Death of a cow remains a frustrating mystery
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.
Open Farm Sunday at SRUC Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms.