Charles Bruce farms near Banff, Aberdeenshire, and has 98 hectares (242 acres) of owned land, 76ha (188 acres) of malting barley which is contract farmed, and rented seasonal grazings extending to 40ha (99 acres). Running an 80-cow fold of pedigree Highland cattle, these are used to supply an on-farm butchery business and his Bogside Farm Shop. There is a commercial ewe flock of about 230-head and a trout fishery is also run as part of the business.
With the gloom of winter hopefully in its last days, we are now ready to start moving forward into spring. Ideally this will see preparation in February and execution of plans in March, followed by a month of basking in the sunshine surrounded by fresh growth. If only. Sadly, we often require contingency plans.
Spring is my favourite season, with calves arriving and ewes lambing. Our scanning was carried out three weeks ago and we had 11 barren ewes out of 261 which were put to the ram, with 48 singles, 44 triplets and the remainder all twins.
So, despite more ewes not settling to the ram than usual, there is still a good number of lambs in them. Of course, these may not come to fruition as live lambs but it is important they are there in the first place.
January in our part of Aberdeenshire has been a crisp, cold month, allowing the land to dry quite
considerably. The dry weather has also allowed our Highland cows to recover from the incessant rain and wind which tore the flesh off them in the latter part of last year. Hopefully they will now arrive at calving time in good working condition.
Our field of replacement heifers have been taken through winter on a ration of ad-lib, ammonia-treated straw with 2kg of rolled barley per head. This is costing roughly 45p per head per day and has kept the heifers in good condition.
We decided to feed the heifers a small quantity of grain this winter to keep them handy and quiet to handle. Walking through them daily to put out the piles of barley brings you into close contact with them, although my son Rob might tell you he has to get far to close – he has received several painful pokes in the back and ribs from heifers chasing him trying to get the barley. But it is certainly much better for the heifers to chase after you than run away from you.
After the wild winds last week, our electricity generation is down to half capacity as one blade broke off completely from a turbine and another broke in half.
The half blade blew 250 metres across a field and came to rest on top of a fence. Thankfully no sheep or cattle were injured but it makes you wonder what would have happened if someone had been in the way.