independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Not relying on pigeon pie for Christmas now that our contracts have been filled

We may have won the battle with slugs but have we won the war? We spread a half rate of Draza everywhere but three fields were showing more slug damage so we had to go back out on these with Wipeout. I doubt the very bare patches will recover.

Between the slugs and the pools of water, the fields don't have the thick green carpet that they should have at this time of the year. All the crops seem to be unusually slow to germinate. This will give the slugs even more time to do damage.

When we were ploughing and sowing we had to leave a few corners in some fields that were just too wet.

Our plan was to clean the ditches and drain the land. We got our multi-talented neighbour Noel Cummins in with his track machine. He cleaned down all the banks and levelled the ground afterwards. He made it look easy.

Not everyone can grade down the sides so level that you would think he used a ruler. I was amazed at the flow of water afterwards.

Old land drains that had been previously blocked started to flow. That meant we didn't have to put as many extra drains in. We put grids over the big water pipes and when the drains were flowing this caught a lot of debris.

If it had gone down the pipe, it may have blocked it. We will have to keep these grids clear, which involves getting into the drain - a cold wet job.

We may have got the water flowing but I can't see when we are going to get those patches sown. We have sprayed our winter barley, Cassia with aphicide, but nothing else. The strips that we had to re-sow with the vintage tractor have also germinated so by spring it will be hard to see them.

We were hoping to get out on the wheat and spray it, but the weather changed.

Now the sprayer is filled with antifreeze and in the shed. We were planning to use Deter on our seed which has an aphicide in it, but that didn't happen, so now we are slightly concerned about BYDV in wheat. We will spray as soon as conditions allow. The oilseed rape is well established now but the pigeons are having a party in it.

Every day there seems to be more.

The compaction problems can still be seen with smaller plants in rows behind where the terra tyres had travelled.

We sprayed with 0.75l/ha Aramo to kill volunteer cereals and sterile broom. We also used 0.75l/ha of Supervite to help and promote root growth and 0.4l/ha of Punch C to help control light leaf spot.

As well as filling the sprayer with anti-freeze before the cold weather came, we have also checked all the tractors and put them in sheds where possible.

Our power washer has a plastic bung that cracks in the frost every year. So we have taken it out altogether. I have no doubt that the next time I use it I will forget to put it in and then forget to take it out again.

We have been busy out loading wheat for all the November contracts.

We forward sold this last year for a lot less than we could get for it now but that is part of the risk of forward selling.

We were also worried that we would not have enough quantity to fill all our contracts but coming towards the end it looks like we may have some left over. All the wheat has passed so far and the bushel weight is good.

We have heard of loads being refused and returned at the farmers cost. I'm not sure how much is true and how much is talk, but it is a worry.

We should have sold a little bit more, closer to harvest, rather than leaving so much until November as it really affected our cash flow this year.

We had forward bought some fertiliser for the spring and, between the two, the overdraft was stretched to its limit.

Now we have been paid I have changed the menu for Christmas from pigeon pie back to turkey and ham.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email: helenharrisfarm@gmail.com

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