September 2014: Harvest didn’t meet my expectations

Looks can be deceptive, as we know, so it was with no surprise, but great disappointment, that my final harvest outcome didn’t live up to its promise.

Being old fashioned, when it comes to measuring output, I still like to work in tonnes per acre; I understand that, and if I go the hectare way I’ll always have to work it back to be able to understand the answer!

At 1.15t/acre for rape, which looked like doing 2t/acre from its 6ft high crop, was unexpected, but we did have heavy rain just prior to combining, which unfortunately knocked out a lot of seed.

It was the same with the wheat, which looked as if it would average 4t/acre compared to my 10-year average of 3.6t. It came in at slightly less than 3.5t/acre. Fortunately, bushel weights were between 75 and 79kg/hl, so should make some good feed for pig producers. Half the grain was less than 15% moisture and the other half a little more than 15%, so at least there was a saving on drying charges.

I have heard of some wheat at bushel weights of 62kg/hl, which the trader said would hardly make chicken feed. Having said that, I recall well-known nutritionist Mick Hazzledine saying many years ago that low bushel weights didn’t have any great effect until they got to less than 65kg/hl, so there’s no real need for deductions to take place below 72kg/hl, which is becoming a common practice.

If prices stay at current levels for next year, there will be little point in bothering to sow anything. And with “greening” taking effect for 2015, you have to wonder if that will reduce the cereal acreage?

No doubt it will on some farms, but we’ll probably end up with a surplus of beans that will reduce the inclusion of expensive soya. What a great industry we’re in; excitement and unknown quantities abound!

So, with my stubbles cleared by August 8, that leaves the winter beans, 6ft high and heavily podded. I guess it will be end of September before they’re ready, and I suspect they will take a bit of combining. In the meantime I can wonder what disaster will overtake them!

A preliminary look at the National Pig Awards entries shows some truly excellent performance and output figures, the likes of which wouldn’t have been thought possible 10 years ago. Of course, there are different parameters to look at these days to measure performance without the emphasis being so much on the number of pigs per sow.

Granted, numbers are still a key factor, but it’s more to do with more efficient kilos up the ramp to maximise the unit’s potential and to make sure that you never have an empty farrowing crate in any batch – weekly or otherwise – as that costs you somewhere in the region of £1,250/week of potential lost output.

> Yorkshire farmer Sam Walton is a former pig producer and the founding editor of Pig World

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