We started harvest on 15th July with oil seed rape in very dry conditions and until this weekend it has been more or less non-stop since then. After the first day or two with minor hitches like V belts burning out, after having been stationary for 6 months, machinery and men have run very well. Three works of constantly dry fine weather have been a pleasure to work in and the extra hours daylight in July, compared to August, have given us a wonderful start to the 2014/15 season. We have been in the unusual position of waiting for crops to ripen. Perversely they have often been dry without being ripe, which can lead to quality and moisture issues once the crop has been in store for a few months.
The rape crop was one of the best, if not THE best, we have ever harvested. Some of it was laid which resulted in a bit of loss of potential yield but all in all a good result. The winter barley, contracted to Molson Coors, also did very well and has been delivered ready for brewing into that delicious beverage! The first field of biscuit wheat was then ready to combine and produced the yield just a bit short of 5 tonnes per acre. This is by far the best yield of wheat we have ever achieved and did make us re-test the combine weigher. But yields have continued to please us and, while not being up to these heady levels, are certainly very good. The crops have had plenty of sun and regular showers and the individual grains in the ear are very heavy.
The result is grain stores approaching full with crops still to harvest. We have been fortunate in anticipating the problem and have moved a lot of grain over the last couple of weeks in order to make space for the rest. Much of the northern hemisphere is enjoying good harvests and inevitably the prices have dropped by 40% over the last year. So with the yield lift of 20% and a price drop of 40% we are no better off! But at least consumers and livestock producers should reap the benefit of lower prices and good quality of the crops.
It would appear that beef and lamb producers need our help. Beef production in particular is approaching a bit of a crisis. The scandal of horse meat in burgers has been conveniently forgotten by some of the big retailers who are retracting their promises to shorten the chain between producer and consumer. Some retailers are promoting New Zealand lamb heavily right at the time of year when fresh British lamb is at its most plentiful. Please check the labels when selecting your joints and give the home produced red tractor meat your support.
Field work is progressing nicely with most of the rape land cultivated with our new Top-Down machine. This will begin sowing rape from the middle of this week and with the moisture in the land, thanks to ex hurricane Bertha, it should be up pretty quickly. We will be doing a bit more spraying this year as we are not allowed to use the neonicotinoid seed dressing to prevent flea beetle and aphid damage to the emerging rape. More about this in future notes!