August has come and gone and though there were hopes of an early harvest, the barley was slow to ripen and now that most of it is ready, the weather has been unsettled – typical.

By August 31, we had cut just over 160 acres of spring barley. We have been cutting seed barley as this has to go in the drier anyway and has to be dried down to 14% for overwinter storage. Hopefully, the weather improves so that we don’t have to dry all the malting barley as well.

The first field of Sassy malting barley we cut was rejected by the maltsters due to having 12% skinnings, however, the next field – which was just half a mile away from the first and the same variety – had only 4% skinnings. Skinned barley seems like it is going to be this harvest’s challenge, with most growers on the Black Isle reporting issues with it.

On a positive note, specific weights in barley seems better than last year, with the fields that we have cut and dried so far averaging around 70kg/hl at 14% moisture, compared with last year when they averaged around 63 kg/hl. Though there are obviously many other factors which affect crop yield, this is definitely a good sign.

We received a letter from Scotgrain, which we sell the majority of our grain to, at the end of July stating that the impact of Covid-19 has had on malting and distilling, and therefore they may not be able to move all our grain off the farm this autumn.

Slow, or worse no movement of grain, may turn things into a bit of a logistical nightmare considering we have three varieties of malting barley, three varieties of wheat and oats, but I’m sure we will manage to problem solve our way through it as we always do.

The balers have been chipping away as weather has allowed at both our own and bought barley straw and with contract baling over the past fortnight. We are keen to get the straw baled and moved off one of our fields as we hope to plough and establish it with a grass and clover mix.

Our plan is to strip graze the field for two years with our sheep and some cattle then crop it again with the hope of improving soil condition and yields.

Last winter was our first year of not having either our own cattle, or wintering cattle on the farm and we are wanting to see if introducing rotational grass to our arable system is an alternative to maintain fertility.

We have picked the field closest to the steading, so it should be handy having the ewes nearby for lambing time as well.

We decided to sell the lambs’ store this year as we needed the grass for the ewes, added to the fact lamb price seemed good at weaning time. So far, we have put away 165 store lambs and they have averaged £74 per head with the top pen achieving £87 per head.

We’ve kept back the smallest 60 lambs, which we will keep for a few more weeks and we have also picked out the ewe lambs that we want to keep as replacements.

Oilseed rape was drilled and rolled by August 8, and was through the ground in just four days due to hot humid weather. On walking it, there is some evident flea beetle damage, but it looks like the plants are hopefully advanced enough now to grow past this – here’s hoping!