©Steffan Hill

I am writing this as I eat, as time is at a premium right now. 

As mentioned previously, our harvest has been late this year, with spring crops in particular being very slow to ripen.

The dull summer in this north-west corner has meant that we have not been able to achieve the yield levels that some of our colleagues have managed further East and South.

Grain fill has definitely been adversely affected by lack of sunshine. We finally finished harvest on 5 October and even then the straw was still quite green.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

Despite the weather being settled recently, we have had a number of heavy dews and thick fog in the mornings, which has made it very difficult to get the last of the straw sufficiently dry to bale.

We are now frantically trying to clear fields, spread manure and drill next year’s crops. However, oilseed rape has established well and the first of my wheat and barley is just appearing.

We still have a lot to do though and I am praying the weather stays settled to allow potatoes to be lifted so that we can follow on with establishing wheat in reasonable time.

Not being able to get straw dried out and baled has presented another problem though. The deadline for spreading poultry litter here was 15 October and fields I had planned to put it on are still covered in straw.

How or why this deadline has been put in place absolutely defeats me. It will be ploughed down immediately, a winter crop will be drilled and take up the nutrients. Where is the problem?

If I don’t get the fields cleared in time, what do I do with the manure? There are restrictions on how long I can keep it in the field and it has to be spread on the field it is stored in.

Does that mean I have to plant a lower-value spring crop just so that I can stay legal? It is these silly rules that make so many EU directives farcical, as they clearly are not based on sound scientific evidence.


Robert Moore farms on the Molenan Estate in Northern Ireland, where his family have farmed for more than 200 years. He switched to arable production in the late 1990s, away from beef and sheep. He still has a small suckler herd on non-suitable arable land