Jim MacFarlane

19 December 1997

Jim MacFarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

WITH field work now completed I have had more time to reflect on this years problems.

Wheat yields were down 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) on the previous year, with bushel weight at about 70kg/hl. That was despite an expensive fungicide programme including the new strobilurin Ensign, which meant we needed a good price to maintain gross margin.

Some hope! So far we have sold 200t. That was a couple of months ago, at a price which I then thought was terrible. I would jump at it now, but with over 400t unsold I think I will wait until the New Year and hope something happens to lift the market.

To make matters worse we have about 150t of low bushel weight Manitou in store, which would be really hard to market just now.

At least we have 160t of rapeseed unsold. That has gained a good £30/t since harvest and, despite paying storage costs on this, I will sit on it into next year. I am sure there are more price rises to come. At this stage the gains on the rape just about match the losses on the cereals, so I guess I should not be too unhappy.

But I cant help feeling that had I completely ignored the market for the past few years and sold the lot around harvest time, as in the past, I would have done as well as I have by trying to be clever and guess the way things are going to go. Still, when you do get it right the gains are substantial – so I will keep trying.

Anyway, miracles apart, our results this year are going to be way below budget and we are doing some belt tightening. Some shed improvements we had planned have been postponed, and it looks like we will have to tolerate another year with a serious lack of harvest-time storage space.

Our 13-year-old second tractor is also becoming more troublesome and should be changed. But we will hope it stays together until our next financial year.

All in all, it is not going to be a bumper year for us. But we must not forget that last year we were even further over budget than we are likely to be below it this year. &#42

Grain marketing has been a painful process this season. But at least the cereal losses have been offset by the rapeseed rises, reckons Jim Macfarlane.

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