For my first attempt at journalism I was asked to give a bit of background to our enterprises at Bogside. We have a fold of pedigree Highland cattle extending to 80 cows plus followers to supply pure Highland beef for our farm shop and farmers markets in our area.
We used to supply eight different retail outlets in local towns, but, with the margins tightening, we now only supply two, which are taking a reasonable amount each week.
We grow spring barley for malting and the grain is sold through Banff and Moray Grain, a group of farmers which now numbers more than 70 and has a contract through W.N. Lindsay, Scotland’s largest independent grain merchant. A board of directors has regular meetings with the managing director to try to best market the barley for the group’s members.
There is also the opportunity for members to set the price for themselves based on a price above wheat futures. The grain being produced by the group is contracted to exclusively supply The Glenlivet distillery, the world’s best selling single malt whiskey.
On-farm there is also a commercial sheep flock extending to 230 ewes which are a mixture of home-bred Texel cross Cheviot Mules and Scottish Mules. The terminal sires used are Texels and Suffolks. The lambs are then marketed through United Auctions at Huntly.
After very mixed weather for the past year we are hoping climatic conditions will be a bit more favourable in the coming seasons. Ideally, spring barley is sown between the middle and end of March, although the first 10 days of April can also work well depending on the weather post-sowing. The variety to be sown this year will be Concerto as this is the favoured option of our distillers. We are also growing a small acreage of Planet, a relatively new feeding variety which yielded well in a poor season last year.
Yields last year were back almost half-a-tonne to the acre on the previous season and also suffered from being higher in screenings than usual.
Like farmers in all parts of Britain we are waiting with baited breath to see what effects Brexit negotiations will have on our business. I suspect the enterprise which will suffer most will be the sheep as lamb consumption in Scotland alone is poor, meaning we rely heavily on export and English market to keep prices up.