Farmer Focus: Worried about poor cereal drilling conditions

Harvest finally finished on 6 October, when the last of our 1,266ha went through the combine. And in a fitting end to the season, a sunny day turned to drizzle as the last couple of hectares were cut. 

In a harvest that lasted 72 days from start to finish, only 29 had no rainfall. However, we did cut on 40 days during that time.

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On reflection, the catchy weather in August turned out to be a dream compared with September – a miserable month with constant rain, lack of sun and low temperatures. Fortunately October brought the best week of harvest, allowing us to cut wheat below 20% moisture, when a week earlier we had been cutting at 30%.

The weather certainly controls our lives and my daughter knows well that the answer to any question during harvest is: “It depends on the weather”. This will be the same for farming families throughout the country. 

It is testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff that we have the crops harvested and next year’s crops established in such trying conditions. 

It is amazing how modern equipment has helped, with developments such as combines with tracks and rotary separation and better trailer tyres all meaning that when the weather allows, huge progress can be made.

With the crop now safely in store, the poor weather will not have had too major an effect on the 2017 result. 

The bigger effect will be felt in the coming year, with crops established later than we would have liked and into conditions where in a normal year we might have waited a day or two longer.

I had to draw a line for barley drilling as we got into October, which resulted in one block being drilled as wheat following spring barley.

I will also have to revisit cropping plans for the ecological focus area fallow and early spring barley varieties to ensure we have an entry for oilseed rape next year.

We have now started to wean and house our calves, which have grown well over the summer on the back of good grass growth. With cattle sheds filling up and shorter days, it is certainly starting to feel like winter is around the corner.


Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Farmcare’s 1,610ha business in Aberdeenshire, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across four contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie. The farm has 130 beef cows on land less suitable for crop production.