As we approach the middle of July, our preparations for harvest in the north east of Scotland get into gear, with sheds to muck and wash, combines to be serviced and guttering to clean and repair.
The weather extremes we have had this year have seen some structural damage to our steading, with sheeting and slates blown into the neighbouring county by lazy winds that wanted to go through, rather than around, anything in their path.
The weather for the last three weeks has been very mixed, with some nice warm days usually followed by two grey and cold ones with heavy showers thrown in for good measure.
Grain fill in the spring barley crops seems to be okay, but the number of grains per head is reduced from last year when 26-30 grains per head was common, to this year seeing 16-24.
It seems we are going to have to cope with a much reduced yield. We can only hope the quality and nitrogen characteristics of the crop are fine so we can achieve our goal of producing Scottish malting barley.
One of the biggest disappointments of the Covid-19 situation is the cancellation of local and national shows. It is a lonely job for many a farmer and the few social excursions to shows are an important time for socialisation in most farmers’ calendars.
Mental health is nothing to be scoffed at and for many it is a daily reality to be dealt with. The impact of Covid-19 certainly hasn’t helped with this.
We have started to market our wedder lambs, having sold 80 prime lambs through the United Auctions market at Huntly. Our top price was £110/head for a pen of Texel-cross lambs, while the poorest end was our Cheviot-Mule wedders, which were 41kg and sold for £91/head.
Our average price so far for all lambs sold is £98/head. This is an increase of £20/head on our earliest lambs traded last year and we can only hope this trade continues.
Our latest investment for the cattle enterprise is a hydraulic tractor-mounted cow catching pen. This is to try and make the catching and tagging of calves a safer and more efficient operation.
I, like many others, am beginning to feel my age and I am fed up of looking over my shoulder for an overprotective cow arriving at top speed as the calf bellows upon the snap of the first ear tag, with my next thought being ‘is there time to apply the second tag prior to being speared by a flailing horn’.
The machine arrived on Monday and Rob, my youngest son, could hardly wait to try it out. The first calf was tagged on Tuesday morning.
We attended the farmers’ market in Huntly last Saturday. This was the first market post-lockdown in Scotland and it proved to be very successful, and we sold out of almost all of the produce.
We were given a friendly welcome back by our customers who had missed the markets, both for the social aspect and the quality of produce available from vendors.