February was a wetter month than we had hoped for on The Black Isle, and as such we haven’t managed to get as much ploughing done as intended, meaning we still have 410acres to plough. Hopefully we will get both ploughs going later this week and manage to push on.

Sheep work is up to date, with ewes having been given their Heptavac-p booster, while the gimmers and ewe hoggs got their second Heptavac-p dose.

We have shifted twin and single-bearing ewes onto cover crops, with ad-lib silage and high energy mineral buckets available, to give the grass a break and a chance to get going before ewes are returned to it after lambing.

Triplet-bearing ewes and twin carrying ewe hoggs have been left on grass until they come inside before lambing. Triplets are receiving 0.75kg/head of ewe rolls, while the twins are being fed 0.5kg/head.

The last 10 of our prime hoggs were sold through Dingwall Mart on March 1, selling at £105/head, which we were happy enough with considering they were the last draw, meaning our 2021 prime lambs averaged £116.50/head, with a 170% weaning rate.

It’s interesting to look at the trend for the year, we found our best prices were November 9 when with 46kg lambs finished on creep feed were making £129/head, while 46kg lambs straight off grass on August 17, made £102/head. This is the first year we haven’t sold any lambs store in the autumn and kept them all right through and it seems to have been a good move, though with the cost of concentrate feed we will need to grow more of our own fodder crops to try reduce the purchased feed bill, which is undoubtedly going to increase starkly.

Last weekend we got the potash onto winter crops in excellent conditions and this week we will give both the oilseed rape and winter wheat a wee taste of nitrogen to get it kick started. Our rape had been looking really good, but the pigeons have made a fair mess of it, despite us trying to get rid of them throughout the winter. Normally we would wait a week and put a bigger first dose of nitrogen on everything but with the price of fertiliser so high we are going to apply smaller applications to hopefully feed the plant in a more targeted way, and avoid waste.

In regard to sales for harvest 2022, all of our seed wheat, barley and oats are sold on contracts, as well as our malting barley. The cereal contracts all vary, but we can sell around 40% of our grain ahead on November 2022 futures, with the rest being ‘harvest price’ or ‘price on day of uplift’.

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So far, we have locked the price in for 15% out of that 40%, with prices varying between £190+ seed premium for wheat, and £226/t+ premium for malting barley. We always try and spread the risk by selling grain at different times of year, and usually achieve a reasonable average, but we have never sold grain in such a turbulent marketplace before, which is making the job very difficult.

The 56tonnes of wheat sold at £190/t+ seed premium, which gets uplifted at harvest, seemed pretty good in October before fertiliser and fuel took such a dramatic hike, with red diesel being £1.15/litre today, but most likely going to rise further.

Morally, I am finding this whole situation difficult, willing the price of grain to go up to compensate for fuel and fertiliser prices being elevated due to sanctions and supply issues caused by Russian aggression, but more so wanting this war to be over as soon as possible, though know that that is unlikely given Putin’s clear disregard for human life or liberty.

New reports at the moment are harrowing to watch, particularly the impact this war is having on children, disabled people and those with illness, such as cancer, who’s treatment has had to be stopped.

Who knows where the next few months will take us, but I am trying to be thankful for what we have and find joy in the little things, like that extra 15 minutes of daylight in the evening, and seeing the buds forming on the trees, a sure sign that spring is nearby!