Robert Neill struggles with harvest

Harvest is not going as smoothly as hoped for. During the first half of August, it was hampered by 125mm of rainfall in just two weeks.

Trying to bale straw has been even slower, especially in one field of winter barley that was grown for seed and therefore couldn’t be sprayed with Roundup. We couldn’t bale the straw behind the combine and it has had to wait for a break in the wet weather before we could even get near it. The winter barley yielded better than expected, with the field on a seed contract running at 3.1t an acre.

Fat cattle prices continue to rise, which is just as well with our running costs continuing to increase. Cows and calves are looking well at grass. We have probably had the best grass season since we came to Upper Nisbet 11 years ago. We still have second-cut silage to do, but that will probably have to wait until the grain has been combined.

We have just welcomed 120 Greyface ewe lambs onto the farm, which my brother David has just paid a small fortune for. These are his breeding replacements which will run on through the winter at Upper Nisbet on cow grass. They are also great at keeping the ragwort growth under control.

Borders livestock farmers have been dealt another blow recently with the announcement that the local abattoir has stopped killing cattle and sheep. Animals now have to be transported at least 70 miles to be slaughtered. We just hope the local butchers get a good service elsewhere and still buy local produce.

Robert and Jac Neill run 300 Limousin cross cows on 1,082 acres at Upper Nisbet in the Scottish Borders. They farm 600 acres of cereals and all progeny from the suckler herd are finished on home-grown fodder and sold live throughout the year to local butchers. Robert was Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year 2006.

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