Say hello to our newest In Your Field columnist, Robbie Newlands, from Morayshire
Cluny is a upland mixed farm, where we run suckler cows, breeding ewes and grow barley and swedes. We are tenants of Moray Estates for all but 28 hectares (70 acres) of our 435ha (1,074 acres), the 28ha (70 acres) half a mile away being rented from a neighbour.
The cattle consist of 150 spring-calving cross cows, mostly Blue cross and Simmental cross, put to Charolais bulls, although we have been using some Simmental bulls lately on second calvers and for bulling the heifers.
The progeny are all finished on an intensive barley beef system. This includes the heifer calves, although we are considering retaining some for our own replacements. The cows and heifers are all out-wintered on stubble fields and are strip grazed on swedes, one of the advantages of being on fairly light, free-draining soil.
The sheep enterprise is made up of 650 North of England Mule ewes put to the Texel tup. Again, we aim to finish all the lambs, although there are always a few at the end which go to the store ring, ready to eat someone else out of house and home.
Lambing starts in mid-April, with the aim of having the bulk of cows calved before the sheep explode, turning frantic into mayhem. To help me I have a full-time employee, Lesley (tractor driver and general ’do everything’ person), my wife Kirsty who is a part-time physio, and my three daughters, Chloe 17, Ellie 16 and Eve 13, who mostly have much more important things to do than help me. We also have a lamber to help for three weeks in April.
Lately we have been making silage, most of which has been secured in fairly dry condition, this being down to luck as much as anything else, as weather windows have been impossible to predict. It has been a poor summer, in fact a poor year for weather, but crops and stock all look reasonably good. The weather has made work harder or later to get through, but at least we have not suffered in the way as those further north in Caithness and the Northern Isles.
We are selling bulls and heifers at the moment, and it looks like cattle are at least coming to reasonable money, unlike the prospects for grain or the lambs; hopefully replacement gimmers will be easier to buy.
Here’s hoping a better spell is on its way for both weather and commodity prices.
Robbie Newlands and his wife Kirsty farm 435 hectares (1,074 acres) of Less Favoured Area land near Forres, Morayshire. They run 150 mostly Simmental and Blue cross cows, with 30 Simmental cross heifers put to a Simmental bull. All progeny is sold fat off a barley beef-type system. The ewe flock of 650 North of England type Mules is put to Texel tups, with most lambs sold fat. Crops include 69ha (170 acres) of barley for feed and 10ha (26 acres) of swedes. The business employs one full-time person, Lesley Grant.