Field Margins – Rachel Young

The summer drought is definitely over and we have moved swiftly into very autumnal weather. The past month has been busy with the final post-harvest tidy up moving bales, getting the last of the barley and wheat off, moving all the seed barley into winter storage, clearing out sheds and cleaning equipment.

We’ve also been drilling cover crops which have established really well, and topping AECS field margins. Between the showers over the past few weeks we managed to get the bulk of the wheat drilled by September 25, and are awaiting potatoes being lifted so we can get on and finish drilling the last 16ha.

As all our wheat is grown on contract for seed we are usually given a limited choice of two or three varieties to pick from. This year we are growing Zulu and Motown, both varieties which we have had before and have done very well for us.

We have managed to get onto the wheat with pre-emergence herbicides this year which is great, as last year we couldn’t travel on any of the fields from sowing in October until March, and this should reduce the need to use as many expensive spring herbicides.

I sent off our annual YEN entry pack a few weeks ago, which was decisively disappointing for our crop of Jackal wheat yielding 9.8t/ha. Hopefully we will still get useful information from the report we get back having sent of standing crop and grain samples to be analysed, which will help us change things for the better in future.

Our OSR crop got off to a good start, however, it fell victim to a flea beetle attack around mid-September. Thankfully the crop was far enough on before the flea beetle got into it, so we are confident it will recover and that the damage is cosmetic. There’s nothing we could really have done to prevent this attack due to the ban on neonicotinoid seed dressings, we are just thankful we pushed on and got our rape drilled early, by August 18, so that it was robust enough to not need any further sprays.

Our thoughts are now turning to tupping, with the tups going out on November 5. The ewes are in good condition considering we didn’t have much grass this summer. We shifted our ewes between fields roughly every four days pretty much all through the summer, and this definitely helped us to make the most of the grazing we had.

We are lucky we live in a very rural area where it isn’t an issue to shift sheep on the main road, making this frequent moving a very straightforward walk. We put dung samples to the vet last week which show we don’t have any worm burden at the moment, so we’ll dose the ewes for fluke only before they go with the tup.

As the ewes are in such good condition we aren’t going to flush them this year, and will see if this makes any difference to the high number of triplets we get, as last year over 20% of our ewes had triplets, a real lambing time headache!


Rachel farms at her family’s 350-hectare Ballicherry Farm, in the Black Isle, with her parents, Brian and Caroline Matheson. It is mainly arable, growing spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape, though they also have 150 Texel cross ewes, and overwinter 100 head of cattle.