August and September have been extremely busy for us at Ballicherry with harvesting cereals and drilling winter crops.

We’ve had a tremendous spell of weather with 80% of crops cut in a two-week dry window. We have been steadily cutting everyday but not pushing on late into the night as crops have barely been ripe enough, but not wanting to wait and miss the good weather.

Read more: Ballicherry Farm Contracting Ltd overlooking the Cromarty Firth

We usually swath our oilseed rape but this year decided to spray it off and get one of our neighbours to direct cut it, as our own combine header does not have the additional attachments required to allow us to direct cut with it. We can’t say we noticed much of a difference to the yield by direct cutting with crops yielding around 4.25t/ha, but due to the weather we were able to cut sooner by spraying off than if we had swathed.

Seed wheat crops were all cut before the end of August, and have started leaving farm. The crop was disappointing in that the potential for a high yield was there with a lot of grains, but most of the grains were shrivelled up due to lack of moisture in June and July, having received less than half of the average rainfall between the two months. Most of our ground is of sandy loams which really suffer in dry conditions.

Hopefully by the end of this week, all going to plan, we will have finished cutting spring barley crops and will just have 10ha of spring oats to cut which are still maybe a week away from being ripe.

Spring barley quality has so far been good with low nitrogens and low skinnings. Yields are back on last year though due to the cold, wet spring, followed by dry, hot summer.

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Only one load of our own spring barley has left farm so far, so we will have a more accurate idea of both wheat and spring barley yields once its dried and away.

Alongside harvesting cereals, both balers have been busy baling both our own and bought straw, and contract baling. Out and about straw yields have been very variable in both wheat and spring barley crops, though the trend is definitely for much smaller yields of spring barley straw compared to last year. Oilseed rape crops were drilled into fields after green manure cover crops and carrots on August 14, are looking really good.

On the sheep front, prime lambs leaving the farm have averaged £98/head, to date. We weaned earlier this year which was definitely the right decision as the lambs came on leaps and bounds immediately after. Due to this earlier weaning we weren’t expecting as many of them to be ready as early as they were and had unfortunately put Clik on both the ewes and lambs at clipping time, meaning they had to wait until after the withdrawal period before they could be sold into the food chain.

Lesson learnt for next year, every day is a school day, though on the plus side the Clik worked well as the only sign of maggots has been in one ewe’s foot. We are increasing the number of females going to the tup this year from 140 up to hopefully 195-200, depending on how dear gimmers are to buy.

We had been breeding our own replacements, but this year will be buying some to increase numbers. We are also going to trial tupping 10 of the biggest ewe lambs, something we have never done before, intentionally anyway…