As I sit on a bright frosty morning in the middle of February, the promise of spring is just around the corner.
Since New Year wheat, seed barley and oats have moved off the farm at a steady pace with only a few loads left to go. Due to the inclement weather at harvest time, the acreage of winter crops sown in Scotland was reduced which has resulted in more demand for spring barley seed to fill the gap. It is great to get seeds off the farm during the quieter times, lets us concentrate on sowing when the time comes. Feed barley has been sold to neighbouring farmers for their beef cattle. Prices of cereals have remained steady since harvest time and are significantly higher than last year.
The biggest effect of the weather last harvest is the scarcity of straw. Wet harvest conditions resulted in wet straw which required more man and tractor hours to prepare the straw for bailing. There comes a point where the extra time required preparing out weights the price per bale when the time comes to sell, and last harvest for many farmers, this point was reached. Instead, lots of straw was ‘chopped’ coming out of the combine allowing it to be ploughed back into the soil as a natural fertiliser. The economics of it all has inflated straw to almost 3 times what it was this time last year. Maybe I should have tried to bale more? Disappointing news came this February with the closure of our nearest abattoir at Dunblane. Others too have closed recently: the only abattoir on Orkney and St. Andrews. This has become an increasing problem for farmers producing small but regular numbers of animals for butchers, farm shops and individuals to fill their freezers. There are very few slaughterhouses available in Scotland to process small amounts of cattle, sheep & pigs increasing the cost and time involved transporting livestock further afield. We now have to take our cattle to Paisley, a 3 hour round trip.
On a brighter note, the snow has returned bringing with it the fresh shoots of spring and the promise of a productive year is in the air! Roll on the good weather.