Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Tillage: An invasion of pigeons was the last thing we needed

The fans are moved from one vent to another in an effort to keep the grain temperature at 10C.
The fans are moved from one vent to another in an effort to keep the grain temperature at 10C.
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

The last month has been filled with more talk about the IFA than work. I was shocked, then angry and now I am sad. I'm sad for Irish farming and rural Ireland. In recent times I hear a lot about the fact that, as a country, we are out of the recession and everything is looking rosy again.

This is not true for farming. I'm not just talking about tillage farming - I'm talking about all farming. It's has been a really tough year with low prices and low morale.

I heard about a meeting on rural crime and people living in fear and it really annoyed me that a few criminals can have that effect on a whole community.

Then the whole IFA disaster really put the tin hat on it. There is a general gloom about and its matched with the dark days and wet weather.

I don't think there is any magic wand as to how we fix everything but I will tell you that farmers are the eternal optimists.

We know that in a few short weeks we will see the snow drops peep up out of the ground and soon after the lambs will be skipping around the fields.

There will be a stretch in the evenings and we will say that this year wasn't great, but next year will be better. It's as if with the new year, comes a new chance to do better. I hope the same is true for the IFA.


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One day I looked out on the oilseed rape and instead of a green field it was nearly blue with pigeons. I'm not talking about hundreds, I'm talking thousands. They were all over it.

Luckily we have great neighbours that have a better shot than I have.

They set up hides around the field and spent the last few weekends shooting as many as they can.

I really appreciate the neighbours coming in to help, especially in the recent wild weather.

The oilseed rape started to flatten down and has a lot of yellow leaves through it, as the bottom ones die off. Some of the experts say we should be encouraging the pigeons to graze it, as it will help the crop in the long run.

I don't agree with this, since in a previous year we had a lot of pigeon damage and it resulted in the plant branching out at the bottom instead of having one main stem. I believe this resulted in a lower yield.

Another reason we want to limit the damage by pigeons is so our green area index in the spring is higher.

By doing this we can reduce the fertiliser on the crop.

The other crops have spent weeks completely waterlogged.

The ground is saturated to a point where the small plants are starting to get stressed. It only takes a couple of days sitting in water for the plants to go backwards.

The weeks of dark wet weather isn't helping them at all. They could really do with a couple of sunny dry weeks to bring them back to life.

However, I think that the fields that we subsoiled can get rid of the water on the surface much faster than previous years.

We are keeping a close eye on the temperature of the grain in the shed and any warm spots get a blast of cold air.

Normally we would like the temperature to be around 10C. With the mild temperature this has been quite difficult.

At the moment it is 13-14C. We can move the fans around the shed to the warm area and switch them on.

They suck the air out from the bottom of the grain and blow it back out at the top of the heap. It's particularly effective on dry cold nights.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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