Nature has a great way of working an average. Like other contributors, we have managed to secure a surprising amount of silage, and even a small amount of beautiful hay since I wrote last.

Our dedicated silage fields were late shut up but responded well to the available moisture, terrific sunshine and heat, and the nitrogen applied.

The flexibility afforded to us by our paddock system has also enabled us to harvest an extra 450 bales from 48ha of grazing platform that wasn’t required during peak grass growth, with a few of the paddocks earmarked and able to be cut for a second time.

We are also cutting 33ha of our experimental nurse crop of oats and peas, sown along with our new grass leys, to bale later in the week. Interestingly, the peas have only really been successful in the lowest fields, with the higher, poorer ground having mainly oats growing successfully. As hoped, this nurse crop has made a very good job of suppressing the weeds in these multi-species reseeds. Time will tell how strong the new ley is below it. These little extras, along with a field or two of second cut silage will hopefully see us replenishing our forage buffer that was at a very low level this spring.

Another 33ha of swede crops are looking well, with only small areas of the very lightest, stoniest land having succumbed to the dry and looking like it might need over-sown with perhaps a hybrid brassica. Our sheep wintering is now highly dependant on these crops, so it’s always a relief to see them 'getting away'.

Hinds and cows are all now calved, with everyone looking in great condition. Whilst looking over our calved two-year-old heifers recently, I realised that it is 21 years since we started this practice. It is a decision that I have never once regretted and now take for granted the little bit of extra thought and management that the practice requires. I haven’t done the maths, but the extra number of calves produced in the herd and the reduction of its’ maintenance feed cost over that time, will by now be quite staggering.

Yearling deer have now been drenched, drafted into sexes and the first stags de-antlered. Calving looks to have been reasonably successful and the older groups of calves are now mobile enough to be able to shift them, without fear of leaving any hidden ones behind. A large field of first year grass that definitely 'got in-front' of a group of calving hinds will be given a couple of weeks to clean up, before being cut and wrapped as dry cow feed for the winter. Suckler cows again proving their worth as the only stock class that can properly utilise any poor-quality grazing and/or forage on the farm, without impacting on performance.

Cows are presently working their way around the farm, a paddock at a time, clearing out and resetting any pastures which had got away from the ewes and lambs. The hot weather has however brought a few cases of mastitis in the cows this year. It’s not a problem we often encounter but have had four or five this time.

Weaning lambs is the next big stock job and will commence later this week. We’ve been in no rush, with our silage being cut later, the resultant aftermaths that we depend on for weaned lambs are behind normal but coming on quickly now.

Lambs look well grown and I’m hoping that weaning weights will be up, and that a sizeable draft will be killed straight off their mothers. With the lamb trade having been so strong, and the price of nitrogen going through the roof, we’ll have to give careful consideration on whether to finish most of the lambs or sell a proportion store, saving on a costly application of nitrogen over the grazing platform. We need to remind ourselves that a profitable business relies on margins rather than output alone.

August will also see us starting to market our Texel and Suffolk rams from home. It is a very different process and workload than it was for us historically. The best part of a month used to be taken up for us in the preparation of our pens of Suffolk and Texel shearlings for the Kelso Ram Sale. One of the sheds would be transformed into an industrial sized hairdresser, where the rams would be washed, teased, coiffured, and pruned into things of beauty. There was always the odd exception, and despite the very best effort, and a fair degree of skill, from Derek and I, 'the cairt' would occasionally be summoned to transport the unacceptable specimen to the cull field, hastened on its way by a laugh, and the inevitable comment that even we, 'couldnae make honey oot o’ dug shite'. This, along with a strict, and reasonably intense feed regime in the final few weeks before sale, would see us turn up to Kelso with pens of shearlings to be proud of.

Our system nowadays couldn’t be much more different. That doesn’t mean however that we are any less proud of what we produce. Quite the contrary, we are now even more proud of the fact that the rams our customers buy from us are far more likely to have long, productive, and hassle-free lives with them. 2021 will be the eighth year that we have sold our rams with a guarantee that they will be 100% forage fed, completely un-dressed and will never have had their feet trimmed. That sort of guarantee only comes after some very difficult culling decisions, but we are pleased to see fewer and fewer sheep culled on structural or constitutional issues every year. The sourcing of fresh genetics from like-minded breeders is key to the success of such a program but luckily a growing number of flocks are now heading down this path.

The pursuit of these more functional traits has without doubt changed the look and type of our stock, but as good friend Charley Walker often quotes, “if something is making you money and not causing you grief, you’ll grow to like the look of it”. We are very proud of the fact that most of our rams go to repeat customers. Such is the level of trust and understanding that we have built up with our customers, a sizable portion of the rams will be sold un-seen. Every year we contemplate the possibility of running an on-farm auction, but we’re sticking again to the tried and tested method of simply selling on a first come, first serve basis. After years of strict culling/selection, the much-reduced workload of producing these rams, right from when they are born, makes the expansion of this part of our business a very realistic option, and has the potential to add significantly to our profitability.

For the second year, we are also acting as agents and supply point in Scotland for our friends, the Hodgkins family, who breed and sell NZ Romney genetics under the Wairere UK prefix. Having seen these sheep being produced both here in the UK, and in their native NZ, and having used them as the backbone of our commercial sheep enterprise for eight years now, we have every confidence in recommending and supporting them.

A growing number of rams around the country are now sold from home. The development of our website ( and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) has brought many new customers to our door and has certainly repaid the effort of maintaining a high profile on all these mediums. Keeping in touch with, and describing our system throughout the year to customers, has proven a very powerful tool.