Farmer Focus: April snow and a hefty machine repair bill

Looking out the window I could be forgiven for thinking it is January rather than late April, as snow falls and a bitter north wind strikes. 

Dry weather last week allowed a good start to drilling, but this has once again come to a halt.

It looks like drilling will carry on into the second week of May, but experience over the past few years is that varieties such as Laureate and Diablo can still perform well from late establishment.

See also: Variety choice and targeted N are vital for Scottish grower’s potato profit

About the author

Robert Drysdale
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on 4 contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.
Read more articles by Robert Drysdale

This is unlike older varieties such as Optic, which are not worth drilling beyond the end of April.

The unusually wet spell since last September was re-inforced yesterday as we set off to lift stones from the rapidly growing winter barley.

It is very unusual for us not to have an opportunity to roll all of the winter cereals at some point between drilling and the crop becoming too advanced. 

As a result, we had 60ha of barley to do by hand. At first, with the sun shining, this was quite a pleasant walk over crops, but as hail showers set in and the light started to fade it did feel like a punishment from the weather gods for having had an easy season last year.

I think we all agree that having engines with low emissions is a good thing. However, the reliability of the technology leaves a lot to be desired.

Machines of all colours seem to be equally affected by issues and over the past year we have spent more than £5,000 on repairs to engine emissions systems and a similar amount on AdBlue. 

This is just an extra cost that we get nothing more than frustration for in return. I hope that someone is working on a more reliable, or at least cheaper-to-maintain, system. 

After years of improving reliability, it is frustrating, not to mention bad for our carbon efficiency, to have more breakdowns, mechanic call-outs and expensive parts to replace.

At least while the machine is sitting running in the shed awaiting diagnosis, the air is still healthy to breathe…

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