What a difference a year makes. We are currently enjoying long days of light and sunshine. This is a huge contrast to last year, when we were recovering from the beast from the east and hoping that we would see an improvement in the weather.

Calving is currently progressing well, and at a quick but staggered pace. We have had 88% of the heifers calve within three weeks, all unaided and healthy, so we can only hope this continues. Cows and heifers have been calving quickly from the start and the calves have been quick to get to their feet and suckle. We have had one set of triplets and a set of twins which is undoubtedly a bonus. When selecting and buying a bull, easy calving figures are always one of the characteristics at the forefront of my mind. This is regardless of breed whether it be Aberdeen Angus or Charolais bulls either bought or homebred.

In the past, figures were thought to be less important and simply the look and breeding of the bull helped you make your decision. However, over the years we have had a variety of bulls with varying calving figures, and have had to deal with the repercussions of this in the form of c-sections and intervening at calving. I feel that by paying attention to figures, along with many other positive traits, we are definitely seeing the benefits.

The first of the 2018 crop of steers and heifers headed away to slaughter at 12 months of age. Heifers graded R to U at 345kg, with the steers grading the same and a little heavier at 380kg. Daily liveweight gain of the Charolais cross heifers from birth to slaughter was 1.61kg per day with the steers gaining 1.82kg.

We have also successfully taken six to seven months off the age of finishing of the spring-born heifers, while also achieving the same finishing weights and quality. This has all been down to very careful and controlled nutritional programme.

Lambing is well under way, with the first batch of 505 ewes lambed by the end of March. They lambed particularly quickly with all heading outside at a week old. A huge positive is that there is grass and sunshine to put the ewes out to this year. They are given turnips and a little cake in the morning to supplement the grass.

In-lamb ewes have grazed off the last of the fodder beet and have now gone onto turnips. It is amazing how much green leaf is on the fodder beet compared to the turnips – the ewes have wasted none of it and seem to be thriving on it. We have only had one prolapse so far too – I have rarely seen so few. The silage that was made in the summer was of fantastic quality and I firmly believe that this has had a lot to do with it. Good quality forage for stock has a great impact on their health and fitness.


GRAEME Mather farms on a large family-run upland beef and sheep unit at Shandford, Brechin, where the best of the female stock is retained for breeding while the remainder is finished. The family also look to breed as many of their own stock rams and bulls as possible.