Farmer Focus: Third wet harvest takes its toll

I like to think I am normally reasonably positive and optimistic, but this harvest and the past couple of weeks, in particular, have really tested me and, I’m sure, many fellow farmers. The weather has simply been atrocious.

I finally finished harvest on 19 September, but now have 32ha of soaking straw to dry out and bale. I started my last 20ha of wheat on 4 September and then didn’t turn a wheel for a full two weeks due to thunderous showers every day.

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Damaged crop

Diego was coming off at 10.2t/ha at 19% moisture, but when I eventually got back to it, that had dropped to 8.6t at 25% moisture. The crop was overripe, heads were knocked off and there was a significant amount of sprouting.

It is hard to be positive after growing and nurturing a potentially good crop all year and then seeing it seriously damaged over a few days during what was supposed to be “summer”.

As a farmer, I can accept a bad year occasionally, and we have certainly experienced our share and maybe more over the past 35 years, but three in a row is really too much.

Changing weather patterns

I am questioning how much longer I am prepared to continue the battle with a climate that I am convinced is changing significantly.

Add to that all the increasing pressures and demands on our industry, prices that seldom take account of extreme weather or cost of production and policymakers who all too often do not understand the challenges and risks we take while producing food, and I wonder how much longer I want to do it.

When I am not spending long hours out on the farm, I am spending long hours trying to keep up with the increasing burden of office work, and my quality of life is suffering.

However, whatever the future holds, plans have to be made, so I will continue to try to plant winter crops as usual this year, but the ground is very wet now and the forecast unsettled, so I don’t know how far I will get.

Am I just getting old and cynical?