After such a terrific spring, I envisaged writing this month’s article as far in front, work wise, for the time of year as we ever had been.

Grass growth through April and the first half of May has seldom been stronger. Stock were thriving and we had never had silage shut-off as early. However, whilst great for getting things away to a flying start and getting on with the work, the exceptional spell of weather with higher-than-normal temperatures and very little rainfall was always going to cause its own problems.

A colder, windy but still dry spell saw grass growth crashing and any thoughts of also being able to have winter forage crops sown in record time had to be put on hold. As usual, every mouthful of grass became more important and plans to spray off grass fields for swedes were postponed.

The silver lining here is that we are almost completely back in control of grass covers on the grazing platform which should pay dividends as far as pasture quality goes for the rest of the season.

Thankfully a bit more rainfall recently has seen grass growth recover and things are looking much more comfortable again. Our shallow, stony soils in Galawater really need a wet day every week to keep things motoring along during the summer.

We are ready to cut and bale the first round of paddocks which were ‘dropped’ in the earlier times of plenty and the main crop, which will be ensiled in early/mid-July is starting to bulk up nicely. The first half of our swedes will be sown this week, with the other half hopefully following swiftly on behind.

Sheep are this week onto the earlier reseeds, which followed swedes, for a short sharp graze. This will hopefully promote some significant tillering of the young grass plants, as well as allowing us to the top the troublesome crop of Day-nettles which has appeared as if by magic afterwards!

The last few weeks have seen the first big handlings of the season for ewes and lambs. Lambs are all tailed, tagged, drenched for nematodirus and coccidiosis and sprayed for the prevention of flystrike.

Ewes have been given a clear out drench for any adult fluke and treated for the prevention of flystrike to get us to shearing time.

Given the dry conditions we have encountered this spring, I was surprised to have had to treat the twins and triplets for coccidiosis. The period of lower grass growth coinciding with them starting to graze more will have seen them grazing shorter grass than we would have liked and could well be the reason. It doesn’t take long for it to knock the shine off previously well thriven lambs, but they are back on the bounce now.

Lamb counts are pretty good with lamb mortality for our outdoor lambing commercial ewes having been 8.7%, leaving us with a tailing percentage of 165% from ewes to the ram. Given our late lambing date and low inputs, that’s around where we want to be for the system. We’ve around 40 ewes rearing triplets and just over 30 pet lambs, so the purchased feed should be minimal for the rest of the season.

After a very slow start our cows are calving out quickly, with a huge burst of calves in the second and third week. Cow/calf pairs are looking great with some of the earliest calvers returning to service already, after only five weeks.

As can happen, there has been a disappointment or two through calving, including a calf which was born terribly dehydrated as the result of an infection which it seems to have picked up from its mother before it was born. Unfortunately, despite prompt treatment with fluids and antibiotics, it couldn’t be saved. Definitely one of the stranger things I’ve come across over the years. Fortunately, the cow was neither up nor down, with whatever the infection was being so mild as not to affect her at all.

Deer calving has been progressing at great speed without much interference. It’s always concerning to not see many calves well into June, then suddenly there are pretty big calves running about everywhere. After our first year, we have been careful to not go looking too hard for these calves which their mothers have tucked away out of sight and out of harms way.

Grass covers on the calving paddocks have held up well so the calves should be off to a good start. Yearling deer are looking very well with significant antler growth on the stags already. The out-wintered hind calves were much slower to cast their winter coats but are shining like shillings now.

So, with the bulk of the sheep work behind us for a week or two, the next week will hopefully see us getting some silage done, the remainder of the swedes sown, the stud ewes shorn and hopefully most of the rest of the cows calved.

To say that we are looking forward to the Highland Show is an understatement. The chance to catch up with friends from further afield, many of whom we haven’t seen since the last show in 2019, will be great. The joy shown, and the readiness for a social outing was very evident at the terrific Scotsheep event recently. It took most of the rest of the week for my voice to recover after speaking to so many people from dawn until dusk that day, so please say hello if you see us at the Show.

It will be great to be back at, and to welcome the public back to, what truly is “The Greatest Show on Earth”. It has never been more important to get the message out there that our industry is a cornerstone of our country and economy, and shout from the rooftops about all the great work that is done and food that is produced in our countryside.

See you there ...