Like most of the country, March saw us experience a fantastic dry, warm spell of weather.

However, like many others, we were in a way caught off guard by the good weather with lots of ploughing left to do, the drill not hooked on and the lambing sheds not ready! Added to the fact that I managed to catch Covid at the start of March so spent two weeks off farm isolating with my one-year-old, Ellie, who couldn’t be looked after by anyone else due to the two of us being the only ones who tested positive.

We still have about 50 acres of barley and oats left to sow, and grass re-seeds to do as well, though the weather looks much more unsettled going into April. We have managed to get the majority of drilled spring barley crops rolled and the pre-emergence herbicide applied, though I doubt we will manage to get fully caught up before the bad weather that’s forecast.

Wheat and Oilseed rape crops are due their next application of nitrogen, and this year we are going to try applying all the liquid fertiliser in one go to the wheat crops along with Agrii’s ‘Liquid-safe’ additive, which is meant to reduce leaching and allow gradual release of fertiliser as the plant requires it - it will be interesting to see if it works successfully.

I have sold a few more loads of grain this past month, with 87T of malting spring barley for harvest 2022 at £270/T, and 50T of seed malting barley at £256 + seed premium.

I am finding marketing very stressful at the moment with the markets being so volatile and being so busy lambing. I don’t have the brain space to remember to check what markets are doing every day, let alone every few hours which is how frequently they are changing.

Fortunately we have managed to avoid the snow thus far, save from a few wee flurries last week, though just a few miles away further inland the snow was lying. The forecast this week looks like snow and sleet showers are likely, so I have only put the first 60 ewes and their lambs outside and will wait till the end of the week to evict anything else.

We are fortunate to have plenty straw, feed and shed space available so keeping them inside a few days longer seems sensible. Lambing got off to a very quick and rocky start once ewes were brought inside, with lots of teething problems, mainly malpresentations off lambs resulting in difficult lambings and lambs born in the bag and not licked.

Out of 228 in-lamb sheep, 130 are either gimmers or hoggs, so this is probably a factor in the amount of problems we are experiencing in relation to the amount of sheep we have.

Having lost Spectam from the lambing shed we are being extra diligent with cleanliness this year. Every individual pen is mucked out and sanitised with a lime-based powder between ewes, and we find this is, along with being completely obsessive about colostrum intake is the only way to keep on top of watery mouth, and other bacterial shed related diseases.

In addition, pre-lambing and nursery pens are bedded daily and nursery pens are powdered every few days around high traffic or wet areas such as water troughs or feed barriers. All feeding tubes, bottles and teats are washed in hot water and detergent between lambs. So far we have had one lamb with watery mouth, which subsequently died, and I can 100% put this down to lack of colostrum due to the gimmer being scanned for twins but having triplets, resulting in her having very little milk.

I can put my hands up and say I didn’t check the lambs closely enough during the night to ensure they had received enough colostrum – lesson learnt.

It’s so easy to get downhearted when things go wrong when you feel you are trying your best, so I am trying to keep myself cheerful by ensuring I consume a couple of crème eggs every day, and so far I’m finding they are definitely helping to elevate my mood!

Farm facts

Rachel farms at her family’s 350-hectare Ballicherry Farm, in the Black Isle, with her parents, Brian and Caroline Matheson. It is mainly arable, growing spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape, though they also have 150 Texel cross ewes, and overwinter 100 head of cattle.