Film crews put spotlight on SRUC

Film crews have been recording what goes on at Kirkton and Auchtertyre.

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Ewen Campbell, SRUC’s Kirkton and Auchtertyre research farms manager

Autumn is a busy time of the year for all farms, with the harvest taking place on the lower land and store lambs and calves being gathered off the hills and uplands to go for sale.

At Kirkton and Auchtertyre, we have been gathering and weaning our lambs and checking the ewes to see if they are fit to use for breeding for another year.

The lambs from our research flock at Kirkton have been weighed and wormed, with the tup lambs in our PARK system utilising the grass before going into the shed to be fattened and the tup lambs in our HILL system
going straight into the shed after weaning.

All male lambs (except the ones we keep for breeding) will go to Scotbeef in Bridge of Allan, once fattened, and the ewe lambs will be going off to their wintering next month.

This year has been a good one. We weaned 680 lambs (445 Blackface and 235 Lleyns) from our research flock. Lamb numbers at weaning from our high hill flock at Auchtertyre have also been good which shows that lambing went well this year for the Auchtertyre and Corrie flocks. At lambing time we tagged and recorded 491 lambs across the two flocks having scanned 522 lambs in total.

Of the lambs lost between tagging and weaning, there are only 18 that we do not have a reason for. This is vastly better than previous years and although we have a 9.7 per cent mortality rate (most of which were the usual reasons at lambing time as identified by Ping Zhou, our PhD student), it isn’t any higher than our Kirkton and Lleyn research flocks.

Overall we have a lot more lambs than we had last year. Lambs which were
castrated were sent to SRUC Oatridge for finishing, any tup lambs have been put in the shed for fattening and ewe lambs will go to wintering.

In the next few weeks, the farm may well look empty with all these lambs gone but it will give the grass a chance to grow before tupping time.

The calves have also recently been weaned and they looked very well coming in off the hill, with 26 averaging 253kg without any creep feed.

Over the past few years the calves were sent to SRUC Oatridge who finished the bullocks and sent the heifers back in the spring, in time for bulling. This year, however, we will be selling the bullocks at one of the local auction marts in the next few weeks and will winter the heifers here at Kirkton and Auchtertyre.

Previous groups of heifers have taken a check on returning home from Oatridge and it has taken them quite a long time to catch up, so hopefully that will not happen this year.

On the grass front, we finally managed to get our reseeding done after waiting for several weeks for the soil to dry up. The conditions were still not perfect, but near enough and as the Indian summer that the forecasters have been promising us for weeks has never turned up, we decided that we would just have to get on with it. Time will tell whether this has
been a good decision or not.

We have also been busy with visitors and events. At the beginning of the month, we hosted a workshop for land managers and other stakeholders on woodland creation and management on farms, in association with the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the Farm Advisory Service and the Woodland Trust.

The workshop highlighted a range of woodland priorities within the national park and explored the different types and scales of woodland management and creation that can be implemented on farms across Scotland.

It is not quite Hollywood here, or Outlander, but not far off!

A couple of weeks ago, we had a filming team from SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes), who wanted to put together a short film to show the different groups within SEFARI.

Since we had colleagues from the Moredun Research Institute who were doing some data collection with us as part of our lamb worming project, we had an eventful morning.

They filmed us outside gathering the sheep, and in the handling shed too. At the same time, colleagues from our own SAC Consulting were keen to get some footage on our worming experiment to produce another short film for farmers.

Just as well it was a lovely day, and, being on camera, I had to mind my Ps and Qs! It will be good to see the end result though.

And, being September, it is when students start college again. As such, we have had a whole raft of SRUC students visiting the farms over the past couple of weeks.

We had 90 MSc students from the environmental courses at Edinburgh who came to learn about the landscape, biodiversity, history and land management of the estate.

We also had about 70 freshers students from SRUC Edinburgh. They were the new recruits from the Agriculture, Animal Science, Rural Business Management and Environment courses. They were using our wigwams as a base to tour around Scotland.

We talked to them one day, to show them the research and activities we do here on the farms. Hopefully we gave them a flavour of what they will study over the next three or four years.