Farm­ing Fo­cus

Ewen Camp­bell, SRUC Kirk­ton & Auchter­tyre farms man­ager

The Oban Times - - Farming -

NOT THAT any­one needed to be told, but it’s now of­fi­cial that this sum­mer has been very cold and wet. Although it has made life dif­fi­cult, our sum­mer jobs are now com­plete. All our sheep have been shorn and the wool is be­ing sent next week to the Bri­tish Wool Mar­ket­ing Board in Glas­gow, where it will be graded and most of it will even­tu­ally be used for car­pets. That’s one big time- con­sum­ing, but nec­es­sary, job out of the way.

We also weighed all our lambs and ewes in July be­fore shear­ing, to see how they were far­ing and to de­cide whether we needed to worm any of the lambs. Like last year, half of the lambs are be­ing treated in a se­lec­tive way, us­ing their weight gain to de­cide whether or not they needed worm­ing; only a small hand­ful did re­quire worm­ing on this oc­ca­sion. The other half is be­ing treated ac­cord­ing to how many worm eggs are found in a com­bined dung sam­ple. How­ever, egg counts were so low that these lambs did not need to re­ceive any worm­ing treat­ment in July.

Once they had been sheared, weighed and treated for flies and ticks, all an­i­mals were sent back on to the hill, where the grass is now very lush (with all that rain). This also helped re­duce the graz­ing pres­sure on the in­bye fields and al­lowed the grass a chance to grow for mak­ing silage.

Now it is nearly the end of Au­gust and wean­ing is al­most upon us. At wean­ing we will worm the lambs again, if they need it, and we will sep­a­rate the lambs from their moth­ers. At this time lambs will also have their back fat and mus­cle depth mea­sured by ul­tra­sound scan­ning. The re­sults of which will be used in the ge­netic eval­u­a­tions of the in­di­vid­u­als in the flock to pro­duce their Es­ti­mated Breed­ing Val­ues. Hope­fully, a good num­ber of the

male lambs will be ready for slaugh­ter by early au­tumn, while most of the fe­males will be kept for fu­ture breed­ing on the farm.

Most of our time this sum­mer has been taken-up build­ing a new sheep han­dling sys­tem at Auchter­tyre, and this is now com­plete. This set-up is within a shed and con­tains: a man­ual drafter; a Prat­t­ley au­to­matic weigh crate with 5 way auto- drafter; a sheep con­veyor; and a vast range of pens of dif­fer­ent sizes. The con- veyor is the most re­cent piece of sheep han­dling kit we have bought. It is “V” shaped, with the sheep sup­ported within the “V”, the sides of which are long con-

veyor belts so the sheep can be moved along with­out their feet on the ground. This al­lows for easy han­dling of sheep for tasks such as worm­ing, feet trim­ming and other hus­bandry prac­tices. While be­ing held in the con­veyor, the sheep tend to be more re­laxed than when in a con­ven­tional race, there­fore im­prov­ing wel­fare. It is also makes it much eas­ier and safer for us when han­dling the sheep.

We are or­gan­is­ing a farm­ing and in­dus­try live­stock han­dling, health and wel­fare open day at the farms on the 9th Septem­ber, so that peo­ple can come and see it for them­selves. The event will be cen­tred around these new sheep han­dling fa­cil­i­ties at Auchter­tyre and the new cat­tle han­dling and shed fa­cil­i­ties at Kirk­ton. The day will start at 10.00 and fin­ish around 16.00. It should be a good op­por­tu­nity to see all these changes on the farms for your­self. To as­sist with cater­ing ar­range­ments, please reg­is­ter­with SAC Con­sult­ing Of­fices in: Oban 01631 563 093 or Stir­ling 01786 450 964

The cows are cur­rently out on the hill where there are no fences to stop them stray­ing, but so far they have been well be­haved and have not gone too far. The calves will be weaned and weighed in the next cou­ple of weeks to al­low the cows some re­cov­ery time be­fore the win­ter. The calves have had no sup­ple­men­tary feed­ing yet, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how much weight they have put on over the sum­mer. We also man­aged to do some silage on the farm this year. It was all done and dusted two weeks ago, when we had a cou­ple of nice dry days. We man­aged to get 130 bales, so it will be use­ful this win­ter for the cows.

Fi­nally, af­ter hav­ing spent three months with us, Ailsa Thom­son, our SRUC Aberdeen stu­dent who has been on place­ment here, is leav­ing us to re­sume her stud­ies for her fi­nal year of her hon­ours de­gree. It was great for me to have this ex­tra help dur­ing the sum­mer on the farm, and we hope she en­joyed her stay, de­spite the weather and the mid­gies!

The new sheep con­veyor belts at SRUC’s Auchter­tyre farm

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