Farming diary - Among the fields of barley

Richard lifts the header and reverses the combine into position ready to cut another swathe through a field of winter barley

The first blackberries ripen on Manor Farm

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Harvesting our winter barley is now in full swing. The weather has remained reasonably favourable, hot and sunny, with only a few light showers during the week, although the sky has looked quite threatening at times.

The line on the barograph has remained fairly high and steady, but I have noticed that it is now beginning to fall.

The combine harvester started to roll at the beginning of the week, as the moisture content of the grain was below 15 per cent when tested with the meter.

Harvesting began in a rather haphazard way, as the crop had ripened unevenly, giving moisture readings below and above the required level, as the combine made its way across the fields.

In some fields, Richard left patches of barley which looked a little green, alongside hedges or under trees, hoping to come back later.

Richard and Ian went into several fields that seemed ripe, but kept having to pull out, before deciding some hot sun was needed before they could complete the job.

The last few days have been easier, although the combine has not started working until early afternoon, it has managed to keep running until late into the evening.

Yields of winter barley have been quite good, with our best field giving over eight tonnes per hectare.

The grain was temporarily stored in a barn prepared earlier, from where some has been sold. Unfortunately, the price per tonne is not as good as last season.

Richard and Matt have been hauling this barley to a local store, where the moisture, bushel weight and temperature are checked before it can be unloaded. If the moisture content is above 15 per cent, or the temperature above 22C, a charge is made for drying and cooling.

As soon as there was enough dry straw on the ground, we called a contractor to bale it into large round bales. The field with the highest yield of grain has produced a huge number of bales. In fact, the contractor said he had never seen such large wakes of straw.

Over the last few days, Ian and Matt have been hauling bales and grain to barns for storage, while Richard has been combining.

Our agronomist called in to help us decide which crops we will be growing next year and where they will be planted. The trouble is that the detail on the new regulations relating to the Common Agriculture Policy reform have not yet been decided by the UK government.

In order to be eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme, farmers will have to comply with three greening elements.

One is to have an ecological focus area, which requires an area equivalent to five per cent of their arable acreage.

Another relates to permanent pasture and finally crop diversification, which is known as the three crop rule. I have only listed these requirements, but the detail is quite complicated, not yet complete and there are exemptions.

This week, we have received a first cut grass silage analysis result. This showed that the silage has a high sugar content, average protein, good dry matter and an acceptable pH of 4.2.

The acid levels are good, with lactic acid high, acetic acid low and only a trace of butyric acid,which would be found in poor silage at a high level.

The highlight of my week was a ride on the Bath and West Railway.

Council members of the Royal Bath and West Society were given the opportunity to ride on small carriages pulled by a variety of model locomotives, some powered by steam and the others by diesel, along a picturesque route first over and then along Prestleigh Brook, then around a lake.

This railway is run by local volunteers of the East Somerset Model and Exper-imental Engineers, having its home at the Bath and West Showground.

For me, the ride was a first and very enjoyable.

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