Making hay while the summer sun shines

Marking the lambs at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, with the help of our two US students from Arkansas University.

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Well, after me talking about the worst winter ever, I can safely say the summer has started off really well.

These past few weeks have been fantastic, and we recorded our highest ever temperature of 31.6 degrees Celsius on June 28.

As a result, we have been really busy making hay with the help of a contractor, profiting from the dry spell. We managed to get 205 big square bales from 17 hectares of our fields that we’ve reseeded over the past few years.

We’ve also had all of our ewes and lambs gathered in for marking and the ewe hoggs in for shearing. As in previous years, most of the hoggs were sheared by people attending the two-day shearing course, run by British Wool, and they all did a very good job.

We have also been busy with various shows, visits and workshops. In addition to some of my colleagues attending the Royal Highland Show, we also hosted the annual meeting of one of our EU projects we’re involved in. The project is a European-funded project (ERA-Net SUSAN) called SusSheP (Sustainable Sheep Production) in collaboration with Norway, France and Ireland, and looks at improving sustainability of sheep farming in various environments.

Nineteen people attended the two-day meeting in Crianlarich and here at Kirkton, where they were treated to a full farm visit. They were very interested and keen the see the differences between their own systems back home. They also could not believe the nice weather when they were here!

My colleagues also attended a workshop in northern Spain, as part of another European project we are involved in. SheepNet is a networking project between six EU countries and Turkey.

I was lucky to join them back in November for a workshop in Romania, but I was too busy with the hay-making to be with them this time.

The meeting focused on sharing and exchange of farmers’ tips and tricks for implementing solutions to improve sheep productivity by improving fertility rate and pregnancy success and reducing lamb mortality.

The top five tips and tricks for all were from: 1. Ireland – water supply to multiple lambing pens from one source to reduce labour; 2. Turkey – use of electronic ID recording tool to improve productivity; 3. Australia – moving gate to put sheep through the race without stressing them; 4. Ireland – dealing with enlarged teats by taping the normal teat to encourage lambs to suck the large one; and 5. France – a barrier to prevent lambs from jumping in the trough.

Let’s hope I can free myself for the next meeting, which will be held in Sardinia in November.

We also had another very successful Kirkton Grassland Group meeting last Wednesday. A number of farmers and consultants joined us for a day discussing the management of the bracken areas that were sprayed last summer in our fields below the railway.

We also had some interesting discussions about our silage fields and our future grassland management plans.

So, as usual, quite a busy month for us.