August has been an extremely warm, dry and busy month for us so far at Ballicherry, along with most other farmers across Scotland I’d imagine.

The first job of the month was to get fields sub-soiled, cultivated and ploughed after carrots, then get the oilseed rape crop drilled and rolled, followed by applying pre-emergence herbicide and liquid nitrogen fertiliser.

Rather than drill our OSR with an expensive nitrogen and phosphate-based fertiliser as we usually do, this year we combi-drilled it with calcifert and will apply a product which allows phosphate release from the soil. It will be interesting to see if this is successful as it is considerably cheaper, and we are contemplating establishing our winter wheat the same way. The OSR crop has emerged well and hopefully will soon be past being at risk from flea beetle, though unfortunately a gate was left open and 20 cull ewes got into one of the fields and decided to graze about an acre of the newly emerged crop off – the joys of mixed farming!

After drilling the OSR, we moved into harvest mode, and combining the crop. Our ‘new’ side knife, bought second hand from a neighbour, let us direct cut the rape with our own combine for the first time which seemed to work well, probably helped by dry conditions and a short crop. Our DK Exsteel yielded well at 1.95t/acre which we were pleased with, and our Chrome, around 1.5t/acre, which was slightly disappointing but the fields it was in got hammered by pigeons in the winter and never fully recovered.

The weather was so hot and dry during combining that we actually had to stop one evening as the oilseed had dropped to 5.5% moisture. We were unsure how much the moisture level would change overnight so Dad got up early and started cutting at 5.45am, by which point it was back up at 11%!

We then waited until around lunchtime and finished cutting the crop at 7.5% and ran it all briefly through the drier to mix it up, even out the moisture and cool it down, as some of it was over 28 degrees Celsius when it came off the combine.

We started cutting the sassy spring barley on August 21, and having had 10 days steady cutting, well over half the spring barley has been completed and we've finished the wheat. Wheat yields look good with grain coming off the combine between 14.5 and 16.5% moisture, and a bushel weight of 75-82 kg/hectalitre.

As with the OSR, we will run all the wheat through the drier but just taking a percent or two of moisture out, which will be a huge saving on kerosene opposed to trying to dry up to 7% moisture out as we have had to do many years in the past.

Spring barley yields look mixed, due to wet weather at drilling time followed by a dry summer but as we have only had one load of malting barley off so far, we won't really know how crops have yielded for a couple of weeks yet.

Contract baling and baling of bought wheat and barley straw will be almost complete by the weekend if the weather holds, though there will likely still be bits and pieces to get in the coming weeks. The good weather has helped us get excellent quality straw, with some spring barley straw off to Ayrshire and more going to regular customers in the Highlands in the coming weeks.

We are so lucky to have a great team willing to put in the hours at harvest time, including my Uncle Billy who takes holidays from his job as a chief engineer in the merchant navy to drive our combine. We are also so fortunate that we have two grannies providing childcare and catering for us, which is not an easy job, especially when you have a semi-feral child like ours!