Worrying about oilseed rape

Nearly 1,000t of feed wheat and barley has been loaded out in the last two weeks, with the feed wheat only making about £10t over our basic cost of production and feed barley probably breaking even when the straw is taken into account. Even though we will see the cash flow ease over the next month or so, it is not very inspiring. Did I not learn anything at our storage and marketing meeting?!

Loading _grain _squab _ambulance

Loading feed wheat. The yellow lorry looks great, particularly as the Warwickshire and Northants Air ambulance is our chosen charity this year.

Spring crops are coming through the ground, and winter wheat and barley are looking full of potential. I like growing winter barley. It brings harvest forward a few weeks and looks fantastic as it comes into ear, but these are not sound business reasons for growing it, and with spring malting barley again making a better margin, at the moment I think we will have to drop the winter barley. Hybrid or not!

Spring _beans _emerging _squab

Spring beans just emerging

But it’s the oilseed rape that again has me most worried.

With future prices the way they are at the moment we could be going into another marketing year that will see rape lose money. The crop did not establish well due to a late dry spell after we finished drilling the last two fields, and the usual slug and pigeon battle has also taken its toll. Most was sown off the back of a deep tine combination cultivator and the theory was all there. “Sow in wide rows behind a deep leg and that way the crop will get a good root down to depth, roll soon after.” We have done this for the five years that I have been at Squab Hall, and looking back we have always had problems with establishment on the heavier ground. I decided to use the tine drill to drill a few experimental blocks within the “till seeded” crop. These established quicker and are at present flowering more evenly, although you can see combine wheelings as there has been no soil movement at depth. The final proof will be the combine yield meter, and I may have to rethink my establishment approach this year if they I am to stand any chance of making money on OSR in the future.

Staffing at Squab has changed recently with the departure of my main farm worker. The last two years have seen him work six or eight months through the busier periods and jet off to warmer climes for the winter. With his departure I have decided to employ a full time man now as the arable joint venture is potentially going to increase in acreage. It has got me thinking that I may put a whole Monitor Farm meeting aside to discuss staff. We all tell each other who and how many we employ, but we never really go into the reasons or the actual costs behind those decisions. One person may think that because they only employ only one member of staff or perhaps none at all that they are keeping costs down, but in reality they are paying extra for ditching or hedge cutting for example and these aspects have to be taken into account costs properly allocated. I think that this could provide a very use full discussion.

RobertFox

RobertFox

Robert Fox is a farm manager based just outside Leamington Spa. The business is highly diversified, with a large enterprise around general storage and document storage, as well as machinery and labour sharing with another arable farm. Robert farms 400ha of owned and rented land, with a rotation of winter wheat, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring beans and spring barley. His challenges in the coming years include black-grass control, improving soil quality and introducing controlled traffic farming.

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