Harvest 2015 at Black Isle Monitor Farm

13 November 2015

Here we are, already in the middle of November experiencing our first winter storm. The weather up to now this autumn has been wonderful although harvest was one of the latest I can ever remember.

Despite the dull, wet summer the harvest showed better yields and was easier than we could ever have hoped for. We started combining in mid-August, two weeks later than normal with oilseed rape which had been swathed at the beginning of the month. Yields and prices were disappointing and furthermore drilling of next year’s crop was going to be delayed, as we had to wait until 3 September to start combining the spring barley. Therefore based on these concerns I decided to drop rape from this year’s winter cropping plan.

Spring barley yields were more pleasing with an average of 6.1 t/ha for our malting crop with very little skinning issues which has been a major issue for other famers in this region. All our malting barley was accepted and left the farm with no drying requirement.

Wheats were a mixed bag with yields varying from 6.2t/ha to 9.6t/ha. Prices too have shown a huge variation from contracts made last autumn on a mixture of wheat futures and fixed price deals at £160/t to harvest price deals at £100/t.

The new drier has been a big success with a huge saving in labour, a reduction in fuel consumption and an improved quality of sample. The down side is that the old tray drier involved hours of shovelling and brushing so I am going into this winter carrying more weight that normal!

Winter wheat is through the ground with excellent establishment. Varieties grown this year include Zulu and Horatio, mainly for seed. I’ve sold my first 100t for next year at £132, which is £19 less than this time last year.

Wintering cows are housed and we are slipping into winter mode of feeding cattle, maintenance jobs and hopefully some winter ploughing.

I’ve bought a year old Fastrac to replace one of our ageing tractors, and in an attempt to make the long days of grain dressing more comfortable and shorter. Another of our tractors with 8.5 thousand pounds on the clock has had a bearing collapse in the gearbox which has led to a catastrophic amount of damage and expense. There’s no cheap way to run machinery!

As a true optimist, I’m planning next year’s crops and looking forward to better prices.



Black Isle growers Brian and Caroline Matheson from Ballicherry Farm in Balblair run a mixed enterprise of 332 hectares, consisting of 190 hectares of spring barley grown for certified seed and malting, 42 hectares of winter wheat grown for certified seed, 25 hectares of oilseed rape and 35 hectares of potato and carrot lets, together with 40 hectares of permanent grassland carrying 100 ewes, 100 over-wintered cattle and 25 suckler cows. The farm also carries out carrot growing and mobile grain dressing contracting operations. Caroline operates a Care Farming enterprise which runs alongside the commercial farming operation.