Now that we have moved into March and the day light hours are increasing we had hoped to look forward to rising temperatures, sunny days and a flourish of new grass growth. How wrong we could have been!

Unfortunately we were hit, like many other areas of the country, with freezing temperatures and heavy drifting snow. The drifts were incredibly high and the wind persistent, making access to sheep fields very challenging. But we persevered, clearing the roads continually with our own snow plough, to ensure that we could provide feeding and silage throughout the day to the batches of sheep out and about.

With the weather being so harsh and cold, the first ewes lambed have been kept inside for considerably longer than we would have liked, however they have milked well on good quality silage and home-grown turnips. By keeping them inside they were able to concentrate on milk production instead of heat and survival in the freezing conditions they would have faced.

On a positive note, the lambs have since gone outside older, bigger and stronger which can only aid their growth and development.

Thankfully the weather cleared and we were able to get back to our lambing preparations. The three batches of commercial ewes have all had their boluses and been treated with Heptavac P. As mentioned in the previous article we were looking closely at the potential impact of fluke on our flock and, following the discovery that some sheep had become resistant to Triclabendazole – dung samples revealed similar egg counts after treatment – decided to redose all of them with a Closantel product.

Although only a small number of the flock were showing physical signs of the effects of fluke, they are responding well to the Closantel product. We only hope we have managed to catch the disease in time, ensuring ewes are in the best possible condition to produce milk after birth.

Our cows are calving away at a steady pace. In the first 12 days we saw 31% of our early batch calve, with the calves being born active and up suckling quickly. We have taken great care to mix our own good quality feeding and know the exact rations of everything making up the feed. These percentages can be adapted appropriately to meet the needs of the cows throughout all stages of calving. As a result the cows appear strong, able and milking well to support their calves.

We aim to tag all calves within 24 hours of birth and if male, they are ringed at the same time. We dehorn using the dehorning paste as we have trialled many different treatments throughout the years but feel this is the most consistently effective treatment and causes the least stress. Due to the increase of Aberdeen Angus within our herd there are a number of cows producing polled calves which is a great bonus and one we are keen to increase.

At the Christmas show and sale at Forfar Market in December, one of our Aberdeen Angus steers was bought by Scott Brothers Butchers Dundee. We asked for a full sirloin back off of this beast and split it between the partners. We have often had our own steaks back, but we were all truly delighted by the taste, tenderness and quality of this one.

Like ourselves, all farmers strive to produce top quality meat and if customers in both the supermarket and butchers could be guaranteed great quality each and every time, it would most certainly help to increase sales and in turn demand, safe guarding our incredible Scotch Beef status as it should be.

Our attention over the next few weeks will be setting up the large lambing shed, where all ewes will lamb within approximately a month month. Planning also takes place as to where each batch will go once lambed to ensure they are all kept together in ages to be placed in larger batches for over the summer before heading to the live ring in Forfar Market.

* Graeme farms on a large family-run beef, sheep and arable operation at Shandford, Brechin, where all progeny are finished with the exception of home-bred replacements.