Seeing Red

03 September 2019

The recent return of summer at the end of August provided a much needed boost at the right time for harvest to progress rapidly and see much of the wheat and barley safely gathered in. With a burst of activity over the very hot weekend, we were pleased to be able to help our neighbours dry and store grain, with the store at Easter Kellie seeing a load every 15 minutes arrive over the weighbridge. The wheat and barley crops have been surprisingly productive this year, with yields well ahead of last year and above our 5 year average. Quality of malting barley also appears to be good with low nitrogen, a measure of how much alcohol can be distilled from a tonne of malt – The lower the nitrogen the higher the spirit yield.

We harvested our heritage wheat towards the end of August, taking the opportunity on a hot windy day as the crop had succumbed to the torrential rain earlier in the month and become “Lodged” or flat. Now dried, we look forward to finding out at the September Bowhouse Market weekend, how the grains mill and bake.

Another 77 Ha of herbal grass leys have been planted as we convert more land into organic production. Building fertility in the soil by establishing grass and grazing with livestock is the most effective way to build soil health and fertility. With the help of Watson Seeds in East Lothian, we are running yet more trials. Johnny Watson found a book given to him by his father in the late 50’s which extolled the virtues of planting “herbal strips” in a field of grass. At the time there was an understanding that although new grass varieties produced plenty of energy and protein, there were some less well understood disadvantages of a modern grass ley. To overcome nutritional deficiencies, it was recommended to sow 5% of the field area in pure herbal strip (containing; Plantain, Ribwort, Sheep’s Parsley, Caraway and Chicory) The principle being that providing these herbs, livestock will eat those which provide the nutrients they need at the correct time – Self-service!

Our new Lincoln Red suckler beef herd has been established. With help from Andrew, Hilary and Casper Mylius from St Fort Farm near Wormit, a group of 7 pedigree heifers and three bulls have been purchased. We are planning to add to these rare breed numbers as we visit Lincolnshire later this month on a shopping trip. The Lincoln Red breed is one of the least “improved” and most native breeds in the UK. Producing fantastic marbled beef from grass only, ability to withstand harsh winters, a small frame and a docile temperament, the breed is well suited to our farm.

The Original Population (P) Lincoln Reds are classified by the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) as a rare breed and so increasing our herd size will be no mean feat.

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