Field Margins

By Graeme Mather

After such a lovely dry spell, I think everyone is finding it difficult to complete outdoor jobs successfully when we continually have to dodge the heavy downpours and hail showers that have become the norm for June.

We were nevertheless able to fill our first silage pit on June 3, and are now very slowly working to fill the rest. As a result of the large amounts of rain fall and humid temperatures, grass growth has been and remains phenomenal, so large crops of silage are expected which will be great if we can get it into the pits dry, however looking at the long-term weather forecast, that might not be so easy. Fingers crossed this changes soon.

We have also been fighting against the weather to get the shearing done, and avoiding the worst of the downpours, by starting early and working late. We have also had to keep a number of the batches in sheds overnight to ensure they are dry enough for the shearing team the next morning.

In doing so, we have also taken the opportunity to worm the lambs, take a worm sample and weigh the lambs to monitor growth. The heaviest when weighed were the Suffolk crosses which weighed 40.5kg at approximately 74 days old. Within the worm sample there were strongyle and nematodirus present, so another sample will be taken in 10 days to check the worm drench has worked it's magic to kill them.

Our second batch of cattle – two-year-old home-bred heifers – have been calving down well too. Having started five weeks ago, there are just 6% still to calve. They are a mix of Simmental and Aberdeen Angus crosses which were all bulled to Aberdeen Angus bulls.

A few people who have passed recently have commented on how well they look and appear to be milking well. It's always great to get positive feedback and it's even better when they're commenting on your own home-bred cattle!

The cycle never stops as the bulls have been out with the spring calving herd for the past four weeks. Initially they were running with Simmental and Aberdeen Angus bulls in the hope of producing heifers to retain for breeding. However, we removed them earlier this week and replaced them with Charolais to sweep up anything still to come to the bull. The batch of 84 two-year-old heifers selected for replacements will only be given six weeks with the bull again this year in a bid to improve fertility and tighten up calving patterns.

Our entire crop of spring-born cross heifers, not retained for breeding, from 2018 have all been sold, finished – four months earlier than the previous year. They were sold at an average of 390days, some 150 days earlier than the 2017 crop – and with a 4kg heavier carcase weight which is very pleasing.

The only cattle not out at pasture are our Charolais cross and Simmental steers as they would quickly be out with the slaughter house weight limits.

Last year was the first year we put out calve creeps to supplement nutrition and they the calves have definitely prospered on this addition feed with improved visual muscle definition, which has followed right through to slaughter with improved carcase and gradings.

As we are now breeding all our own heifers and calving down at two years of age, we have less cattle on farm at our year end, but more calves on the ground. This can surely only be a good thing for the business...

FACT file

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 sold finished. The family also look to breed as many of their own stock rams and bulls as possible