Farmer Focus: Hard to believe recent machinery price rises

May turned out to be very unlike spring, with rain virtually every day, cold winds and a lack of sunshine.

The past few days have been a vast improvement, with lots of sun and temperatures around 20C. As a result, grass and spring barley have grown rapidly and the soil has dried out enough to allow the last of the fertiliser to be applied. 

The sprayer did not get out much during May, but we have now had a week of good spraying conditions and it is amazing how we have caught up. We are now keeping up with the spring barley as it comes ready for its first fungicide, along with a herbicide and wild oat spray where required.

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Having had some machinery quotes recently, I find it difficult to believe the scale of recent price increases, which seem to happen multiple times a year. I feel that some manufacturers are going to price themselves out of the market altogether. 

Unfortunately, it’s not only machinery that is going up in price. New season fertiliser prices announced last week were much higher than expected. Just when it looked like we could produce a budget for next year with a sensible return, those further up the supply chain take most of the margin away again.

I had a couple of days away in Aviemore at the weekend and with the fine weather it was a stunning drive through Speyside and the Highlands. It was noticeable how well cared-for the whisky distilleries, for which we grow quality malting barley, are.  

With beautifully painted buildings and pristine grounds it really showed where in the malting barley chain that the margin is made. We are lucky to have such a well-respected product made in the area, but a more consistent premium for the raw material would give more ability to invest back on farm.

June will again feel strange without the Highland Show as a target date to have silage making completed, but I am hoping to be able to attend a few trials visits before harvest as Covid restrictions continue to ease.