Keeping busy while we’re waiting for our new tractor

I’m up to my eyes in dressing seed barley at the moment, and just taking a quick break to update you on the latest goings-on here at Ballicherry…

It was wet, again, for our AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Monitor Farm meeting on 13 February. But again, like last time, we were delighted with the number of people who were able to join us. Everyone wanted to know more about what was happening, and the community group already feel comfortable challenging and learning from each other and the specialists.  Of course the Monitor Farm meeting was a valuable opportunity to socialise and network, despite the miserable weather.

In the morning we had presentations and productive discussions around precision farming and other topics, with farmers questioning the speakers from AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds and other organisations in relation to growing cereals in northern Scotland. Our location brings challenges in terms of demand, markets and of course geography, so it was good to see these issues being addressed.

At the meeting, local agronomist Alistair Gordon gave a talk on sowing spring barley. Thousand grain weights of this year’s seed were highlighted and I know that some farmers in the audience have adjusted their seed requirements since hearing Alistair’s advice.

The rain was still going strong after we’d had our excellent lunch, provided by local farmer’s wife Kirsty, but despite that there was a large turnout for the crop walks. Iain our agronomist was subjected to more questioning around the agronomy.

Highland -20140213-MF4 Meeting

Sadly it was too wet for the management team to demonstrate the four different seed drills, as planned, although we did still manage to see the implements and hear from four different farmers on why they had chosen particular equipment. Again, we had good discussions on the decisions made, and the running costs involved.

Farm update

On farm, our crops and livestock are looking well. The new tractor was due to arrive last week but it’s still in France! We’re hoping to get ploughing again as soon as it dries up – like nearly everyone else we’ve had a very wet February. While we’re waiting, though, there’s plenty to be doing.

Ballicherry farm sign

The overwintered cattle will leave here in the middle of March to go back to the hills for calving. Our store cattle are growing well and will be sold at Dingwall Mart in April. Our own suckler herd won’t calve until May and I’m contemplating their future at the moment. The ewes will start lambing in April, and Caroline will have her very own indoor maternity unit put in place soon.

We grow carrots for Huntapac in Preston, and I’m expecting a phone call any day now, telling us that they want to start harvesting.

I have a feeling that spring, with all the chaos and excitement it brings, is just around the corner.



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.