It’s been a relatively quiet month as far as sheep work goes, with finished lambs all gone, bar a few real stragglers, we’ve only had to ensure that ewes have had enough good quality feed in front of them immediately before and during mating.

One/two day shifts around the paddocks have ensured this and we wait with bated breath to see the number of returns in the second cycle, which started last weekend.

Results in the stud ewes were very pleasing, with only seven returns in the 150 ewes when the rams were pulled after 34 days. Fingers crossed for something similar in the commercials.

We’ve made a point of only retaining, or selling, ewe lambs born in the first cycle for many years, which certainly helps, but with gimmers being a kg or two lighter than I would have liked, I’m not quite as confident as I ought to be.

Deer were all weaned in late November and have settled down nicely. We’re trialling out-wintering our strongest hind calves this year and they are looking great so far.

The natural slowing down of the red deer’s metabolism during the shortest months is one of their fantastic adaptations to life at this latitude and altitude, with their feed intakes slowing down noticeably for a period of two or three months. Every bale of silage saved is most welcome.

Hinds were all scanned last week with a very pleasing 96% pregnancy rate. With twins extremely rare, there’s no covering up for a poor conception rate. Two highlights were a very high percentage of our two-year-olds with early pregnancies and a 100% conception rate in our yearlings for the second consecutive year, despite have pulled the stags earlier.

The pre-rut weaning of those two-year-olds has certainly had the desired effect of bringing their calving dates forward, although interestingly the geld percentage was only slightly better than previously. Hopefully, over time, the culling of these sub-fertile youngsters can only have a positive effect on overall herd fertility.

Pregnancies are aged at the time of scanning to allow us to calve hinds in batches with similar due dates. Deer calves are particularly prone to cryptosporidium scours and shortening the age spread of calves in a group, thus reducing the build-up of environmental challenge faced by the youngest calves, is the best way of limiting the problem in the first place.

Early December also saw us hosting 30 delegates from the SAYFC Agri and Rural Affairs conference on a beautiful clear and sunny winters morning. We were very lucky with the weather as we had about four inches of snow falling in the two or three hours after their visit.

It might have taken something substantially stronger to thaw out the intrepid group of youngsters had it been an afternoon visit. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank them for being such a great group to host and get to know a bit better.

Their engagedness and informed, challenging questions, along with the extra ordinary commitment and endeavours which were highlighted and rewarded that evening at their dinner, gave me great comfort and confidence that the Young Farmers movement is in great hands and continues to produce our industry leaders of the future.

Congratulations should also be given to the board of the RHASS who have overseen the building of the new Members' Pavilion, where the dinner was held. The new facility is modern, stylish and will be a great asset to us all for years to come. Fingers crossed that we can all meet to give it a proper 'christening' in late June.

I’ve long been an advocate of 'every cloud has a silver lining' and after a damning veterinary examination of the poor performing bull and a positive bill of health for the resultant empty cows that I described last month, we’re very excited about the unintended 'opportunity' to bring forward the intended ET programme to restart our Galawater Aberdeen-Angus herd, using these cows as recipients.

Plans are now afoot to set up a much larger ET program next summer using the earlier calving commercial cows as recipients.

The use of 10-15-year-old embryos from many of our most successful cows and families of the past is likely to prove a long game, with many of their pedigrees and performance figures being rather outdated.

However, with the more extreme matings having been discarded, we are left with a selection that should give us the more moderately framed, easy calving and deeply fleshed types that we have found work well in our system over the last ten years.

The equally exciting, if a little more expensive, result of our decision to restart the herd, has been the selection and purchase of four top new females. This will, hopefully, kickstart the whole process and has allowed us to get into some proven, modern, and relevant genetics with a good dose of marbling and feed efficiency as an added bonus to the other traits we are striving for.

After more than 10 years out of 'the pedigree game' it is hard to describe the pleasure I’ve taken from dredging through pedigrees and performance figures, meeting and talking to old friends, looking at cattle, talking about cattle, and planning the 'perfect' matings. It has very much been a case of not having realised how much I have missed something, until I have it back.

The opportunity and challenge of shifting your energy into something you can create, rather than worry or dwell on the negatives that we face – and which are often out-with our control – is a very powerful tonic.

FACT file:

Jim Logan farms 630ha, effectively a 520ha upland livestock unit rising to 1700ft above sea-level in the Scottish Borders at Pirntaton, Stow, which is home to 1650 breeding ewes, 120 suckler cows and 330 red deer hinds.

Having previously run an extremely profitable pedigree beef and sheep unit, the family business is now based on breeding easier managed home-bred replacement females and finishing all progeny on a rotational grazing system. It is also now back into pedigree breeding.