As we were gathering cows for pregnancy scanning last week, I got a phonecall to say that I had been selected for… (I was hoping for something along the lines of ‘..a complimentary night away at a struggling hotel chain..’ or at the very least ‘taking part in an exciting survey of anthelmintic usage in the sheep flock’ (I really have had that phone survey)!

However, the cheery voice continued with ‘…a Department sheep inspection’.

A Covid-safe sheep inspection involves a lot of e-mailed records, viewing 60 sheep and checking tags and a bit of discussion and head scratching in the sheep yards.

Not being allowed to sit around the kitchen table has been problematic, with papers fluttering in the wind. I doubt that IKEA understand just why farmhouse kitchen tables need to be so big!

We had a discussion with the flock after the first day to decide who was going to pretend to be dead for a couple of days – but the girls decided that honesty was the best policy and we’ve tried to make the numbers balance.

This infuriating numerical conundrum of trying to balance ScotEID records with pink movement slips, Debbie’s individual sheep records and my rolling flock total is like some tortuous kind of ‘Sheep Sudoku’. I think this is a game we should try to play more regularly in the future.

With the help from a very helpful chap from the Department, it looks like it’s going to end up OK and we will accept a slap on the wrist for a missing tag and some cracked ones.

The first seven of the finishing Luing steers are ready to go at 18 months off grass after weighing in – a month ago – at 550-600kg. The group of 28 had put on an average of 100kg per head which was 0.8kg/day since May at grass.

The remainder of the group is now inside and most could go soon. I would like to think that by making a better job of grazing them in the future, we could push that up to 1kg/day and maybe get more away without housing.

Debbie has her eye on quite a few of this lot for her beef customers – picking out the tasty looking ones. Her hens are struggling to keep up with egg sales – more pullets have been on order but keep getting delayed, it seems everybody wanted them this summer.

Egg boxes are also hard to source because the paper mills have been shut down. Holiday houses went through a spell of huge interest, followed by rapid cancellations due to changes in the rules restricting more than one household coming together.

However, both cottages are now fully booked again until the end of January which is unusually good.

The children are off on their ‘Tattie Holidays’ – it didn’t take them long to harvest our wee crop and are back to sheep work.

PotatoHouse, brainchild of Andrew Skea, of Skea Organics, supplied seed potatoes during lockdown to 200 local kids. Harvest is now complete – well done to Masie from next door who produced the biggest crop and wins a prize donated by Alyth Chip Shop.

Our two were quite excited to see their crop come through all stages from planting to plate, particularly all the peculiarities of some of the heritage varieties and different coloured spuds.

The experience has highlighted another area of neglect in our parenting – we haven’t grown tatties in the garden before. The connection between farming and food is so important and this has been a great idea.

We had three different contractors in using ultrasound scanning equipment last week. Archie pregnancy scanned all bar one group of cows – results look reasonably good at 92% in calf and the potential for nearly a full house if we start counting twins, which is probably unwise.

It was disappointing to get four empties in the calved heifers – the lot which picked up a lungworm infection.

Cows that didn’t go to the bull have been weaned early and sold, returning a good trade averaging just over £800 with a range from £600 to £1200 (neither of which I was particularly proud of).

The second visitor was May, who scanned 270 Lleyn lambs for muscle and fat depth one afternoon. This gives us a good look at the state of their chops when there is still some breeding potential.

There is a ram which is tending to leave more fat than looks good on a chop, but we remember that the Lleyn are mainly here for their mothering qualities and a little extra cover in winter may be useful.

Lastly, Ed the vet was in checking some rams in the lead up to tupping time. He used his scanner to confirm a swelling on a testicle was the end of the line for one ram and also checked the ram we purchased this year didn’t have any signs of OPA lesions on his lungs. The scan is no guarantee, but it’s the best insurance we can get.

Back to the sheep sudoku – and trying to remind myself that this is what counts for a fun night-in for the over 45s?