Farmer Focus: Autocasting oilseed rape helps slash costs

The new year is certainly starting with a bang. From 1 January we rebranded our farming enterprise to the “Belvoir Farming Company” to help give some clarity between our farming operations and our drinks business.

Both businesses are growing and branding is an important part of future growth. Hopefully this won’t cause too much hassle for our suppliers and customers in the coming months, it’s all very exciting.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

After much overindulgence over the festive period I felt a full farm walk was the only option to try to clear my head and lose some pounds.

Positive outlook

On the whole crops look good, late drilled wheat has emerged well and to my absolute delight so far there seems to be the lowest levels of blackgrass I’ve seen for years.

However, I am holding my breath a little to see if we get some spring germinations. Even our subsoiled oilseed rape is clean, which historically is where deep-rooted blackgrass has proved to be a problem.

Autocast rapeseed currently looks equally as good as the subsoiler established crop, which is encouraging as growing costs are considerably lower.

By using controlled traffic and matching row widths we could autocast in rows over the previous year’s subsoiler giving excellent rooting and good drainage.

Land destined for spring barley was worked last August and has greened up well with both wheat volunteers and blackgrass.

Hare coursing concerns

However, these fields have been targeted by hare coursing gangs all winter and efforts to lock or block gateways have resulted in either locks being cut or them just driving through holes in the hedge.

So far this winter we’ve been unable to catch them, but it’s only a matter of time.

Often, like many others, my highlights from shooting come equally from my dog Millie’s performance as they do from shooting well.

I have to say she has performed brilliantly over the past four seasons and she even remains enthusiastic when I miss, which is good considering it’s a common occurrence.

I just hope she retains her enthusiasm when her new trainee puppy arrives next month – fun times ahead.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.

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