A challenging harvest
Rain, rain, go awayAs September and harvest 2023 disappear behind us, fresher mornings and shorter evenings signal autumn is just around the corner. After a blazing June and the 2022 drought still fresh in everyone’s minds, many farmers were worried 2023 would follow a similar pattern. However, this was short lived! While we had a great haymaking season with perfect weather to replenish stocks for our customers and the Deane Valley livestock, from July onwards it was very challenging harvest.
Thundery showers in late May were disastrous for the cereals, causing crops to be flattened across the country. Spring moisture had aided good establishment, which made this especially disappointing and getting the crop though the combine was a frustrating job.
Then to make matters worse, we settled into a relentless block of what felt like almost continuous rain. From gentle spitting to raining cats and dogs, we had it all! Some days were just wet enough to delay combining until the afternoon, making the harvesting window short before the dampness of evening air descended. Others were a complete washout with no hope of recommencing until the following day at the earliest.
Compared to the 2022 season when the dryer was largely redundant and straw was wonderfully golden, this has been a very different season to say the least. The dryer has been working hard to ensure grain is stored at an appropriate moisture content to preserve it for the year ahead. These difficulties mean it has been easy to view 2022 through rose-tinted glasses and forget that the drought also brought substantial fire risk and lower yields. Even glorious sunshine has its challenges!
On the plus side, all this rain means the Deane Valley livestock have largely had good supplies of grass ahead of them. To see them contented is very rewarding. Most cattle have spent the summer out to pasture and on the cliff land, the next group of calves will be arriving in the not too distant future. The rams have been put in with the ewes and we are hoping for lambing 2024 to be underway in the new year. In a few weeks time, the scanning team will visit Deane Farm to see which ewes are expecting singles, doubles and triples so we can be fully prepared.
The Deane Valley hens have enjoyed the summer months. Bird flu is still present across the country but lower levels nationally have brought relaxed restrictions, which has been very welcome and makes management much easier. Autumn sown cover crops will provide home to the next group of pigs and our pasture-reared sausages will be available again next year.
As we head into autumn and start thinking about planting crops for harvest next summer, just like that we seem to be entering the last quarter of 2023. Our recent harvest video emphasises that the positive updates have been in short supply over the last couple of months but on we go. Some sunny October days would be most welcome. As a local vet once said, farmers always say ‘perhaps next year will be better’ so let’s hope for good weather for harvest 2024!