Farmer Focus: Beware extra N from sheep grazing cover crops

Yes, we are still combining. Just two days (hopefully) on winter beans left to go. Yields overall, have been pleasing for all crops.

Harvest this year seems to have been a long drawn out affair much like everyone else’s. The weather has definitely played its part, but on reflection, logistics, grain drying, grain storage, field size and lots of moving haven’t helped us reach our daily output targets.

Our spring oats went flat after the period of strong winds and heavy rain during the first half of August and this really slowed down harvest progress. However, it revealed the need to take into account nitrogen that is recycled by grazing cover crops.

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A line in a field was defined by flat and standing oats.

All we can put it down to was where the cover crop was grazed hard, (therefore recycling nitrogen to an available form), compared to where it was left ungrazed and the rye got to stem extension (therefore using the nitrogen itself and not making it available for the following crop).

It’s something to take into account for next year.

We have chopped more straw this year, which aided harvest and drilling, but has increased slug pressure, and cover crop establishment has not been as good as last year.

Beetle battle

We are battling cabbage stem flea beetle and this year is the worst we have had. This year the emergence of our OSR crop coincided with a spike in flea beetle activity over a warm few days. It has so far been spayed once.

We have also identified that we need more consolidation in the strip-tilled seed rows after drilling OSR to help reduce the slug pressure.

Elsewhere the tups are back in with the ewes, all be it a bit uncertain at present. Ewe trade seems quite high at present with the current situation. However, if that is off the back of rumors of potential headage payments, I think it’s madness.

Fingers crossed for a good autumn, as this really does set our farm up for the following harvest.

Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in North Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland which supports a flock of 1,100 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.

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