03 June 2024


May is the start of “Showtime” for the livestock team, a chance to show off the best of the farms stock infront of other farmers and expert judges. From the first outing at the Fife Show, Ewan came back with a good stash of rosettes and a cup for sheep, then off to the West Fife, where it was repeated. So Cameron has much to live up to when he takes cattle to the Royal highland and Great Yorkshire shows later this month. In between the shows, is Groundswell, a regenerative agriculture festival in Hertfordshire, where some great speakers are on the roster and the chance to get new ideas which relate to the way we farm. One of the best things about Groudswell has to be the diversity of people and farming systems coupled with an optimism and enthusiasm which is infectious.

Sunshine and heat at last… The saying – “Rain in May makes Hay” is hopefully true this year as we need to re-stock the food larders for Winter after dipping into our savings. Grass growth is good considering the damage done to soil over winter. It is noticeable how each year we seem to see different grass/herb species proliferate in pasture. Over the past few years we have seen; Timothy, Chicory and Cocksfoot take turn to be the predominant spring species. Last year was Chicory and this year it is almost absent in many fields. Cocksfoot is predominant this season, and has possibly benefitted from its huge root mass having more stored energy for growth. It really confirms the benefit of herbal leys, spreading risk.

Jeremy completed the Spring Partridge count last month and we were prepared for a much lower winter survival since predation and lack of dry days would have taken its toll. We were delighted with only a small reduction in numbers form last year’s record. Now we hope for a good hatch and chick survival.

June is silage and hay time, when we cut and ensile the silage and spread grass to dry for hay. Due to the speed of modern machinery, the process is not very forgiving for ground nesting birds. So to help mitigate as far as possible, we leave headlands and strips in field uncut, to enable safe haven for birds. It is not perfect, but we have found it to be a successful compromise.

 New season lamb is now on the menu, since we have been selling the early lambs. They have done well considering the start they had and are on par with last year for numbers, age and weight. Most of our lamb will be heading to M&S under their organic range with the best being saved for the butchery. We still have a few old season Hogget and cull ewe mutton, which remain very popular with chefs.

Shearing time is also fitted into the workload and we rely on a contract team from the Borders supplied by Lance Armstrong. His teams of UK and NZ/OZ lads and lasses are always impressive to see in operation. The ewes look of relief when the wool is removed is clear when they jump off the shearing deck.

Last month we said goodbye to Hannah Munro wo was studying for her HNC in Forestry while working with us here at Balcaskie. Hannah was a fantastic addition to the team with her cheerful and positive nature combined with her energy and determination with a chainsaw. In her place we are pleased to welcome Yusuf, who has completed his theory with SRUC at Barony and now will spend the year on the tools learning the practical.

We will also be saying goodbye to Izzy and Iestyn this month and Reece next month who will have completed their placement year on the farm and business marketing. The three students from Harper Adams have proven their abilities and we will have leaned as much from them as they have from us. The opportunity to have such competent and cheerful people join our team is encouraging for the industry and we are very lucky to have had them. We will be welcoming Emma, Imogen and Jack in the next few weeks to take over the mantle and look forward to learning more again.


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