Farmer Focus: Milling wheat gets gold medal in harvest Olympics

Harvest 2016 has been full of surprises and I’m pleased to say they were mostly good ones.

A dull and dreary June has been followed by the best harvesting weather for many years in both July and August which has kept costs down, stress to a minimum and combines performing admirably.

Both winter barley and oilseed rape yields were slightly disappointing, but wheat crops exceeded expectations with both good yield and quality.

Crusoe milling wheat appears to be our harvest gold-medal winners, with proteins in the high 13s and yields of about 10.5t/ha.

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I can only assume late grain fill in early July is responsible for this. With reports of France’s disastrous harvest, there is also hope prices will continue to increase.

We have stored away the best-quality straw for many years and managed to keep soil disturbance from harvesting operations to a minimum.

In most years, our grain drier would have developed a serious drinking problem by now, but this year little or no drying has been required.

Attention will soon turn to autumn drilling, starting with oilseed rape. False seed-beds are prepared and pre-rolled to retain as much moisture as possible.

Hopefully slug populations will have taken a dive with the recent dry weather, but we will monitor them carefully at emergence.

The only low point in the past few weeks has been on the livestock side of the business, where an outbreak of coccidiosis in a bunch of young calves put to grass has been quite upsetting and led to some losses.

Calves deteriorated rapidly, showing mild scours to more serious symptoms. We are now in discussion with our vet to extend the use of deccox-treated concentrate to prevent this happening in the future.

Local mobile network signal strength also continues to be frustrating. This was considerably better a few years ago and I can only assume network operators in some way benefit financially by prioritising data allowance at the expense of weaker rural coverage.

Mobile operators need to realise there are real safety issues in farm team members working  in “not spots”. Being able to download pictures of Kim Kardashian’s bum to our mobiles is not a priority.


David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.

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