By Rachel Young

The last month has been slightly quieter on the farm and seasonal staff have now all finished for the year. We take on self-employed workers between April and October to help with spring work, carrot harvest and cereal harvest.

Though we are in ‘Tier One’ up here in the Highlands, we can still only meet one other household in a hospitality setting, so we won’t be holding our annual staff Christmas party this year which is a shame – we’ll just have to make up for it next year if we’re spared!

Dad has spent much of November moving straw into the last three carrot fields, and so far the conditions for strawing down have been considerably better than last year, which should make things easier at harvest time.

We have sold all surplus straw with around 20 loads going to the south of Scotland and a few loads going to the north of England. All remaining straw is now indoors.

Oilseed rape crops received their autumn spray earlier this month for light leaf spot prevention and trace elements.

During the next few weeks we hope to get some drainage and tree cutting done then make a start with ploughing at some point in December.

Our store lambs were dozed for worms and trace elements last week and have been moved onto fodder rape. We'll start them on creep feed later this week.

I completed our benchmarking submission for 2019/2020 earlier in the month on the AHDB farmbench system. Last year this took me about two days, but this year it has taken me about two weeks between feeding and looking after baby Ellie who is now nearly six months old – where has the year gone?

We have the meeting to discuss the results this week with the rest of our arable business group. The meeting is to be held on zoom which is obviously not as good as a face to face meeting (and no free lunch) but we are looking forward to learning something and using what we learn to improve efficiency and productivity of our business going forward.

Doing our benchmarking this year really highlighted to us the huge cost of machinery with our spares, repairs, servicing and tyres totalling more than £40,000! Our depreciation this year is also high as we bought a new sprayer and a new 190 HP tractor.

It also showed how disappointing our average malting barley price was this year, with an average value of £136/t on 815 tonnes, compared with an average price of £160/t last year. Dad tells me this is the same price my grandfathers were getting for malting barley in 1983 – it’s clear to see this price is not sustainable to growers long term.

Due to the issues we had with skinnings, we stopped drying malting barley as we thought it was exacerbating this and we were fearful of rejections at the maltings. This led to many loads having drying charges as well as skinning deductions and this was then on top of a poor harvest price.

So far for next year we have sold 100t of malting barley at £160/t + £20/t malting premium, which looks pretty good in comparison to £136/t. We haven’t set in stone what malting barley varieties we will go with this year, but we will definitely be growing Sassy and more than likely will be growing Tungsten, which we grew for both seed and malting this year and were very impressed with.