On the positive side, if you take our on-farm ram and bull sale as our big harvest day – it’s been a great success.

Rams had an easy winter, good grass early spring and plenty quality grass right through to sale. Bull paddocks were getting a bit rain-sick in August but bulls seemed happy. Demand was strong, clients confident in our breeding programme, prices buoyant, people happy and we had fun with the great team of helpers that make it all happen – thanks to you all.

On the downside – has been gathering the crops. We let out 180 acres of spring barley land – so it wasn’t actually us that had the heartache of trying to combine a very promising crop that went flat with heavy rain late summer but depressing none-the-less. We have saved a bit on haulage on feed barley by taking delivery straight from the combine (no need to try it for the malting pile) at moisture levels perfect for urea treatment and pitting. Decent breaks in the weather made for amazingly straight-forward straw baling.

After great success last year, we had three fields of undersown arable silage to put in the pit – a higher quality silage, taken at a drier weather window and a good start for short-term red clover was the plan. We held off cutting for the sake of the undersown grass because of poor ground conditions, which only got worse. By the time we felt we could travel, the barley was over-ripe but a great crop of vetch. Between the two, they seem to have smothered a lot of the grass anyway. Time will tell just how much of a mess we’ve made.

My sister, Clare, tells me we have had almost 27” of rain to date (only 6” ahead of a dry 2018), the problem being that half of the total has fallen over the two months when we’ve been trying to make silage. So much for the plan of spreading the risk of a weather window!

We are getting cows closer to home for pregnancy scanning next week. Archie the scanner has been very accurate at picking up between 5-10% twin pregnancies. By feeding twin-bearing cows better and looking out for them at calving, twins are becoming much more of an asset.

We try to utilise handlings to achieve more than one job, but there is not much spare time at scanning. We have done a field check of replacement tags required and over summer have lost quite a few again.

A routine dung sample for worms in a group of calved heifers found fluke eggs surprisingly early in the season. That batch has now been treated with a product that we think we might have a resistance issue with but is more effective against immature fluke. We will monitor what happens with this group before treating lower-risk groups.

A blood test trial with our vets is indicating that lambs hadn’t yet come across fluke at the start of September. Sounds like that is a result of where they have been grazing on the farm.

Recent sheep work has revolved around data gathering. Some 15 Texel ram lambs visited the CT scanner in Edinburgh last week to give greater accuracy of carcase composition and maybe highlight one to use. All lambs from the 600 recorded Lleyn ewes were weighed over a couple of days, with 250 of them also ultrasound scanned for muscle and fat depth. It’s a bit of an inconvenience holding lambs for this weight, but we feel we get a good value from the information. The heaviest wedders have since been taken to the local abattoir (Downfield) and have a queue of customers looking to load up their freezers. They would be over-weight and over-fat for the mainstream market, but the taste is superb (and a chop goes a bit further), however the plate-waste is evident, and the mince can look a bit fatty.

Another draw went to Woodheads today, returning 20.3kg deadweight, 80% 3L and 60% E and U grades, but no price yet...

We are looking to breed Texels with more fat cover, to make sure such high-growth sires will breed lambs that finish off grass. For the Lleyn ewes, higher fat ewes tend to be easier-doing types, but I think we need to be wary of extremes in both directions – fat and lean.

A first for us has been buying a Lleyn stock ram unseen. He came up on an on-line EBV Search, but Google Maps found his location near Southampton. His owner sent a couple of videos via WhatsApp and we made the deal by text. By the time you read this, we will have taken delivery and be thinking of a name beginning with H. Maybe Hi-tech? Probably more like Helpma'Boab.

FACT file

Neil and Debbie McGowan farm a mixed beef, sheep and arable unit in upland Perthshire, breeding recorded top end Simmental and Luing cows and Texel and Lleyn sheep on a low-input system. Breeding stock is sold at their on-farm Working Genes sale and at local markets, with wedder lambs also sold finished off grass.