Winter was very wet with some areas of Scotland receiving almost 50% of the annual rainfall in the first 2 months of the year but thankfully we were rewarded with a great spring of warmth and sunshine. Without the extremes of the 2018 drought conditions, farmers across the country invested in their businesses with reseeds, as is normal up here, predominately with perennial grass mixtures. Its been a great year for grass growth with many people having an abundance of silage and grazing stock fared well most of the year.
Frustratingly, as is often the case, the Scottish summer was ‘catchy’ at best with many periods of consecutive wet days interrupting both later silage cuts and harvest but in general, work is fairly well tidied up for the year at the time of writing this. Winter cereal sowings seem to be average so hopefully there will be good opportunities next summer for later reseeds, however, particularly in the higher rainfall areas, autumn reseeds continue to be difficult to rely on as is 3rd and 4th cut silage.
Environmental issues are a growing trend not only in terms of direct suppor; I’ve had numerous conversations with customers looking to make alterations to their reseeding practices to incorporate more environmentally beneficial aspects alongside their persistency and productivity demands. The Barenbrug-AFBI partnership continues to breed fantastic new varieties of Ryegrass that perform well under the Scottish conditions and testing system and is backed up by some other species such as the new Timothy, Cocksfoot and Tall Fescue varieties from the Barenbrug breeding programmes in Northern Europe. Two new ryegrasses will feature in the Scotland Mixtures for 2021 as well as a new soft leaved cocksfoot.
I always try to be a positive person and 2020 saw me celebrate a decade of working for Barenbrug UK and whilst most things in agriculture come in cycles, nothing before has been like this year! Having reduced my car travel by around 20,000 miles, myself and the team have found new ways of communicating with our customers although the numerous platforms of communication have caused a certain amount of digital overwhelm at times! As someone who lives on their own – bar the collies of course! – the one thing I have probably missed the most this year is the face to face meeting with those in the industry who are not only customers but whom have become friends too. I consider myself very lucky to have worked throughout the year, to be working in agriculture and in a small way, to be helping to feed the nation. There are countless positives and opportunities that have come out of 2020, we have seen a greater shift to support local produce and local business and we have learned what and who is important in life! Who know what the next 12 – 18 months will bring for us in Scotland but in the words of the brilliant Resilient Farmer Doug Avery; “You win or you learn. You only lose if you don’t learn anything”. It’s our responsibility, each of us as individuals and organisations, to find the positives and focus on them and the path forward.
Wishing you all a brilliant rest of the year and hoping to see more of you in 2021!
Hamish Maclean, Hamish Maclean Farm Products, Orkney
Another year of growth (pardon the pun!) and we are now establishing a steady list of customers who have bought into the valuable information Mhairi brings to the table whilst appreciating the local input from myself. It has been a great growing year here without the excesses of last year which brought as many problems as it solved. There was some very poor quality silage due to restrictions by late cutting schemes.We had a few reseeds that were sowed alongside a major competitor and we came out the other side extremely well. We also now have a good name for longevity which has been a problem here in past days before Barenbrug arrived. This year has brought some extremely strange circumstances in trading conditions but I have altered completely and do so much more business by social media and telephone. It took a little bit of adjustment but is working away just fine.
The reality of farming life struck home when one of our very regular clients tragically lost his life after a horrible farm accident and our sympathies go out to his lovely family. I guess at this stage we are unsure what form our sales drive will take in 2021 and if Mhairi is permitted to call with me throughout the Islands but we are ahead of the game and are furnishing customers old and new with critical information as I write this. So, lets look forward to 2021 with continued vigour and confidence in this industry!
2020 has been an interesting time and challenging to say the least! As far as grass growth goes, due to a very wet winter, 1st cut was a bit disappointing. The quality was lacking and pits were not a full as hoped, however 2nd cut made up for quantity. The silage pit has never been so full in all the 40 years it has been in operation although it is now proving a challenge keeping the face fresh and dealing with a bit of slippage. Cows on the whole, are milking well off it but it does involve a fair bit of continuous monitoring and management to ensure rations are in tip top condition.
When it came to 3rd cut - we were unsure if we were going to manage to get any at all. Weather from August onwards has been difficult, with a lot of rain and resulted in the cancellation of winter barley seed. We cut less acres for 3rd cut to try and minimise any machinery damage to wetter fields. We know from the bulk on 2nd cut we have plenty in stock for winter 20/21 feeding. Always good to have a wee bit extra squirreled away in a pit as we never know how 2021 will pan out. In terms of reseeding, this year we sowed 50 acres after winter barley. We’ve taken the decision to increase our grass area to allow more yields from 1st and 2nd cut and reduce reliance on 3rd cut which is becoming more difficult to rely on with poor summer weather year on year. We have also been moving to reseeding after winter cereals (instead of spring) so that we can get the reseeds in earlier in the season and again, improve the chances of beating any inclement weather.
Overall, 2020 has been an interesting, difficult, and testing time. However, we need to try and find some sort of silver lining to all of this chaos. It has allowed us time to focus on our business with a lot less distractions from any social events going on; although no Highland show to distract us for a few days during June was one of the biggest disappointment for us all. We must count ourselves lucky to live in rural surroundings to avoid the worst hit areas of the pandemic if only to have the free space and fresh air to enjoy which can be taken for granted on some days.
I am hoping that 2021 will bring new enthusiasm and fresh hope that we can at least spend time with family and friends and get to enjoy some belated birthday/wedding celebrations that we have missed out on this year.