Farmer Focus: Theft adds to harvest hassle for David Shepherdson

I’ve long given up waiting for a break in the weather, with rain almost every day throughout August.

Getting wheat harvested has been more of a salvage operation, made all the more difficult one day by returning with the combine to the field to find that some low-life had stolen the pto shaft of the header.

Our sincere thanks go to Hardwick’s engineers for their speedy rescue in locating a replacement and getting us going again.

Our combine has thrown every possible little niggle at them, yet they’ve risen to the challenge each time and kept us mobile. The machine is now away for its winter rest, while the grain drier rumbles on.

We still have about 50% of the rape left to drill, seed-beds also proving a challenge. The land is sodden and costing us a lot in power and time to knock it into shape. Most of what is left to drill is hybrid varieties, so hopefully their promised vigour will get the crop up and away fast, before the slugs move inand the pigeonsand the pheasants.

The contentious issue of moisture content has reared its head again, and I can see no reason why properly monitored grain cannot be stored at 16%.

Our malting barley went out at 15.3% and incurred some unwelcome moisture deductions.

For a decade maltsters have ground malting barley growers down almost to extinction. Realising they had too few farmers left prepared to grow for them, they eventually offered sensible money for the crop last year.

Predictably, as soon as the combines started to roll this year and it became apparent that there was an over-abundance of quality malting barley, they withdrew contracts on offer for the 2009 crop and offered a replacement at £35/t less. Clearly no lessons in loyalty have been learnt.

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