John Gordon: Another two feet of snow add to the winter workload

I’M sorry to go on about the snow but another two feet fell at the end of February. This makes total snow this winter at almost six feet!

With hard frost each night and no grazing available, sheep are very hungry. We have housed 200 ewes scanned for triplets and some thin ewes expecting twins, along with 140 in-lamb hogs.

The hogs came home early from their overwintering because they were desperately in need of extra feed.

By the time you read this we will have housed another 200 ewes (those keeled first) ready for lambing to begin around March 26. The ewes were all given protection against lice and clostridial diseases and they also went through an antibiotic footbath to try to minimise foot problems.

Calving is progressing slowly due to difficulties with bulls last year. The cows were all PDd so there will be a bang shortly when they let go. We sold 53 cattle at Thainstone on February 19, at an average of £880 for steers and heifers. Another Charolais bull has been bought and a 10-year-old bull pensioned off.

The ‘Pack Report’ is causing quite a bit of controversy as it proposes that area-based payments are the way forward. This is at odds with the NFUS, which is recommending that no change is required to the existing SFP scheme.

I acknowledge it would be difficult under EU rules to reward activity but if an area-based scheme is implemented, in my opinion, it is essential that top-up payments for livestock are given or we may see the demise of livestock from our upland and hill farms.

On a personal note, it was sad to note the passing of Charlie Smith of Spyhill, one of North East Scotland’s great stockmen. He left school aged 13 and spent his lifetime working with livestock. His honesty and integrity was greatly admired and many will miss his wise counsel.

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