The snow is almost all gone here at Ballicherry, following some very cold and snowy weather last week, though nothing compared to what folks in Aberdeen-shire and Moray-shire experienced.

On the Monday of last week the weather with beautiful with blue skies, and we got lime spread on some of the grass fields. By the Tuesday morning we had seven inches of powdery snow that stuck around for days after temperatures dropped to below -12 degrees Celsius for two nights. Anyway, the days are stretching now and things certainly feel more spring like this week.

Hopefully we will get potash and nitrogen spread on the oilseed rape (OSR) and winter wheat (WW) crops within the next week or two, though we are still waiting for it to arrive – it has likely been delayed somewhere by the recent bad weather.

We are using solid nitrogen for the first fertiliser application again this year on both the OSR and WW rather than liquid as it allows us to travel and therefore get nutrition to the crops sooner. We also have 500t of lime sitting in the shed waiting to be GPS spread, so we would like to get that done whenever conditions allow.

Wheat crops continue to be patchy looking. All fields were drilled after potatoes and all have barren areas due to the wet autumn causing seeds to rot out.

Our autumns seem to be getting consistently wetter and it seems to be becoming more and more of a struggle to get good seed beds for wheat after potatoes. In other years we may have just left the fields and put spring barley in, but with depressingly low spring barley prices predicted we think even an average crop of wheat might have a better margin that a good crop of spring barley.

Last year we found one of our wheat crops that looked really poor, again due to wet weather, with large barren areas had an average yield of 11.1t/ha so we were glad we didn’t decide to plough it up in the spring, which we had contemplated.

I’ve been really interested reading articles about farmers south of the Border grazing their sheep on winter wheat crops in the hope that it helps improve soil fertility and gets rid of diseased leaves in the crop, reducing chemical spend and improving yield. Unfortunately, our fields are so wet I think our sheep would pull the plants right out of the ground along with causing serious poaching if they were to be let loose on a crop of Skyscraper.

All seed barley has now been dressed on farm and will hopefully leave within the next couple of weeks. We have a few loads of surplus seed which we have sold for feed and will leave farm soon – it is frustrating that this feed barley was sold for £156/t meaning it is worth more than the malting barley that left farm at harvest, if only we had a crystal ball…!

All lambs have now also left farm and we were really pleased with the prices we got for them with the ones that left prime in January at 44kg averaging £120/head, and the February ones averaging £119/head. We put the last 12 stragglers and runts of store and even they averaged £82 which we were delighted about! ‘Bambi’ the pet lamb, managed to evade the mart and he is now living it up with Ola the 12-year-old Orcadian ewe in the retirement paddock.

We spent a few days earlier in the month treating the ewes with Scabivax Forte. We have been using Scabivax on our ewes seven weeks before lambing, along with doing all the lambs when there are a few days old for a number of years now and it has greatly reduced number of cases and severity of any cases we do get of Orf.

Along with the ewes getting their vaccine, I was delighted to receive my first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine last week with no adverse effects, here’s hoping for a return to some sort of normality in the not too distant future.