February has been a busy month with long stretches of dry warm weather letting us push on with ploughing. We’ve ploughed almost all the ground we can for spring crops with the majority of what is left being in retained winter stubble, therefore meaning it can’t be ploughed until after March 1.

We also made a start ploughing carrot ground last weekend following spraying off cover crops the previous week. Our new fertiliser spinner has been connected to our guidance system, so we can now spread variable rate potash, which we plan to get done in the coming week. Dressed seed barley has now also started to leave farm, with other growers clearly looking to have everything ready in preparation for drilling – a few growers in our area started drilling spring barley last week.

Dad and I spent an afternoon in February looking round wheat crops which have been entered into this year’s Yield Enhancement Network yield competition with other members of our local arable business group. It was very interesting to see where the crops are now compared to the same date last year, with plants looking strong and generally healthy. Across all six of the YEN fields we looked at plant roots which seemed to be an average of 30cm down. Hopefully this will mean crops have good resistance to wet or dry weather, unlike last year when a wet winter caused shallow roots that then couldn’t cope with the drought.

Crops looked generally clean with some Septoria creeping in, which is probably to be expected at this time of year. The next few weeks will be busy getting fertiliser and crop protection products onto the winter crops, getting dung spread and continuing with ploughing.

Wintering cattle should be leaving us within the next three weeks which is always nice to see as it means spring is really here! However, though the weather has been good, we don’t intend to start drilling until around the middle of March, weather permitting.

All our fat lambs have now left farm with the dregs going off store to Dingwall this week past. We took the last 160 inside at the start of February to push them on with ad-lib concentrates, draff and silage. Bringing them inside fattened them rapidly which was our intended aim as we like to get rid of all old season lambs before we start lambing, which will be around March 25, with the ewes coming in a few days before that.

We were also keen to be clear of them before this whole Brexit thing happens – or doesn’t? Our scanning percentage is back a bit this year at 175% due to an increased percentage of singles and reduced number of triplets, with no change on the percentage of twins or empties compared to last year. We assume the change is due to bringing in more home-bred gimmers this year than usual, and having less triplets and the resultant pet lambs, which is certainly not a bad thing!

FACT file

Rachel farms at her family’s 350-hectare Ballicherry Farm, in the Black Isle, with her parents, Brian and Caroline Matheson. It is mainly arable, growing spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape, though they also have 150 Texel cross ewes, and overwinter 100 head of cattle.