Another week of unworkable soils, another reversal of tillage plans. The hope of getting our small amount of remaining winter wheat planted has been abandoned.

Last week I mentioned that we were happy enough to sow the wheat seed and take the eventual crop as arable silage if the grain was not mature enough to harvest.

However, I have been advised that it is possible that at this late stage the winter wheat may not set seed at all, and we would just be left with an inferior grass type silage.

The safer option, which we have decided to follow, is to sow the remaining land in spring barley. Even if we don’t get to sow the spring barley until 1 May, we can still be confident of getting a crop that’s usable as either arable silage or as usable grain and straw.

We have been assured of being supplied with the small amount of spring barley seed we need, so we will go ahead on that basis.

Meanwhile, we have taken delivery of the seed for the spring beans and the gluten free oats is ready to be planted – all we need is the weather.

Earlier this week, we tentatively began putting some of the lightest stores out for grazing by day. Not surprisingly, the first paddock looked a bit of a mess, as the young cattle got used to being out of doors for the first time. They settled down, and damage was limited after that, though they willingly came in for their evening silage.

Tractor troubles

Our reconditioned slurry agitator is working fine, but we are using the same tractor for agitating the slurry as we have on the diet feeder. It has given us good service, but is now 20 years old.

Mechanically it seems fine, and the amount of heavy work it does is very small, so of course the temptation is to keep it. However, it has started having problems that are difficult to diagnose.

The latest is a fraying wire that caused a short that meant the PTO wouldn’t work. When we couldn’t work out what was wrong, our local main dealer from whom we bought the tractor came out, diagnosed the fault via his computer and we were up and running again.

Should we replace it? In agricultural machinery, reliability is everything. At the same time, in an emergency we can fill in with a substitute tractor, so inevitably the answer will be “let’s wait and see how the cattle perform over the main spring/early summer period and then we will make a decision.”

Last week I mentioned we were apprehensive with the threatened move downwards in cattle prices. This week the drop seems to have arrived.

I don’t think I ever remember beef prices declining at this time of the year. It seems amazing that with extra wintering costs every week, prices should uniquely in Ireland go into reverse.

I am told it’s because of extra de-stocking of dairy cows caused by the implementation of the nitrate stocking rate restrictions.

If so, the Minister should at least call in the meat factories and ask for an explanation. In the meantime we will have little option but to continue selling beef as they become fit.


The 2024 BISS scheme has opened up. We have received the breakdown of the payments received for 2023. Between the straw incorporation scheme and the protein aid, the total is a bit better than I expected but still below the year before.

With the closing date of 15 May, there is time to wait for official clarification of what is on offer in the straw incorporation scheme and the protein aid payment before committing ourselves fully, but unless something unexpected emerges, we can budget for another reduction in what is already a difficult year.