We all should be at the Highland Show instead of reading this!

We usually have Lleyn sheep at the show, although seldom get enough preparation done beforehand. A lot of other jobs are up to speed however, and the weed-wiper and bike sprayer have both had quite a bit of use.

With short grass and dry days there has been plenty chances. Recent experience suggests the weed-wiper is effective on rushes that have been topped over the last couple of years and there are plenty of sick looking docks and nettles.

A few patches of rushes have been avoided in one field, as they have become home to a first in our memory on Incheoch – a successful fledge of Lapwing chicks. We have enjoyed watching seven chicks embark on early flying lessons when checking the ewes with singles in an old permanent pasture. A bird-friendly neighbour helped us walk out a curlew with four young from a silage field before the mower went in. It was thanks to his sharp eyes that it was spotted and he was delighted that we might try to change our plans to help the curlew.

It was a proper environmental collaboration success story – it is a shame there is an assumption amongst some environmentalists that farmers are not interested. Organisations like RSPB could achieve so much more by building bridges with farmers. The uncomfortable truth however, is that although the breeding success this year may be down to the environmental schemes we have been working on for the last 15 years, it’s just as likely to be the work on legal predator control and the fact that next door’s ‘keeper has spent most of lockdown trapping hoodie crows.

Lambs have done well in the dry and heat. Although grass has looked a bit short, ewes are content. Most lambs were born in the last week of April and into May, but two batches started in the last week of March.

Some older Lleyn ewes with Texel lambs were looking well when we floated the idea of selling them with lambs at foot to free up another field for silage. The auctioneer was quick to make this happen straight off the farm. I hope that the optimists that bought them are well rewarded.

The other batch of earlies were the pure Texels. With rain after heat giving a high risk forecast for nematodirus, we gave them a second drench last week. Although we have some resistance to white drench, the advice is that it is still an effective product for this worm.

I thought lambs had maybe lost a bit of bounce, but when they went through the weigh box, it confirmed the group of 165 have averaged 403grams per day over the last three weeks. The heaviest few were over 42kg, and the batch averaged 30kg. These weights have been submitted as data for the production of eight week weight ebvs.

Hoggs have shorn well. Lleyns ewe hoggs are fit coming off the shears despite being treated as third class citizens for the past spell. I think it is easier to keep condition on the more compact frame we are trying to breed them with.

Tup hoggs are looking more the part without their wool. This transition to shearlings I suppose you would say, gives another good opportunity to cull a few – seeing how they have matured and a good scrutiny of legs, testicles and general health keeps honing down the offering for sale.

We are trying to make plans for our on-farm ram and bull sale. As it stands, we are going ahead with the September 3 date, and trying to make a number of plans for different scenarios of Covid19 guidelines – fully expecting to use a combination of prior viewing, videos and perhaps something on-line.

When you get down to the basics – the sale is about getting the right ram for the right client and allowing everyone to have first pick. The auction system is a great way of sorting that out and has always been a mixture of tradition and innovation. We will maybe have to use a bit more innovation than we bargained for this year.

We have been paying close attention to online sales and videos of stock to see how they have been operating. There was a tremendously successful sale of Luings through Dingwall Marts when a total clearance of heifers went all over the country to as far afield as Devon.

The spread of buyers was only matched by the spread of quality of videos with some cattle shown in their natural habitat of mud and heather and some looked like they were in the garden.

The soundtracks varied too – from a howling gale to the skirl of the pipes! Best video award has to be for Graeme MacRae’s Kintail heifers – but I think the credit all goes to young Issy. I hope she claimed a share of what I think was a record price.

Our bulls are out and working away. We are really pleased with our yearling Luing bulls this time, and have given three of them a selection of cows for a turn before their father will follow up. They are all out of cows whose influence we want to extend in the herd – which is what a maternal bull is all about!

A selection of Simmental cows is getting one turn of AI before going to a bull, and tomorrow we are implanting seven embryos from a flush we bought in Canada. Writing this down, it has just occurred to me that I find it impossible to put into words just how many hopes and dreams are carried in these few sentences. I suppose all livestock breeders will understand the kick we get out of thinking that ‘this time – we may just have cracked it!’

In the first two weeks of June we have had 26ml of rain mostly in gentle, useful amounts, interspersed with drouthy days. We have debated what to do about cutting for silage, but I think fields have bulked up with rain despite some having shot. We have two fields baled and wrapped, averaging a pretty poor six bales to the acre, but that is a couple of weeks earlier than normal and it’s certainly dry stuff.

Kale and swede crops have been glad to see the moisture, and as of yesterday I can confirm that the kale that germinated first looks like it will now out-compete the weeds – and those seeds that waited for more moisture are now starting the race.

What are we doing on Highland Show weekend? We are ahead with work, well up to speed on family time, but are missing catching up with friends. There is an online version of the Lleyn after-show party that we hope to join – can’t remember who has the cup, but I hope they have it filled again – and it’s all about the craic anyway … as Farmer Jim says on the RSABI video: “It’s good to talk.”