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.
It is the last week of April already and one-third of the year has almost gone. When I was younger my father used to tell me ‘don’t wish your life away’, but the months are flying by this year. It is interesting how your perspective on things change as you grow older.
Looking forward to special events is all part of growing up and when we were young we had the feeling nothing could go wrong allied to a sense of invincibility. However, now I am in my late 50s my sense of invincibility has long since left, with the last of it disappearing as I flew through the air on the end of a gate propelled by a young Highland bull. This was emphasised further by a Suffolk ram ‘with a sense of humour’ as he sent me on my nose with a butt on the backside after a 12-yard run-up.
Handling stock is part of our daily routine and personal safety should always be the first priority, but accidents and fatalities have occurred in our area with farmers and workers having to comply with legislation regarding the tagging of young calves in fields. As spring marches on, cattle are starting to be turned out in Aberdeenshire, with grass growth still quite slow.
We are all envious here when we read of first-cut silage being taken in southern England. Our lambing is all but over and has been reasonably successful. Lambs have made a good start with the reasonably dry weather remaining free of sleet and snow.
Spring barley has also had a great start thanks to the great early growing conditions. Winter crops are, for the most part, looking too well, being too advanced for our part of the world at this time of year. Sheep and cattle prices seem to be on a gentle incline which tends to be the best as too quick a rise inevitably ends in an equally quick drop which tends to cause more pain. So, onwards and upwards.
The foundations of the farming year are in place and look to be completed earlier and stronger than last year. See, eternal optimism still lurks in my ageing body.