News here could be brief: Firstly it’s now no longer dry – it’s wet. Secondly, we have prepared for and run our on-farm ram and bull sale, which has taken up most of our time this last month.

There had been 2½ inches of rain by September 5, making it a close runner on being the wettest month of the year already! I have a friend who has a hydro turbine which has produced more electricity in the first weekend of September than the previous three months combined!

Interestingly for arable farmers with regrets about being in the wrong contracts, he has just heard of a winter supply electricity contract offered at 75p per unit – for comparison, the contract we have on our little wind turbine sells at a mere 3p per unit. Inflation, huh!

We caught up our bulls after nine weeks with the cows and things seem to be fairly quiet since – with a handful of cows that had been spotted repeating causing the only stirs noticed so far. Scanning needs booked to confirm shortly when twins can still be identified.

The big Angus bull that hurt his back in the first cycle looks like he has sired his last calf and we will need to face up to an uncomfortable decision with him shortly.

Cows that were selected not to go back with the bull in spring were weaned early and sent off early August. Calves had a bite at the trough with their mothers for a few weeks, spent a fortnight around weaning inside and have now been turned back out with a trough, getting 2kg of a calf rearer nut in a good field.

That seems to have worked well, and we think we will do that again. Cows were quick to book in and returned a hefty £1350 average – or about 2t of fertiliser! – that bill came in around the same time.

Lambs look to be growing well – they should be pushing on as hard as they will go with plenty high quality feed in front of them. We need to take weights from all lambs to feed data into our genetic evaluation programme and have a day next week muscle and fat depth scanning the potential Lleyn rams for next year. There will be a decent draw of fat lambs at this point by the looks of it.

The (soon-to-be) vet student has packed her stethoscope and a new pair of wellies and is looking forward to fresher’s week. Her favourite ram sold to a flock which has a lambing coinciding with vet-school holidays – so she has booked some work experience to see how his lambs looks.

The biggest day in the farm calendar is our annual on-farm sale, at which we have offered all our rams for 15 years now, joined by bulls five years ago. This year 17 bulls were catalogued along with 109 rams and 20 gimmers.

We had a good go with bulls, selling eight Simmentals and three Luings; an amazing interest for Texels, selling all 53 forward; and a more selective pick of Lleyn rams resulting in 42 finding a new home by the next morning.

The work starts with ram selection, backed up with data gathering for the catalogue (including pedigree, ebvs, lambing history of the mother), catalogue production, photographs to generate some interest, building pens and a ring, baking and a quick wash for all involved (man and beast).

On sale day, we are helping clients select the correct bull or ram for their situation, getting sheep through the ring, running the office, loading stock and fitting some hospitality in too!

It is mostly good fun and I get a real buzz out of seeing it all come together. We do almost the whole show in-house, but rely on a lot of help from friends and neighbours on the day, including the team from Pentland Auctions, who ran the admin.

During Covid, we explored an alternative to the traditional live auction and this was the third year of running the web-based Yourbid sales platform, and the first real go with a good crowd of people on-farm.

I’d heard of a Helmsman style auction developed to sell bulls in Australia in a way that was low stress for buyer and animal alike, giving buyers more time to bid and the opportunity to change lots as bidding goes on. I then saw it working on the back of a cornflake packet on a ranch in Iowa.

But when an Angus breeder I knew in New Zealand made it web-based, allowing bidding from computer or phones either at the sale or at distance, we saw Covid as a chance to trial it out.

The Canadians call it a ‘race-horse style finish’, in that in the auction ring every ‘horse’ has its slot for ‘running it’s race’ and then it’s time for the next one. Whereas in this system all lots are ‘running’ together and as a buyer you can change horses mid-race …and the bookies are open right up to the finishing line.

The results probably show for themselves – no record prices set, but a good level trade. The biggest show of Texel rams forward saw 100% and there were more buyers than rams in the Texel section. We had 548 bids for 53 sheep.

There were more rams than buyers for Lleyns, with 211 bids on 51 forward – but it wasn't a dreary sale. The buyer who ran-up Lot 32 was able to stop and go back to secure an earlier ram, and someone watching from Northern Ireland was able to take advantage of a lower Lleyn trade and take a punt on a ram based on figures and a good look on video.

Rams were run through the ring in pairs and threes for everyone to get a good look before the sale concluded. Bulls spent the whole sale grazing contently in their paddocks, slightly bemused by all the people around.

I miss the drama and excitement of the live auction ring, although as a buyer it can be a bit nerve-wracking waiting for the timer to go down when you have your last bid on!

For us, it means missing the possibility of high prices but getting better clearance rates and allows bidders from a distance to join the sale (we have sold more rams to Shetland recently), and the sale process becomes a bit more sociable – people are chatting together and keeping an eye on screens and phones as the bidding comes to a conclusion.

One on-looker pointed out the average age of the audience had dropped quite a bit, maybe partly because children and grandchildren were brought along to work devices!

We love breeding the kind of stock we keep, and sale day is the chance we have to share that with others. A little bit of support gives a lot of encouragement to keep going.

As the autumn sales season starts, I hope everyone gets the encouragement they need to start the wheel running for another cycle.