Although no longer personally lambing ewes and calving cows, I’m hard wired to think of spring as a time of long days, hard work and fertility.

In contrast, early summer is a time to re-emerge into society. Those who organise technical events where they demonstrate their wares obviously know this too.

Although a reluctant arable farmer, I visited the Frontier cereal trials, at Coldstream Mains, where it is always inspirational to see cropping at its best. Our own programme is pretty basic in comparison and is much simplified from what we used to do.

It consists of Canyon spring oats and Scholar spring barley for feeding our own livestock. Both varieties, the trials showed, were still doing fine, so probably no change next year, except possibly to Laureate, which has done well at Upper Huntlywood.

I have followed Ram Compare, a five-year project where terminal sheep breeds are compared in nine large commercial flocks throughout Britain, since its inception. The programme is a good one except, in my opinion, for the selection of rams used. These are sourced privately for £400 each and must be in the top 20% based on performance in their breed.

At present, a ram scraping into the top 20% in one breed can be compared with one in the top 1% in another breed. Semen is donated free by public-spirited breeders and this is used in all the flocks in the trial as a benchmark.

Again and it is only my view, breeders shouldn’t be expected to provide rams for £400 or semen for nothing. Judging by the EBVs and phenotype of the rams on show, they certainly aren’t offering their best rams.

The programme is forward looking and should be supported financially by the breed societies and not left to the goodwill of individual breeders. This would ensure that only the highest performance rams are used.

I enjoyed the visit to Buccleuch Estates and in addition to hearing about Ram Compare, seeing the various maternal cross-bred ewes. Using the Scotch Mule as a yardstick, some of the newer breeds with the ‘Aber’ prefix and from New Zealand, are comparing well.

My third day out was to an open day at Conor Colgan’s very impressive Aidansfield Research Farm, near Berwick. We were given talks and demonstrations on ration formulation and automated feed delivery by Stephen Ball, of Keenan Feeders; Rhidian Jones and Liz Genever, on new grazing technology; and by Jimmy Hyslop on the feed efficiency programme being used in the resident Salers herd. Conor also told us about how he is reducing the carbon footprint of the farm.

The various talks were interesting and some were, for me, new ground, particularly the talk on carbon sequestration, which we must all embrace.

Most of the grassland programme was similar to what we do at home. The potential to grow more grass and use it better is considerable, and in our efforts to improve profitability, is the low hanging fruit.

How much of the available technology we ourselves will use and where we get to will depend on how others younger than me take up the challenge. Grass and forage varieties have improved steadily over my lifetime and now we are enjoying the most exciting developments in applied grazing methodology that I can remember.

Of particular interest to me was Conor Colgan’s beef efficiency programme. He has installed eight feed bunkers, manufactured by the Canadian company ‘Growsafe’. These measure the exact amount of feed each individual animal eats and also weighs it when it has a drink.

The relationship between feed intake and weight gain is used to calculate net feed efficiency (NFE). This compares what a beast has eaten to gain what it did over a 70-day period to what an average animal of that breed, sex and bodyweight would require.

Of Conor’s bulls on test, the most efficient bull ate 2.06kg less feed per day than the average and gained at 1.8kg per day. The least efficient ate 2.4kg more feed and gained 1.5kg a day.

He had three bulls standing in one of the feed bunks and he challenged me to rank them in order of feed efficiency.

The most feed efficient bull had limited growth potential. The highest weight gainer, a bull that would suit show judges, took the most feed per kg of gain. The third bull was almost as feed efficient as the first and almost as high gaining as the second.

While I passed the test, we shouldn’t make too much of it. The important thing is that we breed from the bulls that the test proved were feed efficient, rather than those who just look like they are.

NFE isn’t the be all and end all but, as other aspects of performance aren’t sacrificed in any way, must be an excellent chance to hack not only at hard feed costs, but also costs and methane production when beasts are at pasture.

The last event I attended was the Borders Book Festival, in Melrose, where authors give a talk on their latest book. The tenuous connection to farming was the talk by Amanda Owen, ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’.

Amanda, a towny like her husband, Clive, farms Ravenseat, in the Pennines. Apart from writing three best sellers, she does everything on the farm from shearing sheep to providing cream teas for the 16,000 walkers travelling the ‘Coast to coast way’ who pass her doorstep.

In addition, she has nine children. When asked if she hoped for more, she suspected age was now a factor. “It’s been two years since the last ...”

I recall a conversation between an irreverent youth and an elderly shepherd who had a very large family. “Tom,” I said, “you must have been a very fertile man.”

To which he replied: “Oh, I dinnae ken aboot that. There was mony a time when nothing happened at a’.”