26 October 2001

Expensive harvest hassle ends with loss of loader

NOT the latest and not salvage, but the most difficult and costly harvest in 14 years.

That is how farmers weeklys Scottish barometer farmer sums up harvest at Kildary, Ross-shire, which finally ended on Oct 5.

"We never had a spell of good weather when we could really get on," says Tom Robb, who finishes as manager at Pitmaduthy and Newmore Farms on Nov 28.

Eventually neighbour Alan Camerons combine was brought in. "With three machines we had a 47ft cut in the final fields. We cleared our 90 acres of spring rape in a day-and-a-half and finished off with 13 acres of very flat wheat.

"The way the wind and weather was going I am sure what we saved has more than covered the extra cost."

Drying rape down from 19-22% moisture to 7% has been costly. "It has meant a hefty bill, but yields were OK. The industrial Sheila got a bit wind-blown and did 0.9t/acre dried, but Concept averaged 1.1 and I am happy with that."

The late harvest took its toll on wheat – all Riband. Some early cut fields gave 11.1t/ha (4.5t/acre). "The last one, where we had to lift out over the green flat bits, did only 2.97. I reckon we would have had 3.5 if we could have got it all."

Latest problem arose when a MF50HX industrial loader, bought second-hand two years ago and essential for loading the drier and lorries at Pitmaduthy, was reported in flames at 3.30am on Tuesday last week. Unused for four days it had been parked close to the main road and arson is not ruled out.

All grain has to be cleared before the farm transfer can take place, notes Mr Robb. "So it is giving us quite a headache. The weather has already made things hard enough. Our other loader at Newmore is not road-legal and there are not many spare machines up here. I am trying to hire something, but the usual four-in-one buckets are not suitable for grain."

Last week he still had 100t of wheat to dry and up to 300t to load out. "Most of what is undried we cut over a month ago and it is only 18-19% moisture. So it is not steaming yet, but we need to dry it soon."

He has also been keen to start sowing wheat after rape, now the Oct 10 cut-off date to avoid yield loss has passed. But with sale details still not finalised, land remained unploughed last week. "The straws all chopped. I am just waiting for the go-ahead." &#42

Scots struggle on

Unrelenting dull weather meant about 2% of the cereals in the Inverness area were still unharvested by mid-Oct, estimates Tom Pendreigh, manager of Black Isle-based Highland Business Services co-operative which has about 300 members. Much of what remains is flat.

"Growers in Morayshire have had a torrid time, and it has been particularly bad in the Nairn and Elgin area. Yields, especially in wheat, have held up surprisingly well. But quality in malting barley is non-existent."

FARMS AT KILDARY

&#8226 Expensive late harvest.

&#8226 Extra combine needed.

&#8226 Wheat yield loss; OSR OK.

&#8226 Loader fire logistic problem.

&#8226 Wheat drilling on hold.