1 September 2000

Late winter wheat cut…

OUR winter wheat was combined on Aug 14 exactly two weeks later than last year, writes Tim Green.

All available combines seem to converge on our area, which is always among the last in the region to be completed. Yields are very variable and ours followed the trend with Isengrain achieving 7.1t/ha (3t/acre) on our stony, free-draining land.

On our undrained clay soils, the yields of Sideral were down to 4.2t/ha (1.7t/acre). At Vimer we consider any crop that yields more than 6.5t/ha (2.6t/acre) to have done well. So we have been pleased with Isengrain particularly as the specific weight (averaging 74) is very good for our usual standard.

Despite the varietys reputation for lodging we have suffered virtually none in a year when, in this part of France, there have been more laid crops than ever before. Sadly, the yields of Sideral wheat were not so clever. In fact, they were even worse than our estimate but part of the crop was left behind because of very severe lodging.

The crop sat with its feet in water for a good part of the winter and so was starved of oxygen. Not surprisingly, the crop never looked as if it was likely to challenge its naturally free draining neighbour. Specific weights were also lower at an average of 71.3 which will probably mean a deduction unless it can be mixed with better quality wheat to achieve the required 76.

The price for wheat at our co-operative is £64/t for harvest delivery. But our private buyer has still not confirmed his price, which is not an unusual state of affairs.

With all hired help either on holiday or in hospital it came as no surprise that our carefully maintained and tested auger should disintegrate at the first sign of real grain.

Taking the breakdown as an omen, we decided to sell all the grain at once. That is now looking like a pity because this years forage looks as if it would be being perfectly suited for supplementation with cereals.

Some cheaper feed would be welcome. Soya prices remain firm with quotes of £160/t. The dollar exchange rate and high petrol prices are put forward as excuses. But, I believe, a record harvest will eventually bring prices back although low oilseed rape yields of 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) are unlikely to help matters.

Our base milk price for July was the equivalent of 18.84p. That meant a net result, after hygiene bonuses and a small reduction for protein content, of nearly 22.4p. The dairy also deducted our fine of £1114 for being 4628 litres over quota. Despite our penalty, overall the dairy is slightly under quota.

Twice a year, before grass and maize silage, we have a special offer for silage sheeting offered through our dairy.

Currently, the offer is 12m sheets of 250 microns for £50, which is after a contribution of £4 from the dairy. The dairy gains through better preservation of silage and subsequent reduced contamination by butyric fermentation. And the producer benefits from high quality sheets at similar money to average quality sheeting elsewhere.

Our first calf sold this season was a cross Normande heifer, courtesy of a neighbour, which at three weeks old sold for £130. As more calves come on stream, we expect prices to fall back rapidly.

Unusually for Vimer we are having problems with flystrike in the sheep. Although never short of flies, we seldom have significant damage from maggots on the stock.

The problem will be eased by dipping with organophosphate. Cows are routinely treated at least twice in the season using the pour-on Versatrine costing 70p/cow. We help the smaller youngstock using pour on wormers which also act as a fly repellent.

All our youngstock is treated with Eprinex pour on at a cost of £92.50/litre. They also receive a repeat clostridial vaccination plus the addition of antisucking rings. Cross suckling is always a bit of a problem despite all bucket rearing our calves. Then again, it has to be admitted that our cross Normande calvers are far worse than pure Holstein.

Right: Tim Green gives Isengrain winter wheat the teeth test at Vimer before harvest which was completed on Aug 14. The harvest price of £64/t paid by the farms co-operative helps to offset the impact of yields which varied from 4.2t/ha (1.7t/acre) to 7.1t/ha (3t/acre). Below: Youngstock at Vimer receive a repeat clostridial vaccination plus anti-sucking rings.