Dominic Naylor: Harvesting starts well, but next year’s budget requires creative accounting

It has been a good harvesting month with first cut lucerne producing 100 tonnes at 60 per cent dry matter off 14 hectares (35 acres). I mentioned last time I would wait for a grass test on the Italian rye-grass before cutting, but in the end I took the test posthumously having mown all 28ha (70 acres).

The weather was perfect and it clamped well. Yields were about 75 per cent but I’m pleased with the quality. The subsequent fresh grass analysis depicted low nitrogen levels so it was the right decision.

A team of first year NDA students took turns to spread slurry on the all the aftermaths which was very helpful. Unfortunately, one of the stub axles on the tanker sheared off before the job was finished and so a contractor was called. On the bright side, the big man upstairs was smiling at me as it happened in the field and not on the road. I’ve decided to apply only half rate nitrogen for the second cut as I think the lack of rain has left much of the original nitrogen in the ground.

The drought has ended for us but the quantity of rain has not been significant. We are certainly not in the dire straits of the South East and I think our policy of spreading slurry and dirty water on the arable land has been invaluable. Yields of both grain and straw will surely be down nationally and this can only put further pressure on the already beleaguered livestock sector.

While cereals are prohibitively expensive for us livestock boys, it is at the right price for the arable sector. The price for our milk and meat has to rise to reflect the 100 per cent rise in these energy feed costs. The sad fact is they could easily rise without affecting food inflation. The only effect would be to reduce the immoral margins achieved by the supermarkets and their processors.

I’ve started on next year’s budget and it isn’t pleasant reading. With overall feed costs having risen by 50 per cent it will take Ken Dodd’s accountant to make these books look pretty.

Straid Moss is now my main work dog, with Sweep more than happy to let his stable mate do the big gathers. Moss has developed a lovely style and balance and is also a powerful dog. Only today he drove a big Texel ewe and her two lambs up a steep dale side for 100 yards. He would have gone on longer but I couldn’t help myself and blurted out ‘good lad’ which stupidly broke his concentration. It’s not the dog that needs training.

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