Well 2020 – what a year you have been!

The start of it was extremely wet and we struggled to get on with any ploughing in January, making headway eventually at the end of February. The huge ruts I left spreading potash on the wheat in early March were being cursed by the combine driver come harvest, but they reflected just how wet the autumn and winter had been.

As we moved into March, the weather dried up but alas, the coronavirus pandemic also arrived and caused a variety of on farm inconveniences, such as not being able to get lime and seed being delayed arriving on farm.

At 28 weeks pregnant on the day lockdown was announced in mid-March, I, like many others, was pretty much stuck at home for 12 weeks until giving birth on June 15.

The Irish lambing student who was meant to come help mam with lambing in my absence couldn’t come due to Covid-19, so instead we got additional help from local agricultural student, Jessie, and a local dog groomer, Ashley, who had found herself out of work.

Both were a huge help, regardless of Ashley’s animal experience being canine as opposed to ovine.

Spring was quite kind to us weather-wise, with reasonably good conditions for drilling and spraying and just a few very wet days at the carrot harvest. As we moved into summer, it was great to finally get to see extended family again for the first time in six months.

We would usually go on a family holiday in July but this year we instead took the picnic basket and went on a few local day trips and got farmer turned photographer, Mel Irvine, to come out to take some family photos of us at the farm.

We are delighted with the photos and imagine Mel will be extremely busy in 2021 with her new photography venture!

Moving into autumn, grain harvest was good with excellent yields across crops and reasonable weather compared to harvest 2019. Unfortunately, the weather turned pretty wet in October which made the bale moving job difficult for dad.

Winter crops appear to be variable at the moment due to the wet winter we have had so far. OSR crops are looking really strong, while wheat crops look generally good but have rotted out in some places.

Dad and I spent an afternoon a few weeks ago walking the winter crops and the cover crops we drilled in the spring which are still standing. In one field of wheat, which was after tatties, the soil was like porridge with no structure and was absolutely saturated with water.

We walked 20m from the wheat into an area of the field we had put into oil radish, vetch and clover, instead of tatties, as it tended to flood – and the difference was unbelievable. The cover crop area was bone dry and digging into the soil, it was full of structure and worms.

Looking at future agricultural policy, it won’t be a surprise to see more people deciding to grow more cover crops. We just need to work out how to make the most of them.

We’re finishing up the year with our SQC and QMA inspections which we did over whatsapp call and e-mail, the last of the feed barley leaving farm and doing some drainage. Hopefully, we will start ploughing in the new year if it dries up a bit.

I personally feel so lucky to be able to say that 2020 has been the best year of my life so far with the arrival of Ellie but it has been such a difficult year for so many people physically, emotionally and mentally.

Here’s hoping 2021 is an even better one for us here at Ballicherry, for Scottish farmers and for humanity as a whole!