Barometer spotlight: Wettest ever harvest for Ian Bird

After a reasonable start to combining towards the end of July at Catchgate Farm, rain nearly every day since has left Ian Bird a worried man.

“It’s as bad a harvest as I’ve ever known,” he said earlier this week as more wet weather was forecast for the Castle Eden, Hartlepool area.

“We’ve done no land work at all – it’s all so terribly wet. Our rain gauge holds 2in, and I seem to have been tipping it out every two or three days.”

Just when a relatively dry spell occurred last week, a hard-to-diagnose injector fault on Mr Bird’s four-year old New Holland CX880 combine saw it out of action for four days.

Winter barley was completed only last week, thanks to neighbour David Todd’s NH CR9060 clearing the final 40ha (100 acres).

“Our first field of Saffron, cut at 17% moisture on 31 July, gave us a reasonable 3t/acre with a decent sample,” said Mr Bird.

But it was all downhill after that, Retriever brackling badly and Bronx’s specific weight dropping to just 58kg/hl. “We’re loading out now because we need the room, but the quality is knackered, which will obviously be reflected in the price,” he added.

Ian Bird

A frustrating breakdown saw Ian Bird’s combine halted – just when a break in the seemingly endless wet spell occurred last week

Oilseed rape yields were respectable given the protracted harvest, but Mr Bird suspected they could have been much higher.

“We normally expect 30cwt/acre, and Excalibur’s done that, and Ovation did 25-26cwt. But we lost a fair bit, especially from 60 acres we swathed – and a lot has sprouted.”

None was cut at less than 16% moisture, which meant a double pass through the farm’s Allmet 10t/hr drier. “We’ve used 500gal of diesel to dry 300t,” he said. The sole positive point was that half the crop was sold forward at £300/t.

Ideally, next season’s rape should have been sown by mid-August. “I have 200 acres of seed waiting, so I’m contemplating what to do – we may need to have more spring crops,” said Mr Bird.

Thanks to Russell’s of Kirkbymoorside staff and the visit of an Iveco engine specialist, the combine was working again last weekend, gathering 60ha (150 acres) of second-crop Gladiator and Cordiale wheat before rain again stopped work on Monday.

Both varieties averaged about 8t/ha (3.25t/acre) with a surprisingly clean sample, said Mr Bird.

“But we’ve still got 600 acres of our own to cut – and some is starting to sprout, which is a concern. The only bright spot is that it’s all still standing.”

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