Vis­its help with au­tumn work

Campbeltown Courier - - FARMING - By Ewen Camp­bell, SRUC’s Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre re­search farms’ man­ager

It has been a while since our last col­umn from SRUC’s Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre farms, but there has been a lot go­ing on. In the last ar­ti­cle, in Au­gust, I was hop­ing to take a sec­ond cut of silage (some­thing which has not hap­pened here in a long time, if ever) and this duly hap­pened at the end of the first week of Septem­ber. We took a bit of a gam­ble and cut on Thurs­day Septem­ber 6 when the weather was any­thing but set­tled. In­deed, there were a few show­ers go­ing around as the fields were be­ing cut. But things dried up on Fri­day and we man­aged to get it all baled and wrapped on the Satur­day in fairly good con­di­tion. We will be sam­pling and analysing it soon to see what the qual­ity is like. The ex­tra 120 bales will make a big dif­fer­ence to the amount of fod­der we need to buy in over the win­ter and the grass has grown again mean­ing that there should be plenty for flush­ing ewes at tup­ping time. The SHX calves from our AAX cow herd were weaned at the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber with an av­er­age wean­ing weight of 244kg, straight off the cow from the hill with no feed­ing. This equates to a daily live weight gain of 1.14kg/day, which is al­most ex­actly the same as last year at 1.13kg/day. They were kept in the shed for just over a month be­fore the bul­lock calves went off to SRUC Barony at an av­er­age weight of 292kg where they will be fin­ished. The heifer calves are due to go to SRUC Oa­tridge for win­ter­ing soon. Over­all, we are very pleased with how the calves have done and how the cows have per­formed this year. We have also man­aged to wean all our lambs in the past cou­ple of months, with all ewe lambs now away to their win­ter­ing and some tup lambs have been sent to the abat­toir. So far, 150 lambs have gone to slaugh­ter with the ma­jor­ity get­ting a grade of R3L but we still have about 250 to go. So far they are av­er­ag­ing about £5/hd more than last year. This year we de­cided to keep all of our Auchter­tyre lambs to fin­ish in­stead of sell­ing them store and as usual our tup lambs are fin­ished in the shed with ad-lib fin­isher pel­lets and straw. How­ever, this year is a bit dif­fer­ent as some of our lambs are be­ing fin­ished us­ing our lat­est kit. These are a se­ries of in­di­vid­ual EID feed in­take bins, which record which lamb is eat­ing what. This de­tail of know­ing how much in­di­vid­ual lambs have eaten will al­low us to cal­cu­late their in­di­vid­ual feed ef­fi­ciency (ie, how much feed they re­quired to get to the cor­rect weight and fat­ness). We have also just fin­ished our stock­draw, where we check which ewes we should keep for the next sea­son. We check their feet, ud­ders, teeth, as well as past per­for­mance, to name a few. It is quite a long job, but nec­es­sary. The sheep are now back on the hill un­til we gather them again for pre-tup­ping next month. We have had some help with the sheep – a PhD stu­dent from the Uni­ver­sity of Parana in Brazil, Vanessa Souza So­ri­ana, who is on a place­ment at SRUC with col­leagues in Ed­in­burgh. Vanessa was keen to see more ex­ten­sive sheep pro­duc­tion sys­tems, so she stayed with us for two weeks, and was look­ing at an­i­mal wel­fare as­sess­ments on our flocks, fol­low­ing an EU project pro­to­col called AWIN. Vanessa re­ally en­joyed Kirk­ton, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to get her fi­nal find­ings. As for my­self, I had a very en­joy­able trip to Mull last month to do a pre­sen­ta­tion on lamb fin­ish­ing as part of a sheep re­silience meet­ing. The meet­ing was very well at­tended de­spite the foul weather and prompted a lot of dis­cus­sion on top­ics like fluke con­trol and con­di­tion scor­ing, af­ter pre­sen­ta­tions by my SAC Con­sult­ing col­leagues Heather Steven­son and Poppy Frater. And to fin­ish on a dif­fer­ent note, two of my col­leagues, Ni­cola Lambe and Claire Mor­gan-Davies, have just re­turned from a trip to the French Pyren­nees, where they pre­sented the work be­ing done on moun­tain breeds here at SRUC’s Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre. De­spite the dif­fer­ences in terms of pro­duc­tion (dairy sheep) and land­scape (dry moun­tain pas­tures), these ar­eas face sim­i­lar is­sues to ours (prob­lem of ac­cess to labour, eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity, re­mote­ness and preda­tors). These is­sues were com­mon across all moun­tain ar­eas in Europe.

Dairy ewes near the com­mu­nal shep­herds’ hut in the French Pyren­nees at 1,700m al­ti­tude.

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