The fluctuations in grain prices really hit me when I received by text the forward prices that my main customer was willing to pay for grain delivered this coming harvest.

At €197/t for wheat and €187/t for barley, this is the first time for some years that prices have slipped below the €200/t level.

And with crops looking worse than normal from too much water logging since sowing, it threw into question how much inputs were going to be justified applying to this year’s winter crops, let alone wondering whether or not it will be make sense to plant crops this spring.

Our mainline spring crops this year are meant to be the gluten free oats and beans. There is clearly a commitment to maintaining beans as a crop in the Irish mix, and we have a big field ready for ploughing and sowing, but the weather window is wide so I am still assuming we will get them planted.

Last year, we had a neighbour who obliged us by direct drilling them with a really efficient machine in the last days of April, and it turned out to be one of the best and most even crops of beans that we have had.

On the cattle side, we have spread no slurry as yet. We have had to transfer some from one slatted tank to another.

The shed that we re-roofed two years ago has meant that we have had no extra water getting into the tanks so, with our agitator all renewed, we are ready to go.

This year again we have mixed in some liquid biological additive, which I hope will again make the slurry easier to agitate. We will see over the next few weeks.

Michael Ward

Over the weekend, I was sad to see the death of Michael Ward of Clonee on the Dublin-Meath border. He was one of the early stalwarts and former President of the Irish Grassland Association and an outstanding beef farmer.

He was one of the first farmers in the country to build slatted sheds for cattle.

When I was building my first one, I went over to him and, in a typically generous way, he spent a long time discussing the pros and cons of various aspects of the building he had built to his own design, as well as making sure I had the correct measurements for the best height of the passage walls etc.

He will be missed. To his wife Terry and family, our sincere sympathy.