John Gordon: Combining barley and losing a new bull calf and its mother

After 36 hours of continuous rain at the beginning of September it was amazing we were combining barley at 17 per cent moisture just six days later. That is one consolation of farming on the side of a hill!


John farms 505ha (1,250 acres) at Wellheads, Huntly, in partnership with his mother, and wife Fiona and their family Ewan (14) and Kirstie (11). The upland farm has sucklers, sheep and spring barley. John is a director of the Highland Show and ANM Group, which includes Aberdeen and Northern Marts.

Thankfully our contractor had dual wheels on his combine, otherwise we would have had to wait longer. There is no doubt that we were luckier than others who had fields of straw and bales washed away.

Hopefully by the time you read this, our Decanter high nitrogen barley will be away on contract. Without a contract the price is a joke and a bad one at that!

The result was a tremendous bull calf but unfortunately it struggled from birth and died after only a few hours under the heat lamp

John Gordon

Fat lambs are working away, with 100 or so finished each fortnight. All lambs over 38kg are being fed finishing pellets from a hopper in the field to push them on in a bid to save grass for tupping ewes.

Blowfly strike has been a problem in our flock and so the ewes were all shower dipped last week. We have checked their udders and mouths and, as we also have plenty ewe hoggs from last year, we have decided that we won’t need to buy any more gimmers.

That’s a relief as paying £140 for a gimmer would make me wince, never mind £231,000 for a tup! I bought 120 Mule ewe lambs for tupping at Thainstone and we’ve kept 150 of our own ewe lambs as well.

Calving is progressing well with 70 cows calved in just over three weeks. It’s never trouble free and after a good start it all went downhill with our first caesarian of the season.

The result was a tremendous bull calf but unfortunately it struggled from birth and died after only a few hours under the heat lamp. Its mother s followed it through the pearly gates the next day. I dare say you’ve seen it all before!

Spring born calves have all been treated with wormer and received their first dose of pneumonia vaccine. They will get their second dose at housing and at the same time will have their backs clipped.

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