Farmer Focus: This year I want to minimise risk

As we start this new year it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what has been a very eventful 12 months.

The weather played a part in this, with a late wet spring and then extreme drought, but 2018 has also seen our business transfer from being part of Farmcare to become an independent business; additional land come in hand on the home estate; a change in ownership of one of the larger farms that we contract farm; and significant changes in our staffing. All that before even getting on to Brexit!

In the coming year I look forward to a period of less change and getting the new business established with the expanded area and new clients.

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An important aspect of this will be to review the equipment required for the expanded area to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible, but also that we have plans in place to ensure that all work is done in a timely manner.

More than ever in the next 12 months, I think that it will also be important to minimise risk through the decisions made in both purchasing and sales.

I currently have around 35% of winter crop sold and have recently agreed contracts for our spring malting barley crop, which takes up nearly half of the crop area.

Ideal climate

My hopes for 2019 would firstly be for more normal spring weather and an inch or so more rain in May.

Ideally a warm, dry summer and harvest like last year would be great, as it makes harvest and autumn drilling so much easier, cheaper and more enjoyable. I suspect that we won’t be lucky enough to have this perfect climate!

Is it any more realistic to expect the political climate to be more settled? Brexit needs to be sorted one way or another and having written last January that we needed clarity from the Scottish government on their vision for the future of Scottish agriculture and how it will be supported, I am still waiting for that.

One thing is for sure, there will be continued volatility, which will create opportunities and keep the job interesting.

Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on four 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.