The Highland Show signals the benchmark which a lot of our farm jobs are measured against – we are ahead of work in some areas and behind in others.

Silage was done in good order with the pit fairly well filled with first cut. We had a phenomenal surge of grass growth in late May bulking fields up. With showery forecasts, we cautiously kept cutting more and quietly secured it all without rain. Cold, northerly winds gave a quick wilt for the pit, and drouthed a field rich in timothy and clover enough to be baled for hay before the pit was sheeted.

The same cold wind fairly knocked grass growth though, and grazing fields are not looking so great. We lost control of a lot of fields in that early growth and there are now areas of shot grass and other areas getting a bit bare. We have resorted to the topper to try to re-set quality in some fields.

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Slurry has been applied after silage and the hungrier lots of ewes and lambs will get onto aftermaths shortly.

The rainfall chart shows 20” to the longest day, which is two or three ahead of normal, but we have been lucky to miss a lot of heavy rain late spring, and the wind has helped sort out much of our water imbalance.

Forage crops are in and poking through with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The Massif yellow turnips which were a good ewe feed last winter have again got off to a strong start, with the kale every second row less flamboyant. Swedes are a bit lethargic too but are a decent colour and no sign of anything trying to eat them so far.

Some forage rape for later lamb finishing completes the set and is showing promise too. Two different methods of direct drilling were used, so it will be interesting to compare drills later in the season.

Lambs haven’t all been through the yards yet for first vaccination, drench and fly spray – so a final analysis of how lambing went is still to be seen. It will have been fine, I think, with nothing to shout about. Late lambing and sheep with a bit of wool-cover have helped this spring, but I think from a grass management point of view that we should try to get the tups out a week earlier for next year.

Perhaps the highlight of lambing time was the trade the handful of cull ewes from the early lot brought home when they hit the market right for a festival.

Shearing the main ewes is a bit off yet, although tup hoggs and Texel ewes are done. I hear that ewes are mostly pretty hard going so far, but the heat over the last couple of days has made a difference. The odd fly-struck ewe caught up this week has given us enough shearing-practice to fully appreciate the work of Stevie’s shearing gang when they arrive.

This month we have attended our two main promotional events for the on-farm ram and bull sale. We took a stand at Scotsheep and had some sheep on display. The thick-set, wee ewes with shapey lambs caught some attention and we were able to talk about an average ewe tupping weight of 66kg and just short of 800 lambs not kept or sold for breeding returning an average carcase weight of 21.8kg.

Tally ran a ‘Tup Trumps’ game, where you had to match rams to different farm scenarios based on the individual traits and EBVs that we have available. The three of us on the stand talked to people all day long.

I don’t suppose many people get to see these events in the build-up phase, so let me describe the scene at Aikengall Farm at 7.30 on the morning of Scotsheep. There are volunteers trying to get the hang of ticket-scanning machines, host-farmers buzzing about on quad bikes, stand-holders banging in tent pegs, committee members tying up banners, forklifts beeping, breed society executives balancing flower pots and stand sheep bleating to the rattling of feed bags.

In the middle of all this chaos, there is a single hen poking her way cautiously around the corner towards her usual nesting spot. She doesn’t notice the new sign on the door reading BAR and SPEED SHEAR. I meant to go back later to see how she was getting on but didn’t make it. It was an excellent event for us – hats off to the Hamilton family for hosting a great day – and thanks to the hen for sharing her shed with so many drouthy shepherds.

Then we’ve just returned from the Highland Show which has been great fun. We took some Lleyns along to join in the show and came up with a couple of tickets which was quite respectable in the company. Our smaller type is a bit out of fashion in the show ring, but there are four things that happened that make the show an important part of our year:

Firstly, it’s a check-up on our focus on breed-type, correctness and style. I’ve seen some breeders get ‘lost in the figures’ (which doesn’t usually end well), and if you stay at home and get totally focused on commercial attributes you can forget what the wider breed is there for. It is part of the encouragement to keep striving for perfection.

Then we have talked to folks around the ring and along the lines about ‘our type’ and ‘why’. That is why it can be chalked down under ‘promotional budget’.

Thirdly, there is the camaraderie of the judging and time spent with fellow breeders. I’ve seen with some breeds that fall out of favour for a spell that the show ring can keep the interest going until fashions turn back again.

And lastly, for the first time ever, I found myself in the ring with two gimmers to show and nothing to do. The kids had one each and were making a grand job on them. That was a very proud-parent moment. That bonnie wee sixth prize gimmer was at the wrong end of the final line-up to get the trophy but my cup over floweth.