Graeme Mather

Farming at the foot of the Angus glens, our 2500-acre farm Shandford, comprises of a mixed farm of suckler cows, breeding ewes and arable enterprise. 
We farm as a partnership of seven as W Mather and Sons, and alongside myself is my grand-mother Mary, father Graeme snr, uncles William and David and cousins, Scott and Grant. 
All work is done in house, with the only exception being lambing time, when two vet students and a night lamber are brought in to gain experience and help out.
In addition to the partners we are ably assisted by my brother, Alistair Mather, tractor man Jack Florence and agricultural student, Lyndsay Nelson.
Our business runs with a flock of mainly Texel cross home-bred ewes. Numbers consist of 1100 ewes and 300-plus ewe hoggs, which are put to mainly home-bred Suffolk and Texel tups with the exception of a couple bought in as out crosses. 
Tups are put out to ewes running in batches of 300-400 at a rate of one per 40. Home-bred rams are key to our lambing success, as we have full knowledge of their health status and their performance from birth. 
We have chosen to go down the route of breeding our own ewes and rams due mainly to previously health issues and short lifespans of bought-in tups, which had proved to be expensive and problematic. 
Cattle numbers stand at 350 Aberdeen-Angus and Simmental cross suckler cows, and again, all replacement females are home-bred. Previously, all were crossed to Charolais bulls, however more recently we have moved to using a mix of Aberdeen-Angus and Simmentals alongside the Charolais to improve the health status of our herd. 
To aid this improvement, we BVD core test every calf at birth, and to date these have all been negative, thus driving the decision to have a closed herd. 
The arable side of the business grows spring barley, winter wheat, turnips and our potato land is let out annually.
The summer sees us weaning lambs, born at the end of March/April, with the first draw of fat lambs being taken previous to this. 
These early draws consist of mainly Suffolk cross lambs. This year, in addition to our Suffolks and Texel tups, we have used two Aberfield tups for the first time to provide female replacements and to add another cross to the mix. 
The lambs born from the Aberfield tups have proven to match the Suffolks in growth and shape. They were amongst the first lambs away, which we were encouraged by. 
They were £6 per head up on the same week last year, as we sell all of our lambs through the live ring at Forfar. 
We look forward to seeing how the ewe lambs selected for breeding will perform when we put them to the tup later in the year. 
Soil samples taken from various fields over a number of years have shown that our soil is low in cobalt, selenium, iodine and copper. As a result, we bolus all lambs when they are weaned and wormed onto clean pasture and we have found that the lambs finished faster last year as a result of this and have shown better health.  
As this proved so successful, we decided to conducted a small on-farm trial with a batch of 40 growing cattle. Both batches of 20 had an average weight of 300kg. 
We bolused one batch of 20 and found that when they were weighed when brought inside, had an average weight of 475kg while the non-bolused averaged only 450kg. 
The bolus used cost in the region of £5, so the approximate 25kg weight improvement had more than justified the financial outlay.

In the next article we will look at reducing expenditure on bought-in sheep feed, improvements made to grass on farm, preparing ewes for the breeding season ahead and readying cows and calves for the coming winter.