Emergence of the late-sown crops has been astonishingly rapid. After less than a fortnight, the gluten-free oats’ tramlines are fully visible and the crop is making rapid progress. However, I have no idea of its yield potential. Normally with the autumn-sown oat crop we expect 3.8t to 4t/ac. I am told that kind of expectation is completely unrealistic with a late spring-sown crop, but we will give it every help we can. The rapid increase in grain prices internationally over the last week or so has lifted the expectations for this year’s harvest, but there is a long way to go yet – though it is worth noting that prices this week are slightly ahead of where they were this time last year. As well as the oats, the late-sown spring barley has also emerged well and the direct-sown beans are now clearly visible as they break ground.

While we are seeing growth spurts in the spring crops, the winter oilseed rape is shedding its petals and forming pods. We have two varieties of oilseed rape: a Clearfield to allow for easier weed control and a standard hybrid. At his stage there seems little difference between the two varieties from a weed point of view, but the main point of growing two different varieties was to try and avoid the disastrous low bushel weight of the Clearfield variety in last year’s crop. In the winter cereals, the barley is completely headed out, with no visible increase in the yellowing I mentioned last week, but we are definitely seeing premature senescence in the lower leaves of some of the winter wheat.

With all the crops finally sown and established, we completed the BISS application, secure in the knowledge that we had met all the basic requirements and applied for the straw incorporation scheme to cover the oats and oilseed rape, as well as the protein aid for the beans. According to the Department calculator, we have 12% of the land classified as “space for nature“, so we are well over the required 7%.

However, in the middle of all the progress, we got a real shock that the factory quotes for beef cattle are down by at least 15c/kg. Normally at this time of the year we would expect prices to be advancing week-on-week. I don’t think I have ever seen such a sizable unexpected reduction. We still have quite a few cattle in for finishing, incurring significant costs and while I received the latest Bord Bia bulletin full of beef market optimism, the meat factories are sending a different message. Are they taking advantage of a temporary oversupply or has the market softened unexpectedly? We are at least due some clear answers.