Michael Shannon at work in his office© Jeff Holmes

It’s nice to be able to glance out of the office window and see some greenery as I type.

This makes a change from the considerable covering of snow we have had for the past week.

The children had a great time off school, building snow men and sledging when it wasn’t too cold. Mum and the children’s igloo was quite an engineering feat.

The breeding sheep all had to get silage for a few days as there was no chance of them finding anything under a foot and half of snow.

See also: How a beef finisher keeps winter feed costs at 48p/day

Tough tramping

The outwintered cattle were able to graze the swift (fodder beet) which was still poking above the white stuff but tramping through that amount of snow every day takes it out of the poor old farmer. One of the downsides of having one of the only green crops above the snow is that every pigeon for miles comes for dinner.

After the excitement and sheer volume of work in the butchery around Christmas and new year, January can be a be a bit flat. We have shut the shop early for most of the last week to allow staff to make it home, which won’t help the sales figures.

Sad farewell

But the thing that is playing hardest on all our minds is the loss of our family dog, Sushi. She slipped away on the 2 January.

Sushi arrived here as a big bundle of Boxer joy and was one of the best family dogs you could ever have hoped for. Every single one of our eight children loved her and she loved them.

Farming on your own can be a very lonely occupation and I am badly missing my constant companion for the past 13 years. I think, maybe sometimes, we underestimate the companionship we all get from our canine friends.

For me, Sushi was always nearby wherever I was working, whether it was watching me from the woods as I moved fences, lying in the straw in the lambing shed, sitting outside the butchery or bakery hoping a scrap would come her way or sitting at the end of the lane waiting for me if I was working across the road.  She will be sadly missed.


Michael Shannon finishes 150-head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise as well as free range turkeys for Christmas, near Biggar, Lanarkshire. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious with surpluses sold deadweight.