Storms, CAP and other challenges

18 March 2015, Brian Matheson

It seems to have been a very long, wet and stormy winter. Now in Mid- March we have just started ploughing again, although ground conditions are very poor. If the weather holds, I hope to spread nitrogen on the wheat and oil seed rape to give it a kick start.


Spreading fertiliser on the wheat

Wheats are looking well and our oilseed rape established by Simba Express has started to grow and looks reasonable; fortunately this year, it has not attracted the attention of our local pigeon community!

Some cavity spot has caused trouble in the overwintered carrots which has led to harvesting starting in March. At two truckloads per day, it’s worse case scenario for us, as men and machines are tied up every morning .Hopefully we will soon have cleared the affected area of carrots and lifting can stop for a  few weeks or, even better, we lift the whole field at the rate of six loads per day which would be much handier. Unfortunately such decisions are not in my control.

Grain dressing is continuing and should be completed in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately Davie our tractor-man who started with us last May has decided to emigrate to Canada .His vacancy will force a review of our labour needs –something for discussion at the next Monitor Farm meeting.

I have attended several meetings on CAP reform, SRDP Schemes and greening and I have changed my interpretation of the schemes as many times as SERAD have changed the rules. At the last Monitor Farm meeting, I had decided to adopt a mix of field margins and old fashioned set aside to obtain 5% greening but now that we are lifting 12ha carrots earlier than anticipated; I have decided to sow peas which can be cut for silage after 1 August. With a gearing  of  x0 .7/ha, all my greening will be taken care of, the Nitrogen fixing will help break down the straw and the cattle will be fed on high protein silage. Of course this plan is dependent on SERAD  not moving the goal posts again!

I haven’t done any grain marketing since the end of last year – the forecasts are not too cheery. Thankfully I made deals in the autumn and wish I have made a few more!

Calving has started and lambing is due to start on 26 March. We sold our 2014 crop of lambs throughout the autumn and winter and they left a decent margin. Calves will be sold in Dingwall as yearlings in April.

The LAMMA Show seems like a long time ago, but it was a really good event. The craic was good as 14 of us from the Monitor Farm crowd travelled together and had both a useful business and social trip (hangover remedies were required!) .I bought a new 24 tonne batch drier complete with 29 tonne feed hopper which is already home. If the device is a labour saving as its salesman promised, I might get a chance to drive the combine at harvest this year.

Finally, we had a visit last week from a group of 20 second year agricultural students  from SRUC, Aberdeen. Over a third of the group were women – a big change from my student days when 100% of the class were male. It‘s refreshing and encouraging  for our industry to see so many youngsters pledging their future to agriculture, although they did make me feel rather old!




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.