Electric Fishing

08 November 2023

Pitch up! goes live – Our new partnership with Tim May at Kingsclere Estate in Hampshire has gone live, with the application window now open. The aim is to bring more enterprises to Balcaskie and Kingsclere, increasing the diversity and resilience of the existing businesses, at the same time increasing the number of people benefiting from the land. We are excited to see what new ideas this brings and hopeful that there will be a few gems in the bunch. To find out more, go to Pitch Up!

The last load of Lincoln Red breeding cattle arrived late on Friday night from Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Yorkshire, bringing a total of 85 new magnificent beasts to join the Balcaskie Herd. This mammoth exercise involves 11 farms, 2 vets, 4 lorries and a few phone calls and emails. Every animal has to undergo a series of tests to ensure that it conforms to the High Herd Health status which we achieve. The farms are all chosen as they not only have the same health status, but are also from farms which have never had tuberculosis. Scotland is officially TB free and maintaining this degree of biosecurity is paramount.

The cattle travel 1st class with W Walkers of Strathkinness, who invest significantly to maintain a fleet of lorries of the highest standard and gleaming even after the journey. Regardless, that these animals travelled a long way on some of the worst stormy days, they arrived clean and relaxed, walking off into sheds where they will rest for a few weeks before moving out to join the rest of our herd. Our thanks go to all of those involved who make it a pleasure to know.

The breeding sheep flock are being treated to their colourful “Bum Dye” with the Tups wearing wax crayon harnesses to mark the ewes as they are served. Having been on holiday for the past 11 months, these Tups, in their prime will work tirelessly and selflessly for the 6 week season – barely eating they are so committed to their role. Judging by the array of marked ewes – these tups are a dedicated bunch!

Our next Grass to Grill event takes place this month with an invited group of guests from the restaurants we supply. Nervously we will be not only showing them how we produce the animals they use, getting them to handle the live animals and explaining what we look for when selecting the best beasts for the butchery – we will also be cooking up a feast for a group of chef’s who between them, hold a significant number of awards and stars!

Last month saw more data gathering for the Dreel Burn Project when the Forth Rivers Trust undertook a survey of fish in the burn. Using non-lethal electrofishing techniques, where a current is passed through the water, momentarily stunning the fish, so they can be counted, weighed and returned, the results were encouraging. Adult Brown Trout, with juveniles shows that breeding and sustaining a healthy population is possible. Later, the wildlife cam captured an adult Otter crossing the ford.

Gavin, Jeremy, Hannah and Reuben spent a very wet day being taught how to make charcoal from hedge cuttings and oil drums. The age old process enables what would be a waste products to be turned in to a valuable asset for cooking/soil improvement and art – we hope that we can produce enough to keep the Balcaskie BBQ going.

Data gathering is vital to measure, compare and make decisions – none more so than the weather and effects of it. We record rainfall every 15 minutes, wind in real time and relative humidity. All pretty boring until you see extremes. October brought 10″ of rain. Our annual average is 29″. Extremes are becoming the norm and learning how to adapt, build resilience and importantly, under our farming system, manage too much water/lack of water is evident to all. A healthy soil has the ability to hold moisture in dry conditions and drain excess water through the profile in wet times. Right now, it is clear that where we have rested land for the longest period, or maintained living roots after arable crops, the waterlogging is far less evident than where we have recently grazed or moved soil – The balance comes in being able to rest and produce, so if you wonder why we have fields with no livestock for long periods of time, this is the reason.


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