Letham Shank Farm - Crops, Machinery and Livestock


Crops Grown More detailed information can be found on the Cropping Map page.

Arable crops up until recently were considered to be the main source of income for the farm; they are still the largest part but produce is worth roughly 40% of what it was in 1998.
The main crops are Winter Wheat, Winter Barley, Spring Barley and Oilseed Rape.

Winter Wheat:
This is grown primarily as a feed but generally gains a small premium for
Wheat Grains
Wheat Grains
use in biscuit making. The varieties grown are Consort and Robigus which are 'soft' wheats.Some C1 seed wheats are occasionally grown for sale and my own use. Seed rates vary from 130 to 230 kg/ha (at the extremes) depending on date and seedbed. These are sown in September and October for harvest the following August/September. Whenever possible herbicides are applied in the Autumn along with an aphicide for BYDV prevention. Nitrogen usage varies between 175 & 220 kg/ha again depending on situation in rotation and expected yield. Generally a two spray programme is used for fungicides plus an 'ear spray'. Strobilurins are only used on the flag leaf. Growth regulators are used as a matter of course. It is almost unheard of to harvest wheat in this part of the world at less than 16% moisture content (generally between 18 and 24% although in the year 2000 much in this region was cut at near 30%) so it has invariably to be dried to 15% or below for storage.
Winter Barley:
The aim is to grow barley with a low nitrogen content suitable for the brewing industry.
Barley Grains
Barley Grains
As a rule winter barleys are required to have 'N' contents between 1.5 and 1.8 % which makes them suitable for lager production where the brewing process is more 'industrial'. For low 'N' barley to make quality traditional ales, lower yielding spring barleys are grown. The varieties grown are Pearl for malting and Heligan for pearling. Heligan is taking a larger area each year as malting varieties fail to make profit. These are sown in September for harvest in late July/August the following year. Seed rates are generally about 180-190 kg/ha. Nitrogen is kept to about 160 kg/ha but sufficient is applied to avoid yield penalty. A two spray fungicide regime with growth regulators is used.
Spring Barley:
The variety grown is Golden Promise, which celebrated it's 30th birthday recently, specifically for malting. It is 'old fashioned' but considered by most to be the best malting barley ever. It is low yielding compared to modern varieties and susceptible to several foliar diseases. The 'target' N content is 1.3, but up to 1.55 is acceptable, in order that it may be used in "The Macallan" malt whisky. The target date for sowing is mid to late February although up to April can be successful. The land is ploughed in November to allow winter weather to break it down and improve the quality of the seedbed. A seed rate of about 195 kg/ha is used. Two, occasionally, three fungicides have to be applied as mildew can attack extremely early and must be controlled. Nitrogen usage is normally about 100kg/ha applied as soon as possible after drilling. 
Canola (Oilseed Rape):

This farm is GM free, but we do grow hybrids produced
Canoila Seeds (Oilseed Rape)
Canola Seed
in the same manner as hybrid garden plants. The variety grown is Pronto which suits our farm very well. It is sown in August for harvest the following August. It can be tricky to establish because of the low seed rates, small seed/seedling size and susceptibility to slug damage. Slug pellets are generally only applied on rougher parts of fields or if slugs are known to be present. A pre-emergence herbicide is used to control most broad leaved weeds, followed by a contact herbicide to control grass weeds. Two fungicide sprays are applied, one in the Autumn and one in the Spring for light leaf spot. The crop is swathed to help with final ripening/drying in mid-July and combined about 14 to 20 days later. It must be dried to about 7% mc as it is normally combined at about 10 to 15%. OSR is blamed by many for hay fever etc but several hundred other species are flowering at the same time but have green, hardly noticeable flowers. Oilseeds are crushed to provide oil for cooking, margarine etc. and can yield up to 45% of their weight as oil. By using oilseeds as a source of oil for motor vehicles, carbon dioxid emissions can be reabsorbed in the following crop, making them 'carbon neutral' as opposed to fossil fuels which are mainly responsible for global warming. At present unfavourable taxation in the UK makes this unfeasible.
Oats are a minority crop nowadays and fall, like
Oat Grains
Oat Grains
barley into spring and winter varieties. Traditionally oats were grown on poorer land where they would be more robust than barley or wheat. Most oats are either grown on contract for specialist food manufacture or animal feed. We have not grown them for a number of years owing to their yield variation, lack of standing power (lodging) which makes harvest difficult and they are a problem for several years in following crops.

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2000 - 2019