By Rachel Young

Harvest kicked off at Ballicherry on July 26, with our oilseed rape (OSR) which had been swathed the week before. The first day we started cutting, temperatures were up at 28 degrees, with the moisture metre giving a starting grain moisture of 8.1%.

By that evening the moisture was down at an unheard of 6.1%, though thankfully never dropped lower. We won’t know the exact yield until the crop leaves farm, but we think it did around 3.8t/ha average, which is by all accounts, decisively average.

The crop was drilled in perfect dry conditions in mid-August, before things got too wet and established really well. It looked good throughout the growing season with little disease pressure, so we think this summer's drought must have had an impact on yield.

We are so glad we decided to plough in a severely Clubroot infected field in the spring instead of throwing money at it with calci-fert as with the drought it would have been a complete disaster.

We plan to start harvesting spring barley this week, and will potentially get into the wheat the following week, which is a fortnight to three weeks earlier than usual. We expect both spring barley and wheat yields to be back on last year’s excellent crops, with wheat hand samples showing small grains, but obviously, we won’t know for sure until we get into it.

We started contract baling winter barley straw about a fortnight ago and moved onto OSR last week. All of our straw is sold within a 100 mile radius, with the wheat and rape being used to cover carrots between the Black Isle and Morayshire, and the barley all going to livestock farmers.

The price of straw, as well documented in the media, has gone crazy. Though we are used to the different challenges due to the huge variability in straw yields, caused by weather during the growing season or weather at harvest and the impact this has on the price we buy and sell at, this year is something well out of the ordinary.

We like to keep continuity with the people we buy straw from to ensure they continue to sell to us, so last year, for example, we bought rape straw in the bout from other farmers, as usual, but actually chopped our own. We did this to avoid having a surplus like we had in 2015, when we got landed with several hundred bales of barley straw after higher straw yields caused people to cancel orders last minute, but only after we had already bought and baled the straw.

It is easy for us all to forget the years of plenty in the years of strife, and vice versa… We won’t be chopping anything this year as every day we are getting multiple phone calls from people looking for straw.

In our areas there has only been a very small area of spring barley cut so far and we are yet to see any wheat cut, therefore, it is very difficult for us to know how much straw we are going to have. We’d rather undersell than oversell and not be able to supply what we have committed to, so we will wait until we get into the middle of harvest before we sell anymore.