By MICHAEL POLLITT
, Agricultural editor
Friday, August 17, 2012
Straw quality has been the best for years across East Anglia as farmers and contractors have been baling near-record quantities.
“We’ve baled some really lovely yellow barley straw, its absolutely beautiful.” said contractor Oliver Arnold, of the Spring Farm partnership at Felthorpe, near Norwich.
His team will handle about 16,000 bales of barley, oilseed rape and wheat straw by the end of the harvest – for livestock producers and also for fuelling power stations. And his team will produce a total of about 4,500 tonnes, in 500kg bales, of barley straw.
“The barley straw has been in pretty good order and probably the best for a lot of years,” said Mr Arnold, who runs two balers and was currently picking up after four combines.
The wettest summer for years had produced taller and “greener” cereal straw. And because it was greener, it came through rotary combines without too much damage. Mr Arnold said often very dry straw was almost turned to chaff. “When straw is really fit, the rotary combines just chew everything and we tend to end with chaff out of the back,” he added.
As combines moved to ever larger headers – now up to 12m or 40ft – this has caused a few headaches because of the volume of straw in a single swath. When baling straw behind a combine with a 30ft header or smaller, the air could dry out the straw. “Then we were able to deal with it but the 40ft swath was a nightmare,” he added. “Maybe combine manufacturers should consider splitting the straw into two, especially if the combines were running twin rotors. And if more straw is going to be baled in future, maybe they should give that some thought.
Mr Arnold said that a fair tonnage of oilseed rape has also been baled but the switch to shorter varieties had reduced the volume.
While some straw, mainly wheat, was destined for protecting over-wintered vegetable crops including carrots, most was actually needed by livestock producers.
However, Mr Arnold has decided to get out of livestock and end his beef finishing operation and concentrate more intensively on his contracting activities with his 20-strong full-time team with foraging, muck spreading and harvesting beet.
On the Norfolk and Suffolk border, Mike Gooderham, of Thornham Magna, south of Diss, has also been pleased by the straw quality coking though his New Holland TF70, with a 30ft header.
“We’ve got excellent straw and our local merchant, Eric Chapman, of Stradbroke, was pleased,” he added.
Tucked away on Pottergate is one of Norwich’s best kept secrets, but it might not stay that way for long.