It is great to see our oystercatchers, lapwings and curlews have all returned in the past few weeks as the season gradually changes from winter to spring, and hopefully the next to return will be the cuckoo and the swallows.
It always lifts the spirits the first day I hear the distinctive call or see the beginnings of a mud nest being built in the eaves of the barn.
Change is all around us at this time of year, and we’re doing things a bit differently ourselves this year, specifically in the lambing shed.
We took advantage of the recent Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grants Scheme from the Scottish Government to buy three cameras which are now all up and running and providing hours of family entertainment as everyone views the sheep from their phone, tablet or PC.
The extra unforeseen benefit is that they run using 4G, and the clever installation people managed to connect it into the house as well – meaning the internet speed has increased significantly and the cries of ’it’s lagging again’ have all but disappeared.
We aren’t quite into the thick of lambing yet, so it remains to be seen if they’re as successful with the sheep as they’ve been with the family.
Another change we’re trying this year is to trial a replacement for hipro soya in the diet of the ewes in the run up to lambing.
As QMS Monitor Farmers almost 10 years ago we learned that by making high quality silage and feeding it with soya in the last three weeks of gestation, we saved time, labour and most importantly money, while still fulfilling the DUP and energy demands of late pregnancy.
But soya is no longer the protein of choice from a sustainability point of view, so we’re hoping that a more local option of rape-meal, a co-product of cold pressed rapeseed oil, will be a good replacement.
Twin ewes have been split into two groups which are being fed the two diets, with all the lambs weighed at birth, colostrum checked, and growth rates recorded to ensure it’s safe to make the switch next year.
Hopefully the results will echo those which have already been found in dairy cattle, and we can do our bit to source feed more locally – after all we can hardly ask our consumers to do it if we’re not prepared to do it ourselves.
I seem to be unusual in that I’m actually getting keener on making changes as I get older, rather than following the stereotype that people get more resistant to doing things differently as they age. It’s exciting and uplifting to try new ideas and see if they work.
Very much the same kind of feeling I get seeing those oystercatchers or hearing the first call of the cuckoo every year. Isn’t nature wonderful at renewing itself and us on a regular basis?