Farmer Focus: Wet weather exacerbates lambing struggles

I am sure we are not alone in having endured a challenging spring, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; the fields are all drilled, everything has received fly control and lambing is over. 

When our shepherd departed at the end of February, we thought: “It will be rough, but we can do this.”

The main flock and ewe lamb lambing is staggered and we have lambed 880 on our own before, so we thought: “We will dig deep and get it done.”

However, we didn’t anticipate the wet weather (leaving us to complete lambing beats on quad bikes and occasionally just on foot) and the repercussions it would have for us trying to get our new heavy land farm drilled.

See also: 7-step guide to planting brassica crops

Lighter gear gets job done

Rob wrote last month about the Massey riding to the rescue and also that we still had empty fields. Well, some of those were set to enter mid-tier grassland options this year, so we drilled them with grass early and abandoned the last crop.

The others we battled in between us and our contractor. In total our 3.3m drill (£3,300), Massey (£24,000), Cultivator (£800) and rolls (£600) covered about 141ha in the autumn (establishing forage and greening crops) and have done 80ha this spring.

This has been drilling a mix of combining peas, spring barley and grass. For us to cultivate, drill and roll costs us £33.77/ha and we could travel over all of our acres.

We know this kit couldn’t do the whole 607ha and we know it’s been an exceptionally wet year, but it does make you think.

The results from the combine will be fascinating, with “cheap” drilling right next door to “proper” drilling – or “light kit” next to “heavy kit”.

Our combined tractor/drill weight was about 7t – the Fendt 939 alone is 11t without an implement. Should these big, heavy tools be left purely for primary cultivations in the autumn?

The cost implications are massive, but as we are all trying to do more spring work, are these larger machines really the future? Yield and price of wheat are certainly not growing in line with machinery increases.