By Debbie McGowan

We brought in the New Year at Kilry Hall, having a lot of fun and raising more than £1000 for the Alyth Scout group’s trip to Sweden. New Years’ Day was an early start with hens fed, village hall cleaned up, and sleeves rolled up to muck out the holiday house on a same day change-over, before the early arrival of guests from Edinburgh (who quite obviously hadn’t been up until 3am enjoying the entertainment and banter of Stuart Anderson)!

This family was vegetarian and dabbling with veganism. However, their research the ingredients of vegan products, the food miles associated, and additional supplements required for a ‘healthy’ diet had them questioning the whole idea. They were really interested to learn what was happening on the farm, how the animals were reared and how and where they were processed.

We can say we have cared for the flock for generations of the same family lines, they spend their whole lives on our farm, lambs only eat what we grow for them here, and when they are ready to market, we take them ourselves to a local abattoir then our trusted butcher cuts and packs the meat.

By the end of their short visit they had eaten about half a lamb, taken another half lamb home, and have since bought another whole one. I think they’re making up for lost time!

This is the second time this has happened recently. It is so important to spread the word about what we are doing – what we do at Incheoch with our boxed lamb is not much different to any Scotch Lamb story. All of us as producers have a role to play in helping QMS tell this fantastic story of the Scotch label.

The main mob of 700 ewes are running in a field of swedes with a big stubble lie-back. Tups came out after two cycles and they pretty much went straight onto the swedes – we thought that a good bit of growth on the stubble would allow them a reasonable transition in diet onto neeps.

Over the last few years since feeding swedes, we’ve gone from moving the fence every third day, to every second day and now down to every day. I think ewes got too fat too early last year and with a daily shift we can restrict them much better.

Feed allocation budgeting has been carried out in the normal way and accuracy tested by two different methods: Neil counted the rows and divided by the number of days which gives a pretty good starting point of somewhere between two and three rows a day until a month pre-lambing. The ewes themselves have more-or-less confirmed that two rows aren’t really enough but are happy at three.

Finally, Ed the vet has worked out that a 70kg ewe requires approximately 8MJ of ME a day up until the end of the third month of pregnancy, which works out somewhere around 5kg fresh weight of typical analysis swedes. This translates to about three good sized neeps (breakfast, lunch and tea), which happily corresponds with about three rows a day for that mob.

With the after effects of last weekend’s Burns Supper still in mind, I’m glad my three square meals don’t all consist of turnip!

Calves have all been through the crush last week getting their fluke drench. We have taken this opportunity to take Beef Efficiency Scheme tissue tags from the 43 selected out of 199 calves. Weights were recorded for a number of reasons – including BES data gathering; Breedplan records for pedigree Simmental and Angus calves (which go off to the respective breed societies); Signet on all other calves – giving the building blocks for EBVs on the Luing herd; and for our own management information.

Despite the wet conditions in summer and autumn, calf weaning weights in late October were remarkably similar to last year, with adjusted 200-day weight for all calves 282kg (2kg more than last year), and actual weights in the same region (no creep). The January weights have shown quite a drop in gain from weaning compared to last year – 0.9kg/day for the whole calf crop, compared to 1.13kg last year. That’s 20-30kg in real terms and puts weights back in line with previous years.

There is a big difference in quality of silage between the two years – particularly in terms of dry-matter.

When they were going through the crush anyway, we took the chance to clip backs again. Basil promises us that the lack of heat stress will stimulate appetite and increase growth rates. It’s not a big job with the electric handpiece with a battery that you strap to your belt. The calves look in good form with hair off, so we aren’t concerned about performance as long as they catch up a bit now the days are lengthening.

As for my Christmas present – a shiny new Combi-clamp was delivered, complete with EID reader, weigh cells and tinsel. This sounds a lot like something Neil’s been hinting at for himself for a very long time, although I have been allowed a shot recently. I got a bit sea-sick at first, and the person who designed it was obviously taller than 4’10”, but I’m getting the hang of it. It helps if there’s someone else keeping the race of sheep running – so it does mean the person on the clamp is reliant on maintaining good relations with any help in the yards. Harmony in the sheep yards – now that is a good Christmas gift!