Basin Notes - October 2004

Join geese for breakfast

Not having had anything to do with the reserve for the duration of the harvest, I'm unsure what to write. So I'll start with what I know about.

For arable farmers like myself, harvest (mid July to mid October) is a mental time of year when I try to cram a year's work in to 12 weeks; not only harvesting the current crop but also sowing next year's before the weather closes in, which tends to be about now.

The weather in late July and early August was shadeing for everyone and led to oilseed rape crops starting to grow in the pods before they were cut. This led to all sorts of problems, with buyers unwilling to accept crops with more than five per cent sprouts in the harvested material.

Apparently this may lead to an increase of fatty acids in the crushed put oil which cuts quality. In this area we were luckier with the weather than most and thanks to working the combine to midnight most nights, and doing a couple of 24-hour shifts, we managed to bring the harvest home only four days later than last year.

The hangover caused by dreadful harvest conditions will affect farmer and consumer alike as quality wheat may have to be imported. Wheat can stand a bit of rain if it's not ready to harvest but, being three to four weeks earlier than here, the English wheat was ripe so suffering a serious drop in quality when the rains hit.

Huge amounts of wheat usually destined for bread and biscuit making have ended up swamping the Scottish animal feed and distilling markets, hauling prices down to £60 per tonne. That having been said, at the time of writing some millers are entering the Scottish market eking out their short supply of English milling wheat with Scottish; by Christmas perhaps the break even point of £70 per tonne can be achieved.

Enough farming, I hear you cry! Looking around the cattle this morning, and thinking of bringing them in for the winter, a covey of grey partridge got up. I'm quite sure there are more than last year.

Karen (the boss) informs me that around 30,000 pink-footed geese are knocking around the area and they can be seen and heard at dawn and dusk as they fly in and out of the reserve.

To see them up close and personal and in comfort, why not attend the now traditional 'goose breakfast' at the visitor centre from 6.45-8.45am on Sunday, October 17. A light breakfast is provided for a small donation.

Catch them while you can as most (usually and hopefully) stop here for a short time only before continuing their journey south to overwinter on English crops.