A Game of Logic

17 April 2023

April has begun with warm, longer days and dare I tempt fate – a settled forecast. After a pretty dismal March, the grass is growing, ewes with new-born lambs, cows and calves are all looking well, even if they had to put up with a daily shower or two.

With the early lambing flock now almost complete – only 4 left, and the main flock now well underway, we will have increased the headcount already by over 1200 in just a few weeks.

Similarly, calving has been rapid with over 220 calves on the ground already, with most now out grazing and heading to their spring pastures.

Long hours and dedication to the maternity wards are essential, and the team have been working around the clock to ensure nothing is missed. The team have also managed to share their expertise with several people who joined in for a few weeks to gain experience.

Field work came to an abrupt halt with 80mm of rain in early March and still only the Fava Beans have been planted. Instead, attention turned to mending and maintaining field drains. This is a game of logic, mixed with skill and a lot of head scratching. Sometimes we have maps which show where the occasional tile drain is – approximately, but the skill comes with being able to spot the subtle changes in soil colour when the digger is near a 100 year old tile.

Hosting a diverse mix of visitors to Balcaskie over the past month has required some rapid gear changes. From St Andrews University “Don’t Walk” fashion show, with 1000 students putting on a show which would rival any Paris catwalk, followed by Rare Breed Survival Trust Spring Conference with keynote speech by Mari Gougeon – Cabinet Secretary. A visit from 40 Finnish farmers who were studying conservation farming and regardless of the language barrier – a universal understanding of soil was clear. The standout pride moment was when they stood in a field amazed at the sound of songbirds – amazed at the number and volume – something must be working!

A school visit from Anstruther Primary with RHET was a chance for them to see first hand lambs being born, pigs (we didn’t explain where they were heading at this visit…) and cattle up close. We were very pleased to see that the class teacher was utterly engaged with all things farming and had prepared these children well and no doubt will continue their learning back in the classroom.

This month, Jeremy has been counting Grey Partridge pairs. The annual survey is submitted to GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) who have been keeping track of this amazing farmland bird since 1933. The Partridge is an “indicator species”. If its increasing – so too will many other species. We count them in the autumn to establish brood size and number, then again in the spring to count the breeding pairs (they pair for life) to identify winter survival. Our management of the land, food source and cover (to protect from predators) directly effects this iconic bird. So we are delighted again to have seen a 9% increase in numbers from last year, and a total increase since we started counting in 2010 of 450%.

Bird Species at Bowhouse

Corn Buntings Map

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