shower of rain. This causes downgrading and is the main reason for trying to get the wheat harvested first.

So, we decided to leave the wheat for a couple of days and switched to canola. After we had combined 400 acres, which Douglas had already swathed, we went back to wheat but started getting some silly rains which held us up.

Our local New Holland dealership had been pestering Donald to try out their big new combine so between it and our own one we managed to clear 450 acres in a short time and so we had only 20 acres of wheat left when the first snow came, though we still had 900 acres of standing crop to do.

We waited a week and, knowing there was more snow on the way, we finished the wheat at 22% moisture on September 29. Then we started the last 170 acres of canola at 9% moisture on September 30 and ran all night but had to shut down the combine at 8 am the next day due to more snow.

That meant we still had 30 acres of canola, 600 of soyabeans and 150 of flax to do. The beans and canola will stand it, but the flax will be flattened.

It is quite daunting looking out the window and realising that we have more than $300,000 of crop under all that white stuff on October 3, with another three or four inches arriving the next day or two. Calgary, in Alberta, had up to 16-inches of snow and here in Manitoba we had 4-5 inches.

After saying all that, we have had a lovely summer and although some of us were concerned that the ground always seemed too dry, the rainfall we did get during the growing season must have been sufficient, never any deluges (which aren’t much use anyway as the most of it runs off) the most rain over a 24 hours period was 1.9-inches on June 2 and 1.55-inches on the July 4.

The rest fell in small quantities every seven or eight days and the pattern of 11-inches of rainfall over the growing season was May 2.5-inches, June 4.3-inches, July 3.1-inches and August 1.2-inches. In September, during harvest, we got 2-inches of moisture, so we are now at 13-inches – not including the snow.

Until now we’ve had a bumper harvest, or as they say here in Manitoba ‘a bin buster’. This was our 22nd harvest since emigrating and having been used to British yields, we were a bit disappointed in our first harvest but soon found out that the norm here was anything over one tonne of red spring wheat and over 12 cwt of canola per acre was considered a reasonable crop. Yields have been improving gradually over the last 20 years, between variety improvements including, of course, genetic modification, and better land management.

The result is now that we are seeing wheat yields approaching two tonnes and canola hitting more than one tonne. But when old Mother nature gets her act together she can outdo man’s efforts – red spring wheat this year has been running over 42 cwt and canola 28 cwt per acre.

Prices are holding on not too bad, but it was still a good year to have contracts in place early. Now that the North America free trade issues have been settled, we hope for a more reliable market place.

As we have been in the habit of forward purchasing our fertiliser every year about this time, I have been looking at prices – surprise, surprise they are up about 30% on last year. If they keep moving the goal posts, they’ll run out of field.

But, as my old neighbour, TB Barr, of Knocktim, would have said ‘nihil ilegitimi carborundum’ or ‘don’t let the b…..ds grind you down’!