Recently, I have heard several people make the comment that if fertiliser had to be expensive any year, it was good that it was this one.

While the weather has been kind, there aren’t any signs that prices might return to what we have seen in the past, so that sentiment could be very different next year.

On the farm, we have just finished the last application of fertiliser. Despite nitrogen being exorbitantly expensive, the investment has yielded an above average return.

For example, three fields of permanent pasture grazed by yearlings on a rotational basis received their first application at the beginning of April and didn’t receive a second sowing until 20 August.

Cattle grazing these fields have made steady weight gains throughout the summer.

The fields also received a spring application of Physiolith, a soil conditioner designed to increase the efficiency of nutrient uptake, although given a number of year-on-year variables, it is difficult to say for sure how much it helped grass growth.


The heatwave of mid-July provided us with ideal silage making conditions. As we had a much wider weather window than the first cut, we were able to revert back to our own operation, rather than employ a contractor.

We also recently made an investment in a six-rotor Malone tedder, so the combination of perfect conditions and the shiny metal helped to make an extremely dry crop. I hope that this high dry matter silage will help to compensate for the moist first-cut in the TMR.


As we have dried off a large proportion of the milking herd, which have gone to an out-farm for grazing, and have brought some silage ground into the rotation, we have been able to take out 8ac for reseeding.

Much as I appreciate many aspects of regenerative agriculture (including the idea of no-till farming), sometimes the rejuvenation and the reset that a plough provides to land cannot be over emphasised.

It must always be a part of local agriculture, no matter how unfashionable it may become with certain parts of the industry or the environmental movement.

Spring barley

This week will also bring the start of our spring barley harvesting campaign. Both of our combines (a MF 400 and MF 415) have been lovingly serviced by my father, however with a combined age of 110, it may take both machines to ensure that all 18ac are safely gathered in.

The cushions on the seat of the 400 were replaced last year, which dad refers to as a “software update”. I honestly believe that there are children who aren’t as excited on Christmas Eve as he is just before harvest.


Away from the farm, I am someone who believes it is important for farmers to engage with the public and take the opportunity to explain to them the realities of our industry.

I had such an opportunity on a recent flight. I had brought on-board a copy of Holstein International, placed it cover forward in the pocket in front of my seat.

A rather sophisticated, (judging by her handbag and posh Dublin accent) middle aged lady took her seat beside me. About 15 minutes into the flight she asked very politely if she could read the magazine in the pocket.

“Of course you can,” I replied, knowing perfectly well that she assumed that it was the complementary Aer Lingus inflight magazine.

I waited with great interest (and amusement) to see how long she would pretend to read.

After five minutes, I decided to relieve her of her awkwardness and I asked if it might not have been the magazine that she would have been expecting?

She took it with good humour and proceeded to ask about cattle breeding (just to be courteous I assume). After a brief lecture in a strong north Antrim accent, covering genomics, sexed semen and how improved cattle breeding was going to help feed the world, I am quite sure she wished she had been assigned any other seat on the plane.

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