We gathered up ram lambs out of tupping groups a few days over their 17-day first cycle. These ewes joined up with some of the older stock rams, that were raddled to mark changeover and hopefully highlight any lates. With lambing so late outside, we don’t raddle rams the first cycle – just really looking for clarification on sires at the change-over and a check that everybody has been working.

With so much mud around during tupping it has been easy to see that the rams have been jumping anyway. There are very few coloured bums around so far, which is a relief.

We condition scored and split ewes a while after weaning and grazed accordingly. I didn’t condition score again at tupping, but they handled quite evenly and not over-the-top by any means – however they were in great form.

Trying to gently take them through the yards to gather up rams this time, they are in top form – jumping for fun as we gathered them. We don’t use dogs, just a quad and I don’t like to see sheep stressed at any time, especially at this time.

I am sure I heard at a QMS workshop about the '60 golden days’ covering 30 days before and after tupping when it was important to keep the ewe happy – and I take this as nutritionally settled and stress-free.

That should take us into the New Year when the older rams will come out and ewes will get onto Swedes on the break.

I like to get a few photographs of the tups out with ewes – but there hasn’t been a single day with any sort of brightness and it’s mostly been raining. The grass in front of them has more than compensated for the miserable weather.

I’m not taking any credit for the good level of nutrition, I think that global warming has much more to do with it than any management.

The flip side is that there have been no hard days to get muck out of cattle courts. We would normally try to have some courts given a clean out before Christmas but fields are not fit to travel on to the midden.

We have cows held fairly tightly on slats and calves on straw courts as thinly stocked as possible and they have on the whole been healthy through some very muggy days.

Another job for the New Year will be to give calves a fluke drench and we will clip their backs for a second time. We did this last year and felt they benefited from it and it wasn’t a big job.

Fit, mixed-age Luing cows are outside on deferred grazing and a ration of silage. I think if I was a cow, I’d rather be in that group. They are very content.

The rainfall count for the year so far (with a dryish end forecast), is 52 inches, which compares to the five-year rolling average of 42 inches. That includes a long, dry spring and every bale of straw that springs out of it’s net-wrap reminds me of a good spell at harvest.

There have been some epic rainfall events however, and someone nearby told me yesterday that there hadn’t been two days without rainfall together since the start of October.

This is showing around the hen houses. It was becoming a bit of a long plodge to gather eggs in the morning and shut hens in at night. With bird flu regulations now in place, however, we have had to change things around to keep everyone shut indoors.

Some pullets have moved to an old stable and laying hens split between two hen houses to give more room. Angus’ Scots Dumpys are harder to contain as they are used to a very free range and are adept at finding any escape route.

We are all very aware of the need to keep the prevalence of a virus down and we don’t want our few chooks to be harbouring any of this disease that can seemingly ‘drop from the sky’.

The Dumpys are a rare breed and worthy of all attempts to keep them healthy despite their Braveheart-like ‘Highland Charge’ at the gate and cries for ‘Freedom’, when they get fed.

Angus had a bit of success with a young hen at a recent virtual poultry show. It is great to see the enthusiasm that this sort of a boost can give.

We were fortunate to host a Young Farmers stockjudging one evening in December and it was great to see some keen eyed young stocksmen. Even the hen class was high-scoring – as everyone noticed that ‘Y’ was, in fact, a duck and not only the wrong species, but the wrong sex!

One of the classes had a Lleyn ewe that was shorter, more open-coated, duller of the head and showing a bit slack of her back and I think everyone picked her as being the obvious last.

Stockjudging and showing is a great way of developing the eye and the language of seeing and talking about stock and it a very important part of learning to become a stockman.

In some of the countries that I have travelled in, the lack of that sort of training was evident in the way even stud breeders looked at, or could talk about animals.

Of course, what the stockjudgers didn’t get to know in that class, was that the last placed ewe has never been assisted over six-crops, five twins and a single, and brought them all home to weaning except one lost in a snow storm, and fully deserves her place in the stud flock.

The eye is an important way of judging the merit of an animal, but there are other ways of adding to the picture. I am reminded of the Albert Einstein quote ‘... if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing it is stupid.’

We have missed going to shows and sales this year. I have, in the past, criticised the fads of the showring that can contaminate the functional practicalities of good commercial genetics.

We do show stock and encourage our kids to get involved too. I just feel strongly that I will not let the desire to win a ticket distract me from our breeding goals.

I did hear something on social media lately that made me look at showing under a new light. Some fella with a big moustache and a cowboy hat spoke about ‘we’ve been going to shows for centuries under the guise of gathering stock together to compare them, when in fact what we’ve really being doing was gathering stockmen and women together, and comparing ideas about what a good animal was’.

That is what I’ve really missed about showing this year.

In some industries, the acronym CPD trips of the tongue (that’s Continuous Professional Development – or ‘training’ to you and me). I filled a form in the other day which asked for my highest level of educational attainment.

I am lucky to have a wide variety of things I could have put in this box, from a moderate pass at cycling proficiency to Nuffield Scholar. But I genuinely think the right answer should have been: ‘PhD in standing around show and sale rings listening to respected stockmen’s opinions about cattle and sheep’.

Can’t wait for some more CPD next year.