April has been such a cold month for us here on the Black Isle and plans of outdoor lambing were quickly abandoned when it turned wintery at the start of the month, with heavy rain followed by snow.

Thankfully, we had plenty of shed space to keep ewes and lambs indoors and the oldest ones didn’t go outside until they were nearly a fortnight old.

We feed our ewes on ad-lib haylage/silage and Harbro premium ewe rolls prior to lambing and usually stop the feed as soon as they go out to grass. However, with the weather being so cold, there has been little grass growth and we have had to buy in extra.

We were also looking forward to introducing rotational grazing post lambing, having re-seeded a field that is usually cropped and splitting it into paddocks using electric wire. To make up the arable shortfall, we ploughed up a couple of older fields to grow oats.

Grass growth does appear to be a critical component of rotational grazing though and with the colder weather we have been struggling to keep the ewes on a smaller area than before.

The sheep are missing their usual scope from our previous low stocking density system, but we are confident rotational grazing will come into its own once it warms up and grass growth takes off.

Due to the cold, stressful weather we’ve also had a few ewes go down with staggers, which we never usually have an issue with. They have access to high magnesium buckets but some of the leaner ewes are definitely struggling to keep up with the lambs now they’ve hit peak lactation and the weather is still cold.

Unfortunately, mam’s steroid knee injection only lasted about a week after being phoned as ‘on-call sheep obstetrician’ to help me with a few difficult lambings – apparently kneeling on shed floors isn’t good for arthritic knees!

Her steroid injection did give her a boost of energy though, allowing her to be full-time nanny to a non-stop 10-month-old, cook, cleaner, tractor parts collectors and still do the middle of the night sheep check and deal with any subsequent issues for us, what a hero!

On the arable front, the drilling has been a bit of a struggle as well due to the weather. We got about 100 acres completed at the end of March before it turned wet and wintery again, and then drilled nothing for 12 days after.

The geese were absolutely relentless on these earlier drilled barley crops and the winter wheat. For a few days Dad was near enough full time goose patrol (though I shouldn’t really complain as at least his goose chasing kept him away from interfering with the sheep when it was too wet for ground work).

Fortunately things have dried up over the past fortnight and we finished drilling our spring cereal crops last weekend, including 25 spring barley plots, grown for Scotgrain Agriculture. Drilling them wasn’t too bad, but combining each individual plot will probably be quite time consuming, but it will be really interesting to see how all the different varieties compare to each other.

The wheat has had its first spray, and liquid fertiliser has been applied to winter and spring crops so we feel like we are up to date now after a month of playing catch up.

Hopefully this week we will get the rest of the fertiliser spread on this year’s carrot ground and get the 100 acres of cover crops drilled for the Agri-environment scheme. Carrot harvesting started about a fortnight ago, though at the moment it’s just a couple of loads a day which is done in the mornings.

We are looking forward to my brother, Andrew, his wife, Lizzie and my wee nephew, Donald coming up to visit from Edinburgh this weekend as we haven’t seen them for seven months – hopefully the sheep will behave and we can get away from the farm for an afternoon.