The main focus at this time of year at Blairmulloch, Sorn, is fertility and getting our cows and ewes pregnant.

Three years ago we moved calving a month earlier and increased cow numbers from 35 to 85, which is my excuse/reason for a calving period not being as tight as I would like yet.

This year, the bulls went out with the cows on September 28, for calving mainly July/August and will come back in on December 21. Hopefully with more heifers in the herd, we will shorten the bulling period in a few years, but it is a lot easier to be stricter on late ones when herd numbers are stable as opposed to when they are being increasing.

All our rams are semen tested before they go out with the ewes and as long as they are seen physically serving in the first couple of day, they are left to get on with it for the first 20 days, when they are then harnessed to mark later lambing females.

Backed By Harbros John Johnston looks to improve herd and flock fertility

Backed By Harbro's John Johnston looks to improve herd and flock fertility

This year is the furthest I have pushed the ewes to tup ratio, with two Aberfield tups put out with 80 ewes each. As an experiment, I also put a tup with the ewe lambs at the same time, in a bid to having them all lamb inside at the same time. However, with only 40 out of 165 marked, only time will tell if it was a wise decision or has created another small management group that will be of nuisance value to look after.

Read more: Bull fertility and testing

The one thing that sticks in my mind about fertility and ensuring animals are pregnant, is a rough quote from a vet at a meeting who said: 'ensure there is actually semen to get there in the first place!'

Through Backed by Harbro, I have just had an on-farm visit from Reg Jones of the Glasgow Vet School. After a walk round the farm to understand my systems, he is going to come up with a simple spreadsheet to collect information and produce key performance indicators (KPIs) to help improve management decisions. Perhaps even to change one terminal sire bull to one which could breed home-bred replacments. My current recording system for cattle is a bit messy and would be the better of some professional help