Andrew Jones of Coull has been helping his neighbour Mark French with the Rockside Farm malting barley harvest. Andrew brings his Claas baling machine to follow the combine and wrap the straw into the huge roundels that are a familiar sight in the countryside at harvest time. The bale is held together by a light plastic mesh which is remarkably good as shedding water – meaning that the bales can stay outside for a period without getting sodden in the Islay autumn rain.
The barley crop has multiple uses. While the grain is destined for the distillery to be turned into some of the world’s greatest single malts, such as this new release of Islay Barley, the barley straw will also be put to good use by the farmers. It is ideal for keeping cattle and sheep warm and dry through the winter and during lambing when the ewes are brought inside to escape the worst of Islay’s spring weather.The barley straw can also be used as a dietary supplement for cattle, being fed into the big feed mixers to bulk up the winter diet of silage and draff. Sometimes it is mixed with a little molasses to give it a sweetness that the animals love.
This year however, the barley straw being baled is of such high quality that much of it will be fed as is.
Shortly after Mark and Andrew have finished at Rockside they will be moving to gather in the grain from Andrews’s malting barley fields at Coull and Ballinaby. Watch this space….