Our winter so far has seen little harsh or freezing weather, which always makes working outside easier. At this time of year we see the benefits of the Alstrong aerator as most fields can become very wet and difficult to drive on when the temperature has not dropped to harden the ground. Yet, all of our grass fields that have been done and even those with wet spots, are standing up well.

At the beginning of December we vaccinated our spring calvers for BVD and Lepto. Whilst doing this we split off any older/lean cows and placed these inside. The fitter cows were able to return outside to strip graze fodder beet. We also provided them with ammonia treated straw, which although fed ad-lib, we also knew that on average the cows were consuming 6kg of straw per head per day.

The Angus Monitor Farm which I am involved with, chose to trial growing fodder beet and as the cows are now grazing the crop I have had time to work out some figures to help analyse my own crop. The total yield grown fresh is 183 (t/ha), the bulbs were 116 (t/ha) and both bulbs and shaws were sent away for analysis. The information that was returned showed that the cost per tonne of dry matter (bulbs) was £41.03.

The cows are allocated a daily amount to strip graze behind a single electric wire and appear to enjoy it as every evening it is eaten down to the dirt. We are optimistic that this is not just beginners luck although the sun during the dry summer will have certainly aided crop growth and yields.

In mid December, our 2018 spring-born Charolais cross steers and heifers and also the Simmental steers were put across the weigh crate as their pens were needing cleaned out. Collectively they had eaten, from the time of being weaned until then, 20 tonnes of feeding and had gained 5 tonnes in weight. When broken down and looked at on an individual basis, the Charolais cross steers had gained 1.65kg per day, Charolais cross heifers 1.38kg per day and the Simmental steers 1.34kg. This average current weight of the Charolais cross steers is 452kg with the Charolais cross heifers weighing in at 429kg at 8 1/2 months old.

This has been achieved with the use of creep feeders whilst still on their mothers so that when they are weaned they were already able to feed successfully. Initially, the creep feeders were being filled with Maxammon barley, Maxammon wheat, dark grains and sugar beet pulp, with the dark grains being gradually removed and the barley and wheat increased so that by the end of January there are no dark grains in the mixture at all. The calves have always had access to ammonia treated straw to ensure a varied and full diet.

All tups have been now been removed and the ewes are out at grass. Early lambing ewes have been scanned and we have a mixture of results this year. The Charollais cross Texel ewe is our most successful cross scanning at 250%, with the Texel ewes at 207% and the Suffolks were disappointing at 135%. Any of the ewes that have scanned empty will be sold through the live ring at Forfar Market. The remainder of our ewes will be scanned mid January. Until then, weather permitting, they will continue to graze grass pastures, stubble turnips or fodder beet and have access to good quality silage.

The last of our 2018-crop of lambs are also thriving whilst grazing stubble turnips, as the crop has done very well this year and has lasted well. By grazing the turnips we have reduced our use of concentrates by 75%, with them being supplemented with a small mix of Maxammon barley, dark grains and sugar beet pulp alongside some silage.


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.