Our big harvest day is the on-farm ‘Working Genes’ sale – an event which has grown to be the focus of our bull and ram production, the most important income in our business calendar and a big social event for all of us here at Incheoch.

There are usually 150 or so people in the tidy farmyard for the afternoon and evening. With a barbeque going, bar and everyone huddled on straw bales among the wooden rafters, there is soon a special atmosphere created. Some visitors are clearly focused on selecting a ram in hushed concentration, some are there to see what it’s all about and maybe uncover a bargain; and some that have no stock, but are there to enjoy the live-drama of the auction and be part of this ancient tradition of shepherds picking tups and bidding for their selection. I suppose that’s all the magic of ‘market day’ – something we’ve enjoyed since the time of Tam O’Shanter and before.

What a difference this wee microscopic virus has made this year, for our 13th sale.

With much help from the team at United Auctions, we read through ever-evolving virus guidelines from Trading Standards and the end result was no buyers on-farm on the day of the sale.

As we had opted to sell on the web-based ‘Yourbid’ platform developed by our friends at Meadowslea Angus in New Zealand, the structure was in place to allow remote bidding. The only obstacles were to get the people in touch with the right bull or ram for their specific needs, and then to encourage them to go on-line to bid.

Between data, photographs and videos we tried to get as much information to people at home as possible. More details by request included pictures and videos by WhatsApp of some more obscure details – like the colour of nose, and close-ups of teeth and toes – I really hope have been sent to the right recipients!

All in all, a couple short of 100 rams sold – 40 of them to people who hadn’t viewed them before-hand. That wasn’t a big surprise as we often have some buyers who place an order. We did not expect to sell a bull to someone who hadn’t seen him in the flesh – however, of the 13 sold, only five had been seen before.

We were set-up on sale day with David Brown and his team ready to field phone-bids and help out with folk having technical problems. Debbie was at a computer making sure all the technical bits were operating. I was placed in front of a camera and spent my time havering about bulls and rams on Facebook-live. Everyone was mesmerised by the numbers changing on the screen and a bell ringing every time a bid came in. It was amazing that a computer could generate an atmosphere. Everyone managed to bid online.

The helmsman system meant that the guy who ran-up the top priced lot managed to go back to his second choice which was first in the catalogue and pick him up for less than half the value. Others have changed mid-sale to a tup that looked better value, then changed back again. The system has many benefits but won’t suit everybody – I don’t think Tam (…O’ the Shanter flock), would like it – however, it got us out of a sticky situation this year.

We have had a lot of people through our sheep shed and bull paddocks this last few weeks. It has afforded us some useful and enjoyable time finding out a bit more about our clients’ farms and themselves.

We have mostly managed a socially distant cup of coffee in the sheep shed where Angus’ chickens have spent much of August hiding from the rain. The cause of much amusement has been Helga the Scots Dumpy hen which hatched out a duck egg that I found abandoned in the close one day. His mother really loves him and tries her best to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he has really enjoyed playing in the puddles – much to Helga’s disgust!

We have had 8 ½ inches of rain in August – making it the wettest month of the year so far (wettest month last year too). Half of that total came within about two hours on the morning of the Glorious 12th. With a whole night of lightning, warm winds and a thundering flood, it seemed like the world might crash to an end! The water just came and went (taking bits of roads and fences with it) and was mostly gone by the end of the day.

Last year was wet – our rainfall totalled 44 inches, 27 of them by the end of August. This dry year has brought 31 inches as August ends – mostly in February and August.

We have lost our young shepherds back to school. They were pretty reluctant to go and say it has changed – but that they have a greater appreciation of seeing friends and a wee bit of focus on catching up with a lot of work!

There has not been much time to get much else done this month – but lambs have been weaned. Finishing lambs are on red clover aftermaths and ewe lambs continue on the young grass rotation that many were on with their mothers. Although we don’t breed ewe hoggs, we are told that by getting them to tupping weights by tupping time, we will set them into a better pattern of fertility for life. Certainly, an analysis of tup:geld gimmers last year highlighted that we should have culled harder at them as bottom draw ewe lambs a year previously.

The calved two-year-old heifers have been looking a bit off-colour and a few started to cough a bit. Further investigation has brought up lungworm as a problem which we haven’t seen before. A long-acting pour-on has helped the cattle no end. Careful management of what goes to that part of the farm over the next few years will hopefully contain and eradicate the problem.

And the actual harvest? The combines are getting further up the hill and I expect there will be some spring barley cut on the farm before you are reading this. The baler-man is getting nervous about the heavier dews and frequent squally showers that are bringing the change in colour to the trees and making the abundant, bright rowan berries stand out. There looks to be a good harvest provided for the wild birds this year.