The clocks have gone back and for a short time we have the advantage of lighter mornings before winter really sets in.

October has been a relatively settled month and the cows and calves are still content to be grazing the last of the grass in the fresh air, however we have chosen this week to put out our first bales of silage to ensure they continue to have enough feed to maintain condition.

Our spring-born calves have been weaned. We find that the most successful and least stressful way for both, is to keep the mothers in sheds for a week to 10 days, before returning them outside onto stubble fields, far from their calves.

Our calves this year are looking very well and we are pleased with their current condition, as on average they are gaining an extra 0.2kg per day compared to last year's calves at this time. For a stock farmer improvement and positive progression is always the main aim and while this cannot be solely put down to one change but a handful of alterations made over a few years, to include better genetics and nutrition.

The spring cows have been scanned and tested for Johnes disease all at the same time, which greatly helps reduce handling time. All of the cows that successfully reared a calve ran with the Charolais bull of which only 7.5% ended up barren which we are pleased about.

We have put 115 strong Aberdeen-Angus cross and Simmental cross home-bred heifers to the bull, 69 of which will be calving at two years of age. In a bid to improve the fertility of our herd, the heifers ran with the bull for 49 days, with the bull being changed half way through. When scanned, 105 of the 115 were in calf, which I was slightly disappointed with, as all appear to be in good health.

Advantages of technology have however, allowed me to investigate this further and when looking over the results and into the history of these animals, I was able to identify that half of the heifers' mothers left the herd after only one late calving. This could indicate genetically poor fertility as they would have only taken the bull on the third or fourth attempt therefore showing poor fertility.

Only one of the empty heifers' mothers is currently still in the herd which could be an indication that this trait can be passed on and may help us in the future highlight quickly poor breeders that we do not wish to keep in our herd. All of the empty cows and heifers will be finished and sold.

All of the ewes have been gathered off the heather hill, tails sheared, udders checked once more and all breeding stock put through the dipper.

Some groups of ewes have been put out with the tups already so that we can monitor performance of new genetics closely. By putting some tups out with smaller batches we are able to quickly gather data which will help us to make informed decisions effectively, this is particularly important to us as we breed all of our own ewes.

Our lambs are still being finished off grass, although we are going through the various lots and picking out those that will require additional supplements. They will have access to a crop of stubble turnips and Redstart and be grazed behind a triple electric fence to ensure they tidy up their allocations each week and that the crop is not wasted or allowed to rot.

FACT file

Graeme Mather farms on a large family-run upland beef and sheep unit at Shandford, Brechin, where the best of the female stock is retained for breeding while the remainder is finished. The family also look to breed as many of their own stock rams and bulls as possible.