A month into the Backed by Harbro programme at West Cruichies, and Aberdeenshire beef and sheep farmer, William Law has had his eyes opened following an afternoon with Stonehaven-based finishers, Alan and Stewart Meston, of Chapelton Farm.

The Mestons know their figures inside out – figures which matter, are relevant and always changing. They own very little machinery and instead have invested in farm buildings and infrastructure to enable more cattle to be housed and ensure a safe workplace.

Interestingly, they rely on a simple feed ration for finishing cattle and while it has been fine tuned, little has changed over the years although they do believe they lose four days of daily liveweight gain every time cattle are taken out of their pens to be weighed. As a result, cattle are only weighed into the shed and then when being selected for killing.

Meanwhile, back on the farm at West Cruichies and William's autumn calving has gone well with just six remaining to calve down.

However, on a more disappointing note, more than half of his beefy autumn calved heifers with calves at foot forward for a breeding sale through Aberdeen and Northern Marts' Thainstone Centre, arrived back home unsold.

William blames this on the retreat of autumn calving herds and a well saturated market, so anyone looking to buy a few good breeding outfits privately, you know where to go!

Grass is also just starting to deteriorate in Aberdeenshire, so high intake magnesium buckets (Energyze Mag) are on offer to the cows along with straw as a buffer feed to help reduce the risk of staggers. It's never been an issue at West Cruichies, but William's grand-father has always maintained the benefits of feeding straw at this time of year.

The decline in grass growth, has also affected the killing out percentages of all lambs sold finished off the green stuff over the past month in Scotland and William's lambs are no exception.

"My last batch of lambs, averaged 47kg at home and killed out 19.8kg at Woodheads, Turriff. That’s just 42%," said William.

More worrying is the fact that he still has 380 lambs on farm, compared to 200 this time last year, which is starting to put pressure on grazing. However, in a bid to improve killing out percentages and get lambs away quicker he is looking to start feeding the bigger individuals. This he says should should increase killing out percentages by 3% to ensure 21kg carcases when feeding a lamb feed for three weeks at a cost of just over £5 per lamb. It should also save grazing ground for tupping time.

Having lost a number of ewes pre-lambing last year with multiple post-mortems revealing a lack of cobalt and energy being the reason, William has also bolused all his ewes with an Agrimin 24-7 bolus on the advice of his vet. These should provide six months cover.

Add in Feet and Fertility buckets and a good flush of grass, saved for tupping should ensure ewes should be in the best of condition for the tups going out on October 10, for lambing early March.

"I feel like I’ve got on top of the ewes and hoping/planning for a more successful year with them this time round," said William.

"We’ve also been doing a winter feed plan with Harbro and looking at best ways to use the fodder beet I’ve grown."