September has come around quick after the shortage of any real summer, so we are now looking to prepare the ewes for tupping. 
It can be a big job as, following weaning, all the ewe’s udders are checked along with their general wellbeing. We also make sure all still have two ear tags, with any missing, replaced with Shearwell tags. This year we only had to replace 40 tags, which was a small percentage of our flock. 
We also check the teeth of our three and four-crop ewes with any found to be broken mouthed sold through the Forfar Market as correct below. All warranted four-crops are kept and run together in one batch. 
All stock ewes retained for breeding are given their annual Footvax vaccination at this time, too, which has proved particularly cost effective instead of foot bathing sheep on a weekly basis. More importantly, it has also reduced the amount of lameness in the flock, enabling more grazing time whilst maintaining health. 
Stock ewes receive a louping ill and Dysect dose as they head out onto the heather hill, which work collectively to ensure ticks are killed off when they head to the grouse moor. 
We treat the lambed ewe lambs (now gimmers) with the same vaccines, although they will be put to good quality grass, to give them the opportunity to reach optimum condition and strength for tupping. 
At this time we vaccinate our stock ewe lambs with Enzovax and Toxovax – which has been done for approximately 20 years – as a preventative measure after having been affected by both diseases, one after the other, in the past. 
That was a devastating and disheartening time but the vaccines have thankfully eliminated the chances of this happening again. 
Finally, ewe lambs will be Footvaxed and double Heptavac P dosed – measures which should give them the best possible chance to prosper. 
In an effort to reduce our feeding costs in our sheep we have been looking into a number of possible replacement ideas too. 
In 2014, we were feeding hay and ewe pellets, bought from East Coast Viners. However, we felt that the ewes were not in optimum condition throughout the winter and were lacking something nutritionally from their diet. We spoke with Nicholas Canning and it was with his advice we looked at changing the hay for good quality silage. We had our silage analysed and it was indeed of considerably higher nutritional value. 
Our silage pits are now filled with first cut and our second cut is baled and wrapped with six layers to seal in all of the goodness. As a result, we now only order half of the amount of pellets compared to 2014. 
Grass is hugely important in our business, but can become worn and lacking it essential nutrients. My cousin Grant and I have attended a number of information meetings regarding this and became aware that areas of our ground may be suffering from compaction. 
To help improve these areas, an Alstrong grass aerator was purchased, which has covered all grazing areas to break the soil pan and there is a visual improvement in the growth thickness and length of season of the grass. 
In addition to this, we found that it has aided field drainage. We seem to have had a considerable amount of rain this year, yet we are seeing less flooded areas within the fields that have been aerated. Compare this to untouched fields and the difference is huge!
Having seen improvements in the sheep since we altered their feed, we have also changed the diet of the cattle, with Harbro’s Maxammon now used to treat both the home-grown and bought in barley. This was done in 60-tonne batches and fed to the bull calves straight, which they preferred compared to previous feed. 
These calves performed particularly well on this mix and were sold through ABP, Perth, at between 12-13 months, averaging 380kg deadweight. On average, they had consumed 1.7-tonnes per head and their killing out percentage improved on the previous year. 
Changing to Maxammon has considerably lowered the number of loads of dark grains we previously bought in and the cattle appeared healthier too. 
Our old mixer wagon was due to be upgraded, so we also bought a Siloking mixer wagon, which has allowed us to include straw or hay into the mix. It has also enabled us to use silage bales in a mix made specifically for the calves. 
This improvement has seen the calves go out to grass some 40kg heavier than previous years with the first batch back inside, 50kg ahead of last year. Between the Maxammon addition and new Siloking we are looking forward to continued improvements. 
Lamb sales are currently quite positive for us, with our average this week at £87 a head. These were sold through Forfar Market on Wednesday and compare to the corresponding week in 2016’s average of £59. 
My grand-father told me a year ago: “You can only sell the lambs once, so sell them right and sell what the market wants at that time.” I fully believe nothing is truer. 
We can only hope that this better price continues and allows for a more prosperous return for all hardworking livestock farmers.