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Rabbits are causing some serious crop damage

It was very close to being rabbit and not turkey for Christmas dinner -- but there is not much meat on a rabbit. However, the rabbits are causing problems. They are really eating one field out of it. I reckon they have done about half an acre of damage so far. One side of the field is completely bare, as the rabbits have eaten all the plants right down to the roots.

We have had problems in this field before, as it borders with our neighbour, but never as bad as this year. I don't know if it's the mild winter or rabbits that are doing what rabbits are known to do best.

There definitely seems to be more of them this year. It might be time to invest in some good rabbit-proof wire and fence them out. Some of the crop will recover in the spring but most is too far gone.

After all the usual over indulgence at Christmas, we needed to go for a walk, so we used it as an excuse to have a look at the crops. They all look good but you can still see the difference in sowing dates, with the earlier crops being much thicker than the later sown ones.

The weed control worked surprisingly well considering the wet and mild weather we have had so far this winter. We used 0.25l/ha DFF and 2l/ha of IPU.

We will keep a special eye on the headlands and patches of the fields that are more vulnerable to weeds throughout the year.

Last year, we had some sterile brome on the headlands where I didn't turn over the sod properly at the corners when ploughing. I did try and take extra care this year, so we will wait and see if it's better.

We have been following the forward price of grain all year and try and sell at various stages. The price of dried wheat in November was around €175/t. At the same time, we are watching the price of fertiliser to try and work out our costs and what we can afford to spend on the crop.

We took soil samples in November and more before Christmas, and we are now waiting for the second set of results to start working out more of our nitrates.


One field that is closest to the yard got a lot of slurry spread on it years ago. We soil sampled it five years ago and last year.

The results both times indicated that it needed no phosphorus, but we have tested it again to check if this is still the case and if the plant can get the P that's in the ground. Is the P actually available to the plant?

I am not an agronomist so I regularly have to ask our Teagasc adviser for information on this. Getting the results is one thing, understanding that information is another. Every crop has different nutrient and pH needs, so it's important to get this right.

We have already sold some wheat for this month, so we are making sure the moisture doesn't go up and the temperature stays down.

The temperature is still quite warm for this time of year. It should be 10°C but ours is about 17°C.

This time last year, in the freezing weather, we could put the pedestal fans on for a couple of days and it would be down straight away. Because last month was so warm, it is taking much longer to do that.

I'm not complaining after all the trouble we had with frozen water, frozen diesel and icy roads 12 months ago.

I've noticed that our local hardware shop has ice shovels, salted grit and grips for shoes -- that's a sure sign we will have a mild winter.

We are always prepared for a severe winter the year after it happens. Let's hope if we do get a cold snap it's not as bad. Good luck and happy farming for 2012.

Helen and Philip Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Email:

Indo Farming