22 November 1996

Acreage expands to fill slimmer beef operation

BSE-driven changes dominate cropping on our Scottish barometer farm this autumn. Andrew Blake reports from Tayside

WITH less set-aside and fewer forage crops, the arable area at Lour Farms near Forfar has risen considerably. "In 1992 when we took back in hand a 300-acre rented farm we increased to 800 arable acres, but with high set-aside we didnt really notice the extra," says manager Mike Cumming. "This year we shall have 1250 acres of combinable crops."

Mr Cumming remains heavily committed to beef through his self-contained BSE-free suckler herd, partly for the fertility it brings to the land. "But we have drastically reduced our store cattle enterprise. In the spring of 1992 we bought in 350 to sell off grass in the autumn. This year I had intended to have 150, but bought only 60."

One immediate reaction, to deal with the expanded 1997 harvest, has been to boost combine capacity by replacing a 16-year-old 4m (13ft) cut machine with a 1992 5.2m (17ft) TX34. "If anything had happened to our 20ft TX36 this year we would have been exposed. We have still got a lot of small fields which slow things down."

Mike Cumming hopes frost will kill the unwanted floral extras in his crop of Synergy winter rape. Spring rape has quickly become a weed on the farm.