Farmer Focus Arable: Bill Davey’s finding contracts hard to come by

The harvest bottleneck I feared for February has arrived. The coldest January on record spilled into February and it appears we’re now looking at a “Batchelor’s Harvest”, a case of getting a bit whenever you can.

We’ve been here before, but difficult weather during harvest is most frustrating. At this stage none of our crops are in danger of sprouting, with wheats having only just reached the point of being sprayed with pre-harvest glyphosate. Windrowed brassicas are still a week away from the combine as are the later flowering perennial ryegrasses so I’m reasonably comfortable at the moment.

Contracts for next season’s crops are hard to come by. It appears the global recession has caught up with us down here in the Antipodes with little demand overseas for our small seeds. Demand for white clover seed and most grasses is lacklustre to say the least and we are having to rethink our strategy.

Spot price for milling wheat today is around £150/t, feed barley £100/t and prime lambs, with 20kg carcass weight about £40. What does surprise me is the same lambs in the UK are worth almost double ours at the moment, so it’s little wonder that Tesco in particular comes to New Zealand to shop for its lambs.

We are currently drilling Italian ryegrass in the main on land cleared of vining peas and winter barley, in readiness for incoming stores.

Finally, my agronomist arrived on Monday morning to inspect crops, as he regularly does. I noticed he was exceptionally well tanned albeit rather unevenly. Curiosity got the better of me so I asked him to explain. Rather embarrassed he told me it had been his stag night on the Saturday and he couldn’t get the fake tan off. Did I laugh.

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