Death of a cow re­mains a frus­trat­ing mys­tery

The Oban Times - - Farming - By Ewen Camp­bell, SRUC Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre re­search farms man­ager

LAMBING has now fin­ished, and, apart from one week when it was wet and very cold, the weather has been re­ally good, with plenty of grass for the sheep to graze.

Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults from our Kirk­ton flock are fairly good at roughly 114 per cent (that is, 114 lambs born and alive for ev­ery 100 ewes put to the tup), but we will get a more ac­cu­rate count when they are taken in for mark­ing (tag­ging and notch­ing their ears for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­poses) in a cou­ple of weeks.

Our ex­ten­sive Auchter­tyre flock was lambed in the hill parks this year and the lambs were tagged be­fore go­ing to the hill. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how many of them come in at mark­ing time. It has been great to see so much sun­shine over the past few weeks and the lambs are grow­ing like mush­rooms. How­ever, there do seem to be more ewes and lambs with sore feet than usual and ticks also ap­pear to have fared par­tic­u­larly well this spring.

We had the vet in to do our an­nual cat­tle health scheme blood test a cou­ple of weeks ago and also to cas­trate the male calves be­fore all the cat­tle are put to the hill for the sum­mer. While the test was all clear, only a few days later we were sad­dened to find one of our cows ly­ing dead at the side of the hill road for no ob­vi­ous rea­son. Although we sent her to Perth for post-mortem, no clear cause of death was found. It’s al­ways frus­trat­ing when these things hap­pen and you can’t find a rea­son for it.

We have been quite busy this month, in ad­di­tion to lambing. We had a dis­play on SRUC’s stand at Scot­sheep, which was held in West Lin­ton near Peebles in the Bor­ders this year. My col­leagues were ex­plain­ing to farm­ers how elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (EID) and as­so­ci­ated sheep han­dling fa­cil­i­ties can be used for sheep man­age­ment, how it can save up to 40 per cent labour and be use­ful for worm con­trol and de­crease an­thelmintic re­sis­tance.

The stand also had dis­plays from other ar­eas of SRUC about com­put­erised to­mog­ra­phy scan­ning, re­search on mas­ti­tis and ge­nomics, and ve­teri­nary in­for­ma­tion on an­thelmintic prod­ucts and health schemes. The event was a suc­cess and a lot of farm­ers vis­ited our stand.

The gen­eral pub­lic vis­ited Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre farms on June 5 as part of na­tional open farm Sun­day. The weather was fan­tas­tic, and up to 50 vis­i­tors came and learned about the his­tory of farm­ing in the area; heard about the chal­lenges fac­ing hill farm­ers and other land man­agers in the up­lands; watched work­ing sheep­dogs in ac­tion; found out more about the hid­den wildlife liv­ing on our farms; took a tour of our wooden wig­wam en­ter­prise; and dis­cov­ered how a range of tech­nol­ogy can help make the farmer’s life eas­ier. Peo­ple who came were very pleased, one of them mar­vel­ling at “be­ing able to see a sheep so close for the first time’. The EID crate and sheep con­veyor were also quite a suc­cess with vis­i­tors, who came from as far as Lon­don, Corn­wall and Aberdeen.

Two days af­ter this event, we also had our last rush con­trol work­shop, or­gan­ised by the Soil As­so­ci­a­tion. About 20 peo­ple came to hear Ian Cairns, an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant, give an ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion and prac­ti­cal work­shop on why rushes have be­come so wide­spread and the dif­fer­ent meth­ods avail­able to con­trol them. De­spite the odd rum­ble of thun­der and a cou­ple of heavy show­ers, the day was a great suc­cess. As well as rush con­trol, top­ics such as which grass seed mix­tures to choose for our part of the coun­try and soil nu­tri­ent man­age­ment were also cov­ered.

The Cale­do­nian Chal­lenge was also back this year on the farms. Start­ing at Gair­lochy, north of Fort Wil­liam, it is 54 miles of run­ning for the com­peti­tors, fin­ish­ing on SRUC's Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre Farms, just be­yond SRUC's Strath­fil­lan Wig­wams. All the fields were ready and mar­quees and tents had been erected. An­other busy week­end for us too.

All in all, a busy time on the farms. Next time, I will be able to say how mark­ing went and, with a bit of luck, we might even have some silage made.

A25open­far­m01no

Open Farm Sun­day at SRUC Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre Farms.

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