Farmer Focus: Closed roads reveal food industry’s weak spot

Turn up the band, fire in the hole, we’re ready to go. Harvest 2021 is under way, and this is one to get excited about – unlike last year. And it hasn’t disappointed.

Our new recruit had a rude awakening from harvest boot camp, when he was hit with a “bow wave” of barley.

When yields are good and the axial flow is in “full on” shovel mode we can shift some corn – it’s a real job to keep up even on short runs back to the drier.

See also: Harvest 2021: Barley quality and yields good for tough season

About the author

Doug Dear
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Doug Dear farms 566ha (1,400 acres) of arable land growing wheat, spring and winter barley, maize and oilseed rape and runs a custom feedyard, contract-finishing about 2,400 cattle a year near Selby, North Yorkshire. Most cattle are finished over 90-120 days for nine deadweight outlets, as well as Selby and Thirsk markets.
Read more articles by Doug Dear

The barley was phenomenal, yielding over 9.6t/ha (3.9t/acre) across the board, and where there’s corn there’s straw – with a yield of 6.17t/ha (2.5t/acre), this has really replenished the larder, as everything counts in large amounts.

We are now on a bale blitz for a fast turnaround to get stubble turnips drilled for store lambs later in the season.

The beef trade “stood on” for the last three weeks in July for us, at or slightly above £4 for commercial cattle. It’s definitely a seller’s market, with demand still ahead of supply.

Heat stress has affected intakes, with cattle gorging themselves as the lower night-time temperatures kick in, meaning we are always on a constant lookout for bloat. As yet, we have only had to” burp” one bull.

The plan this year was to have a spare tractor at harvest, and we purchased a second-hand tractor to go on the Keenan. That idea lasted exactly four days, when the spare NH 7840 decided to develop an alarming knock. I can’t really complain as that old lass had done 13,000 trouble-free hours.

When some unexploded 500lb Second World War bombs were discovered near Goole the other day, all the M62 traffic had to come past us. With no exaggeration, every third vehicle was supermarket distribution.

It won’t be climate change that causes food shortages, it will be the fact that we are running out of wagon drivers.

We’ve joined the Twittersphere (@cattlefinishers) and everybody is getting annoyed with me as I’m struggling to work out how to use it. Anyway, I’ve done a few “chirps” and we seem to be getting a bit of interest.