Tillage focus: Harvest kicks off in Co. Kilkenny

Combines began to roll all over the country this week, as the harvest gets into full swing approximately two weeks earlier than usual.

AgriLand caught up with Brian Ireland, who was cutting a crop of winter barley in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny. Conditions were perfect for harvesting, as you can see from the shots taken on Tuesday afternoon (July 3).

Harvesting began on the farm on Monday evening. Grain was being delivered to Brett Brothers in Callan. According to the delivery docket, the quality was good and moisture was low, but it was too early to get an indication of the yield of the crop.

Brian Ireland harvesting winter barley in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny

Brian was happy to be cutting in such dry and warm conditions – dust was flying. However, he did comment that this was a very early start to harvesting. It is two weeks earlier than usual – harvesting would normally begin around July 12-15.

We started cutting yesterday evening at around 5:00pm. We’ve about 20ac cut so far. It’s only there; it’s very early.

However, Brian noted: “I remember back in 2011 the first of the winter barley was cut on July 6.

Brian Ireland harvesting winter barley in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny

“It’s lovely to get the weather, the ground is as hard as iron underneath. Every condition is perfect for cutting,” he added.

The crop was sown early, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the first crops to be cut in Co. Kilkenny.

“This was sown at the time of the ploughing championships – September 21-22. It’s normally sown at that time of the year.

“It’s nearly all six-row winter barley on the farm now. One very good thing about it is that the crows don’t go near it.”

There was plenty of dust from the combine

Harvest conditions

There is no doubt that the heatwave has made harvest conditions easier. However, safety precautions have to be taken in the heat.

“I never saw the dust as bad. There’s serious dust out of the crop. We’ll have to blow the dust from the engine on a more regular basis for safety; it’s a fire hazard.”

The straw is all pre-booked from this crop of winter barley in Co. Kilkenny

Many crops of winter barley across the country suffered from severe lodging. Small patches were down in this field, but it wasn’t affecting cutting efficiency.

“There are patches of it down. It’s sitting up about 7-8in, so we’re getting it all.”

The grain tank – which was carrying 5.5t after a round of the combine – is emptied on the headlands to prevent compaction to the soil and straw damage.

“We always park the trailers on the headland to prevent compaction in the field.”

Dust rising in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny

The Claas Lexion 630 has a 20ft header and was being filled to capacity on each run. The combine was running at its ease.

“It’s plenty big for baling the straw after it. It would be very hard to dry straw from a 30ft header.”


Moisture content of a load of grain sent to Brett Brothers was 14.8% and the crop had a KPH of 65. The bushel was one to be happy with; the crop was a six-row variety – Escarde.

“He’s grown this variety for the past three years. We’re happy with it,” Brian added.

There was a long straw on the crop of Escarde winter barley being cut in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny

Brett’s agronomist, James Irish, was checking on harvest progress and reported: “Grain quality is variable. Moisture content is low; which is good.

It’s too early to get a true indication of crop yields.

James Irish, Brett Brothers, going to inspect the crop of straw left behind the combine

Straw demand

Brian is hoping that the weather stays dry to allow cutting to be completed and straw to be baled in good conditions.

“It would be great if it stayed dry and we could get the straw baled. This crop will be baled on Thursday. It’s fresh enough here and there.”

The Escarde winter barley in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny

The golden straw left behind the combine is in high demand.

“There’s big demand for straw at the moment. There’s phone calls every day for straw.

This straw is all pre-booked. It’s lovely straw; it’s really good quality.

The straw left behind the combine in Danesfort was golden

Away from the combines and balers Brian is busy. The Kilkenny man ploughs in the senior reversible class for his county.

The reversible class started in 1992 and Brian has ploughed in every All-Ireland since then, but he will be busy with the harvest before September comes.

We’ll be cutting winter barley for the rest of the week and then there’s oats. They won’t be far away from being ripe.

“It’s great to get the weather to do it. I’ll start baling on Thursday.”

The dry weather allowed for efficient cutting in Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny on Tuesday