We have been using a bit of electric fencing to better manage our ewes’ condition between weaning and tupping. In the past, we have been guilty of putting ewes onto a block of rough grazing at the back of the farm and forgetting about their management.

We have seen the benefits of condition scoring ewes post weaning and giving the poorer ewes a boost but fitter ewes have still gone to the rough block, starting with a luxury feed and tailing off towards tupping. By spending a few hours splitting it up with three-strand electric, we’ve been able to ration this saved feed in 7 to 12 day blocks depending on where fences ended up.

They are on their last shift on the first rotation and are ready to go onto some reasonable regrowth in the first paddock shortly. I’m pleased with the condition of the ewes and the fencing and moving sheep has been easy. I am quite encouraged by the success of a very un-scientific start to paddock grazing – so there’s maybe hope for me at this yet!

Lambs have eaten through aftermaths quite quickly and I think more wet weather has meant they haven’t utilised this feed very well. Perhaps we should have had them onto forage crops sooner, but crops have bulked up a lot recently and we will have all the lighter lambs onto rape by the time you read this.

We achieved a first for Incheoch last month – we ran every cow that went to the bull through the crate for pregnancy scanning in one morning – 240 went to the bull with 217 in-calf (90%). Only five twins detected doesn’t give us much scope for hitting the target of 88% calves reared, but we thought it was a pretty good scan for a nine-week bulling period for cows and six weeks for heifers.

Pure Luing yearling heifers and pure Simmental cows were joint top spot scanning at 94%, with yearling Simmental heifers lagging at only 75%. Although the Simmental heifers were heavier than the Luing heifers going to the bull, they were probably less mature, because they are aiming to be a bigger mature frame. There’s been a bit of discussion about what we do with the good looking, pedigree heifers that didn’t take the bull – do we give them a chance to calve at 21/2, or do we turn the disappointment into an opportunity to get some really good selection for what is the most fundamentally important suckler-cow trait – fertility? Weaning plenty promising heifer calves has helped us do the right thing.

I think all of us at Incheoch have missed being involved in the Stirling Bull Sales, having auctioned bulls at home for the last two years. The general trade last week wasn’t very inspiring however, with a lot of bulls bid to less than cost of production.

It may be a barometer of the level of confidence in the sector, but these autumn sales are also a great opportunity. There were top quality bulls to be picked up at under 4000gns, the equivalent of which could easily be £2000 dearer in the spring – that’s a big saving to go towards a few months wintering and gives plenty time for health tests, to transition from show-ring fit to work-fit and maybe a fertility test over some cull cows.

We bought a Simmental bull – polled, a very complete set of ebvs (calving, milk, carcase and growth all in the region of what we’re looking for), out of a cow with nine calvings under her belt and classified with a good udder, and of a type and size we think will suit us (not too tall, but long, deep and plenty constitution) – all for under average price. We weren’t really needing a bull, but it looked like an opportunity to upgrade one of the older bulls.

Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) DNA sampling tags have arrived – same timing as last year – just after all the calves have been through the crush. A mid-winter weighing has been a useful monitor however and fitted in with a fluke treatment, so we will hold off tagging until then.

I don’t think the data we have gathered through BES has made us any more efficient, and I’m not holding my breath to see what the genomics side of the project comes up with, but we have used the payments to good effect. The first payment more than covered a new set of calving pens – a tighter calving period requires calving some cows in another set of sheds.

Previous benchmarking with our vet highlighted greater losses in later calving cows, which we were putting down to less precise management and more distractions at calving time. Management of fewer groups has certainly increased our efficiency.

Dad is putting the finishing touches to the latest BES funded project with the local blacksmith, which should be a time and stress saving modification to the cattle yards. Working cattle in the yards can be a great way to spend a day if the stock are quiet, the set-up good and the people low-stressed.

To follow the reaction to Doug Avery’s latest tour to England and Northern Ireland has been a good reminder of some of his messages about keeping the ‘top paddock’ in good order. We certainly feel the benefit of our recent holiday – some great family time exploring Orkney and Shetland. We fitted in some farm trips and even gate-crashed the Shetland Monitor Farm meeting alongside a lot of history and wind-swept beach walks.