BYGONE DAYS: A ‘difficult harvest’ is now being brought in by farmers

Tremendous progress was being made during this week in 1963 by the combine harvesters in the fields of battered grain throughout Northern Ireland, reported Farming Life in the newspaper’s lead story.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 11:00 am
Harold Dickey Shaun Irvine and Graham Loughery during the Cargan sheep sale at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives
Harold Dickey Shaun Irvine and Graham Loughery during the Cargan sheep sale at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives

The strong sunshine made it an ideal harvest week and the dry grain speeded up the combines and enabled balers to get to work.

Long after darkness on most of the recent nights harvesters were seen still working away in the blazing headlights of tractors.

The good weather had put “new heart” into the farmers who only a few days previously were depressed by the dismal outlook. Then came the sunshine and transformed the situation.

James Mills and his son Jason Having a chat during the Cargan sheep sale at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives

BALERS BUSY

Farming Life’s editor William Warren wrote: “By last night thousands of acres of barley and oats had been safely harvested and the balers have been able to keep up well with the combines.”

Mr Sam Campbell of the Ministry of Agriculture told Farming Life that he reckoned that about 25 per cent of the grain – 75,000 acres had been harvested.

“Tremendous progress has been made during the past few days,” Mr Campbell said. “It is a very difficult harvest and output in general is slow. There has been steady going, however, and this has enabled farmers to get through a lot of grain.”

Another lot enters the pen during the Cargan sheep sale at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives

TANGLED GRAIN

“The grain is so dry that the machines have been working extremely well with a few breakdowns which are caused to a certain extent by wet material.”

Mr Campbell told Farming Life that he never remembered “so much grain really battered into the ground”.

He said: “Fifty per cent of the grains is very difficult to handle – really badly tangled and flat.”

Another lot enters the pen during the Cargan sheep sale at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives

YIELDS DOWN

Yields, generally showed a big drop compared to 1962 – “on average about five cwt to the acre down. Yields of 20 cwt to 28 cwt to the acre” were not uncommon.

William Warren wrote: “Some of the grain is so flattened that the machines are not getting it at all.

“I heard one farmer who estimates that the yield of his 200 acres of barley is down by about half.

Martin and Ryan McAuley, first and third, with John Christie, Glen Farm Supplies, Harold Dickey and Ian Gibson during the Cargan sheep sale which was held at the end of August 2009. Pictures: Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography/Multimedia/Farming Life archives

“But some farmers claim that they are getting as high yields as last year.”

ANOTHER WEEK . . .?

“It is surprising what will be done in another week if the weather keeps good,” said Mr Campbell.

“By then the back of the harvest could be broken so far as the average man is concerned.

“The fields can be cleared rapidly of both stooks and baled straw.

“It will take a few weeks, however, before most of the big growers will have their harvest safely gathered in.”

William Warren concluded his report by saying: “Never has there been such an array of combine harvesters and driers in Northern Ireland but their success depends on the weather!”

NEW LIVESTOCK MART

The old railway station in Dromore, Co Down, was being turned into a livestock mart which was expected to open early in October 1963, reported Farming Life this week.

The venture had been initiated by the Dromore Chamber of Trade a few years previously in an effort to increase the trade of the town.

Mr Robert Kirk, secretary of the chamber, said that it was the “greatest boost” the town had had in years. He said he hoped that Dromore would “regain it status as one of the foremost market towns in the Province”.