Ewen Campbell, SRUC Kirkton & Auchtertyre farms manager
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