Reflections on harvest

Harvest now seems a distant memory! After bemoaning the broken weather of August, we were blessed by a glorious September which allowed both combining and baling to progress without interruptions. Much of our grain was cut at 15-17% which was really pleasing. The baling was a marathon with big crops of straw everywhere, giving us a final bale count of 14,000 Hestons.

Wheat yields were average for us; oilseed rape turned out a little below our average but in keeping with most growers in this area. On the other hand, spring barley yields were outstanding, emphasising that we as farmers can influence yields but the biggest factor is undoubtedly our climate and weather.

Our wheat area this season is around 50ha but with our local distillery in Invergordon now using imported maize instead of wheat, we are likely to see a shrinking in the area devoted to that crop. Varieties grown this year are Horatio and Myriad. I took advantage of a rally in the market last week and sold our last two loads of wheat for January uplift. I also sold 200t of seed wheat for next harvest – half at a fixed price and half at market plus a premium.

Brian 's Tractor

Staw spreader on carrots

Straw bales have all finally been moved to carrot fields but it’s been really frustrating to wait for lorries, especially as September’s weather was good and the ground was dry. I am looking at a solution for next year and may take on straw transport ourselves ­– watch this space!

October was really wet and this made straw spreading on carrots a drawn out affair, Billy, our tractor man is still working away on hire with our tractor, towing a straw spreader. The job should be done this week.

Our calves have been weaned and a further 32 Charolais crosses of a similar age and size to our own has been added to the herd. We scanned our suckler cows and heifers and I was delighted that we have a 100% conception rate. However my elation was short lived, two days later one of the most expensive heifers broke its leg. The vet is hopeful that she may recover with rest and pain relief – we’re keeping our fingers crossed!


Brian 's Cows

Weaned calves

We’ve just started selling prime lambs off grass, now that the price has started to rise we’re hopeful that we will get the rest off by the end of the year. Tups have been out since 30 October and the ewes are looking very fit.

We had an excellent turnout for our last Monitor Farm meeting despite the subjects appearing dry: taxation, CAP reform and trace element on crops. A local accountancy firm gave an excellent presentation on various business structures and a concise update on the constantly changing, capital allowances. Then we moved on to CAP  reform presented by Derek and Jenny ,our facilitators, who made us all take note and be aware of the most up to date information from The Scottish Government. Special thanks to Ian Wilson, our NFUS regional manager for sharing his in depth knowledge of CAP. After lunch we had a very interesting and thought-provoking presentation from a man who manufactures fertiliser, on the merits of micro nutrients in crops. This was followed by a thoroughly entertaining question and answer session!

Last night, I attended an NFU meeting where Jonathan Hall, Policy Manager gave a detailed presentation on CAP reform. After 2hours and a further hour of questions I lost the will to live!

I am however sitting in the office today, checking my land classifications on the letter we received from The Scottish Government last month. I have contacted landlords who we rent parcels of land from and claim subsidy on… Jonathan’s talk last night has sunk in!

Next meeting at Ballicherry is on 11 December. We’ll be looking at the oil seed rape and trying to look at a ways to improve our fairly dismal track record as rape growers. We’ll also explore soil compaction and its effect on yields. The new grain drier will also be on the agenda –again!  I can’t promise that this meeting will be as entertaining as the last one but once Gavin Dick starts asking questions who knows what will happen!



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.