We have started lighting the fire, drawing the curtains and some more relaxed evenings as darkness leaves fewer distractions outside.

This all coincided with the old Raeburn cooker throwing in the towel. A farmhouse kitchen is no place to be without a warming range with a kettle simmering, cake baking, washing drying above and dog heating below. It’s not very climate-friendly, but it’s very convivial in the climate we’ve been experiencing!

We don’t deliver rams from the sale, but we try to help where we can – so we have had some good trips away over the last month – including Easter Ross (combined with a family visit), Herefordshire (also picked up a new ram), Longtown (there was no reason, other than it’s an awful lot closer than Exmoor, where the lorry was going).

A friend and I took 14 Texels to the CT scanner, in Edinburgh, for the day. We take some of the best ram lambs to get a more accurate assessment of carcase quality than the ultrasound muscle and fat depth measurement that is done on all the recorded lambs.

The results add another dimension to picking some ram lambs to use over the pedigrees to breed the next generation of sale rams. That fitted nicely with a trip to IKEA and a catch up with Tally who has started at The Dick Vet School, next door.

She seems to be thriving on what seems like a lot of work. They have dissected a rabbit, condition scored some dairy cows, heard how to catch a crocodile, and learnt about all sorts of muscle movements. She seems to have found a few pubs in Edinburgh too!

The final ram delivery took us to Dalmally, Oban and the Island of Coll – which fitted in with a few days holiday on Tiree. The trip had a jittery start, with a ferry cancellation due to high winds, so we had an extra day in Oban.

A visit to the Highland Cattle Society Show the day before their sale in Oban mart was an enjoyable distraction and yielded a bagful of hay to keep the tups happy.

The Highlander Ceilidh kept us well entertained too and we were fortunate that our client on Coll managed to sneak us on the next day’s sailing. What a bind it is when your transport plans are totally out with your control – hats off to the islanders who deal with that all the time.

Cows came through the crush for scanning late September, but yearling heifers are not yet pregnancy checked. The 177 mature cows to the bull scanned 167 in-calf giving 94% in a nine-week bulling period, with 66% in the first cycle.

Six sets of twins scanned could boost the figure but it’s probably best not to start counting them. Either way it’s our best scan so far and that is probably down to four things: We’ve had a good summer – that could easily be seen in cow condition and the bloom on calves; we drew quite a few cull cows not to go to the bull – for various reasons, but getting older cows away before they were too old was one of them; we had good luck with bulls, and when we did have a bull injury there was a willing replacement; and finally, the tighter we get the calving, more cows have longer to recover between calving and breeding.

These numbers do have a knack of averaging themselves out as the year goes on!

Last year, there were 37 pure Luing male calves born. The top eight were kept as bulls (half of these through to breeding), one died, the strongest eight were sold as yearling steers in the spring, leaving 20 grazed this summer. Eighteen of these were loaded onto a lorry this morning to kill, leaving two for the freezer soon.

The 20 that grazed weaned at 270kg having gained 1.1kg/day on their mothers, then did around 1kg/day over winter on silage and 2kgs concentrate.

At grass, where they have had 2kg of barley for the last month only, they have done 0.9kg/day, bringing them to an average lifetime gain of a little over 1kg/day. At 18 months, they averaged 617kg and are all carrying the condition to kill.

We could probably have done a better job of grazing them through the early part of the summer – they had plenty quantity but quality was lacking at times.

That said, we think we have done a pretty good job of adding value to these calves. We are guessing they were worth about £900 in April.

They have taken up the space of a cow over the summer, but they aren’t here for this winter whereas a cow would be. The key to the whole process is that they are fit to market straight off grass in the autumn.

I recognise the performance might not be very flash but the costs are pretty low. We’re all looking forward to seeing the kill line tomorrow, but I think the consensus is that we will do this again.

Lamb sales are at a similar level to last year with just under 200 lambs away and another 100 drawn for this week.

Average weights are up a fraction, with the first lots killing 20.0kg and the price home (less all deductions and haulage) at £99.11 is £3 up on the year. Anything under £100 seems a flat market, but £96 seemed like a good trade this time last year.

Direct meat sales have faltered a bit this year. The online farmers market we were using to access a lot or our customers closed for the summer and is due to re-open shortly.

I think there were two factors – firstly, people are counting pennies more carefully and returning to supermarket shopping and secondly, the co-ordinators of the markets have given it their all through Covid, are tired and needed a break.

The other problem is in the supply-line side with our local abattoir closing due to staffing and rising costs. Jane and Bob at Downfield did such a great job and their operation will be a big loss to the area.

We have another butcher lined up now, but it will mean lambs going to Wishaw to process. There are a lot of important aspects that sit outside of our control in this venture.

This year has seen a change in pattern to holiday accommodation lets. There has been a big increase in supply over the last couple of years to meet a demand that can now go back abroad. Coupled with a big reduction in overseas guests, this has seen quite a shift in terms of who our guests are and how they book.

A lot are coming to meet up with friends for three or four nights and they are booking within six weeks, rather than the overseas guests who, before Covid, were booking around a year in advance and staying for a week.

Short breaks are paying as much as a full week, so revenue is up, but we’ve had to work for it.

I know I am lucky to have a top-class cleaner who helps me with change-overs and can stand in when need-be. She is very hard-working and has great gossip – a weekly catch-up with her is like getting a real-life episode of Eastenders.

She has had a lot more than her share of troubles this year with cut-backs in the care-sector bringing an unexpected change in her family life. The result is that she has less time available to work and bigger bills to pay.

Many of the Scottish Agritourism group members are having problems getting and keeping staff. I have been guilty of thinking that people aren’t hard-up enough or don’t want to work – but that is definitely not the case here. Things are getting tough for some folks.

Neil went into the bull sales this week – just for a look, he claimed. It’s his first trip away that he needed to take glasses to read the catalogue.

He ate his way through half a particularly bitter tangerine for lunch today before he realised it was a lemon! With that taste in his mouth, he’s bound to remember his specs!