As the new year begins and day light hours start to stretch, crisp fresh days are welcomed in comparison to the extremely wet few months we had before Christmas.

A long stretch of hard frost has firmed up the ground, making field conditions far more favourable for livestock and ourselves to work in.

Sheep have been tidying up what grass we have left, running over stubble fields with under sown ryegrass.

One of the first and most important jobs in January, is sheep scanning. All the sheep are gathered up and brought back to where they can be easily accessed for pushing through the handling pens for the scanner.

Archie our scanner provides an excellent service, scanning approximately 410 sheep an hour, which certainly keeps us busy! This year the sheep were dry, the sun was out and not a drop of snow was found under foot – a welcome change from the years we have tackled through sleet and snow.

Scanning went smoothly with the ewes scanning out at 182% – 2% ahead of last year with an overall empty rate of just 3.4%. Any increase (however small) is pleasing.

Some 64% of the ewes are scanned twins which is ideal with the rest either carrying singles or triplets which will enable us to spread the lambs relatively evenly, minimising the number of pet lambs we should have, in theory!

No matter how well you care for pet lambs they never seem to thrive or have the strength of those raised by their mothers. Ewes are split into groups according to when they are due to lamb, allowing us to concentrate on those most at need of support.

Yellow keel marked lamb first followed by red and lastly black which makes them easy to identify in the batches.

Ewe hoggs always lamb after the ewes and this year they scanned a 6% increase in empties, which is a little disappointing but not entirely surprising. Hoggs never seem to tup as well in wet stormy weather which unfortunately we saw a lot of at the end of last year.

Fluke samples were collected from all batches of ewes pre-scanning and have come back with the presence of eggs. Therefore all empty ewes will go to Forfar Market while all the in-lamb ewes will be dosed for fluke.

Nutrition is key in the last few weeks before lambing and our ewes strip graze turnips and have access to high quality silage. We also feed a Harbro premium ewe nut via a snacker which will keep them fit and healthy for lambing in March.

Inside, our spring-born calves are on a TMR of turnips, silage and straw supplemented with Harbro minerals.

We’re also gearing up for calving and having bought a pure Aberdeen-Angus heifer last month, it has been a nerve wracking time when she was due in January. I had read a considerable amount about Moocall system and was intrigued and impressed by the results it seemed to show. I had also witnessed it in action and felt it was more than just another gadget so we invested in one.

Approximately a week before the heifer’s due date, we attached it to the upper area of her tail. She bagged up, showing all of the signs that she was near to calving and then at 5am one morning my phone delivered a message which quite fittingly was the sound of a mooing cow. I went down to check on her and by 7.45am she had calved a very healthy, good-sized bull calf.

The calf was up suckling by 8.15am and is now thriving. We are delighted with this new piece of technology, which can aid the safe delivery of calves, importantly it also prevented me from checking her throughout the night for nights on end! It is certainly something I would happily recommend to anyone else in the future.