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By Ewen Campbell,
SRUC’s Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms manager
The past couple of months have flown by and the excellent weather has allowed us to get on well with the spring work. Time to sit down and write my thoughts for this column has also become a bit easier to find.
Lambing is now nearly finished and we only have a handful of ewes left to lamb. Weather wise, it was probably one of the best lambings ever with only a few wet and cold days when the waterproofs were required.
There was plenty of grass and the ewes were in great fettle. Despite this, it did not come without its own problems. There seemed to be more ewes than normal needing help with issues such as a leg back or sometimes no legs at all! Lots of wee niggly things, which all take extra time to sort.
This seems to have been quite a common problem this year and it has been interesting to hear people’s views on why this should be the case. One view, which struck a chord, was that the early flush of grass had upset the ewes’ calcium levels, which in turn affected the birthing process.
It is something I look forward to discussing with our vets at our annual health plan review.
Our scanner man had warned us that there were a few early lambs in the Auchtertyre flock and, sure enough, they appeared about a month early. Luckily, we had these ewes inside and they have done really well.
As usual, we have ended up with quite a few pet lambs but, I have to say, a lot fewer than last year.
Although all the lambs are tagged and weighed within 24 hours of birth, and before the singles are put out to the hill, we are still waiting to see how many there are. We will find out at marking time next month what the final numbers are. Hopefully, a lot better than last year.
In the midst of all that activity, we also had quite a few visitors these past few weeks. We welcomed the pupils of Crianlarich Primary School early this month.
As always, the cows and calves, and ewes and lambs were very popular. My colleague Jenna also explained how she cares for the pet lambs, and many questions were asked about it. They were in for a treat, as they got to see one of the ewes give birth while they were with us – that was very special.
We also discussed grassland and ecology. I am always impressed by the number of questions these youngsters ask, it is so refreshing.
We also had a visit from further afield – 27 students and their lecturers from Crowder College, Missouri, USA, came to visit the farms last week.
Crowder College is very similar in function to SRUC, where students learn about agriculture, agronomy, economics and veterinary science. They were on a fact-finding tour of Scotland, and we spent a good morning explaining the ins and outs of Scottish hill farming, as well as the latest research we are carrying out here.
We focused on the sheep, but they were also keen on our Aberdeen Angus cross cattle – beef cattle are more predominant where they come from.
We also emphasised the EU collaborative projects that we are part of – SheepNet and SusSheP. They were very interested and asked many questions. It is always nice to have a good audience, and I think they enjoyed seeing our impressive landscape on a sunny morning.
That’s it for now – we will be at NorthSheep in Yorkshire and HighlandSheep in Thurso in the next few weeks, so, do not hesitate to pop round to the SRUC stand and have a chat.