Teddy Maufe is a tenant
farmer on 407ha (1000
acres) at Branthill Farm,
Sugar beet lies at the heart
of the rotation, with other
crops including winter
barley, wheat and oats,
spring barley and triticale
FEBRUARY was exceptionally mild and dry, and during the last week of the month we applied 125kg/ha (1cwt/acre) of sulphate of ammonia on the winter cereals, which should remedy sulphur deficiency on our light soils.
All the winter cereals not rolled in the autumn have now been rolled, together with our earlier drilled spring barleys. We also finished drilling our 80ha (200 acres) of spring barley on Feb 9 and the land could now do with a decent downfall of rain – it is not often I say that in February.
Last winter (1996/97) we installed a new Kentra grain drier with a capacity of 16.6t/hour to replace our 30-year-old drier. The combine was outstripping it by a factor of three, even if we were only removing 1% moisture, resulting in a huge heap of backlog grain every night.
Nearly all the necessary ancillary equipment of higher capacity conveyors and elevators were second-hand. The total budget still exceeded £55,000, but malting barley was worth £140/t at the time. Little did I realise that within a year grain prices would have plummeted so far.
The downside of this big investment has been that our budgets supporting it were made over a year ago. They now look distinctly unrealistic.
The drier itself worked really well last harvest, fast and economically. But it now looks like it will need to keep doing that for at least the next 40 harvests to pay for itself.
The reason we chose a continuous flow drier again was that we have self-emptying silos on the farm. They were already installed in a fine old barn for which the Holkham Estate is renowned.
Our final adjusted sugar beet yield, despite being affected by the mystery low sugar disease, was 58t/ha (23.5t/acre). Even so, our net return from the crop is well down on last year, because of the large fall in quota price. *
Teddy Maufe: Todays grain prices mean the new grian drier will now take far longer to pay for itself than first expected. Output is 16.6t/hour.