I always had a rough rule of thumb that we would aim to have the winter barley sown by 10 October and the winter wheat by 20 October, and that we would then follow on with the oats.

Under this routine, the cattle would all stay out till at least 1 November, with a proportion of them clearing up bits of grass till as late as 1 December.

Oilseed rape sowing

Last year, we roughly stuck to the sowing schedule, but this year, the wet July and a difficult second-half of August left the oilseed rape sowing delayed until early September and we harvested the beans in early October – again, because of the late sowing that was due to the wet March and April.

They are the excuses. We were making good progress in getting back to normal until last week.

We had about 85% of the wheat sown when, as I mentioned last week, we had to stop on the Tuesday because of heavy rain.

But it was Friday that really did the damage, as the rain moved up from Cork.

We have now practically all the cattle in, and even though it is not yet November, we are wondering if we will sow any more crops during 2023.


There is already a sizeable hole in the silage. We have taken delivery of a full load of rolled barley, and we are into a complete winter feeding regime for the stores and beef.

We have some repair work to do on the agitation point manhole covers, which, given the age of our sheds, are internal, so they have to be done as soon as possible. We are waiting for delivery of the parts.

Crops and flea beetle

On the crop side, we are weighing up the options. The gluten-free oats can easily wait until the spring (though we will undoubtedly sacrifice yield), while the small amount of ground we have left for the winter wheat can go into a spring barley.

I am, in fact, more concerned at the huge variability in the vigour of the oilseed rape.

We had drilled it into stubble-cultivated winter barley ground, and while we have spread slug pellets, we also seem to have some flea beetle, which I wouldn’t have expected, given our rotation.

In recent years, oilseed rape has been pretty well trouble-free. This year’s Clearfield crop looked terrific, but in yield terms, it was the most disappointing of the 2023 harvest, with the price showing the greatest drop compared with 2022.

Suddenly, my mental jury is out on the future of the crop.