The clocks have changed, making it easier to get up in the morning, for a while anyway, but I must say I despise the dark nights and I am already looking forward to March 26, 2023 when the clocks go forward!

Hopefully this will be just a few days before we start lambing all going to plan, with tups due to go out on Bonfire night, so fingers crossed lambing starts on April 1. I have moved my tupping date from October 25 to November 5, having found the last few years that the end of March/start of April have been wet and cold with poor grass growth, leading to apprehension around turning out ewes and lambs from indoor nursery pens.

Hopefully 2023 is a kind, warm spring for everyone’s sake! I gave all breeding sheep a selenium, iodine, cobalt and zinc bolus for the first time this year four weeks before tupping, at a cost of £1/head, rather than putting out pre-tupping mineral buckets as we found these to be a pretty scatter gun approach with some ewes eating them in excess while others didn’t touch them.

I was a bit apprehensive about bolusing as it’s not something I’ve done before, but after watching a video on youtube five or six times and taking my time doing it I managed without killing anything. Ewes on poorer grass have a high energy boiled-type bucket out now for tupping. It will be very interesting to see if bolusing improves our conception rates as I want to reduce the number of empty and single bearing ewes, with 3% empty and 21% having just a single lamb last year.

I still have around 230 lambs to fatten which are on fodder rape and stubble turnip mix, and pelleted feed. Our plan was to push them hard and get them all away by Christmas. Unfortunately, last week, after a spell of warm but misty weather, we had five of these lambs drop dead in a three-day period. Three of them were taken into the vets for post mortem but visually showed nothing specific. All lambs are double vaccinated for Pasteurella and Clostridial diseases, but no vaccine is 100% effective, so our vet’s current working diagnosis is Pasteurella pneumonia caused by the misty weather.

We have decided not to mass treat the group with anti-biotics at the moment, as we all agreed, along with the vet that gathering them all may cause more stress and close contact between animals, potentially leading to a higher mortality rate, however if deaths continue and we get a definite diagnosis of Pasteurella following results from samples taken during the PMs then we may go down this route.

On the arable front, winter oilseed rape and winter wheat crops have emerged well and look healthy, they have really benefitted from the warm autumn. We got the autumn fungicide and trace elements applied to the OSR on November 1, so hopefully this will reduce the impact of light leaf spot. I know there is some scepticism over whether an autumn fungicide in OSR is cost effective in relation to yield uplift, but having not done it the past two years, we are going to have a go again this year, to see if we can push our OSR yield more, with crops varying between 1.55-2T/ac this year.

We are about half way through strawing down carrots, having done one variety, and are now on hold waiting the other variety to catch up growth wise, hopefully we will get going again at the weekend. We had a cracking crop of sunflowers at the end of September in our carrot field margins and invited local folks to pick them before they got trampled moving straw into the field. Hundreds of flowers were picked and people donated to the Ukraine Crisis in exchange for the stems which was great!

Dad decided a few weeks ago he was going to go into Dingwall Mart to have a look at some shorthorn weaned calved as we were needing to get two or three to graze an area of conservation woodland which is part of a scheme. As often happens in auction marts, he lost control of his senses and came home with 10 beasts, all which fitted comfortably in our tri-axle Ifor Williams trailer so this gives you an indication of their size.

Whenever anyone questions his sanity in relation to going back into cattle at a challenging time for the beef industry he keeps quoting my late Grandfather, Will Matheson ‘When everyone else goes East, go West…’