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Peter Scott

29 March 1996

Peter Scott

THIS time of year is the lull before the storm – lambing, sowing and calving all start in the next two to three weeks.

How the weather can change in a short time. Two days ago seed drills were everywhere sowing spring barley on lighter land, everyone trying to take advantage of the dry weather. Today we have had a considerable snow fall which is blowing hard. This weather has come at the worst time with the ewes near to lambing. Ours are in fairly good condition but more of this weather will soon start to tell.

The ewes were scanned at the end of January and the results show we have more lambs than usual with fewer triplets and singles. It sounds like a lambing made in heaven so far but we will have to wait and see. The end of last years crop are now away averaging over £60 each, that is £24 above the lambs we sold in September with £10 a head extra costs.

Cows have had their rotavirus vaccine and a shot of vitamins A,D and E ready for calving. I have never seen them in better condition. Even the few that are half dairy bred are looking well. This type, mostly from Holsteins, is more difficult to keep flesh on and can be harder to get back in calf, not to mention the poorer quality of beef she produces.

One of the important jobs we do at this time is to get in a professional foot trimmer to check all the bulls. Money spent now saves trouble later when the bulls go out to work.

After boasting about the crop and yield of winter oats last harvest, I doubled the acreage this year, only to come unstuck. Winter oats do not like temperatures of -20C. They go yellow and die. Most of it will have to be ploughed out and resown with spring barley.

Interestingly, though, this crop was grown at 50ft above sea level. A crop on one of the other farms at 800ft is OK.

While writing, news of the tragic events at Dunblane has unfolded. Dunblane is an agricultural village just like many all over the UK, where you think this could never happen. Being so close makes the tragedy feel even worse, if that is possible.n

Cows at Balmanno Farm have had their rotavirus vaccine and shot of A, D, and E vitamins ready for calving, says Peter Scott.

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Peter Scott

1 March 1996

Peter Scott

WITH half the winter already gone, Ive been looking at the stocks of feed left. We should have enough straw and silage to see us through, if it is a "normal" winter. But silage will start to disappear faster now that the spring calving cows are receiving 10kg/head to supplement their ration of treated straw. This small amount of silage fed from now until calving will help to reduce the stress of calving, being put outside, and a change of diet from treated straw to silage. One of the main reasons for feeding the silage now is to ensure it improves the quality of the colostrum thus helping to reduce scours in the calves.

One or two of the pure cows started to break service and their calves coats took on what can be best described as a "dry, wincey" look. Subsequent blood tests revealed a shortage of copper and selenium. According to our vet this is mainly due to dry summers, and injections for both deficiencies were given as a short-term measure, however, we will be more aware in the future. Interestingly, we have not had the same problems with the cross cows.

The Monte Carlo Grand Prix of the beef world came to snow-covered Perth last week. Once again the good bulls of all breeds sold well with the commercial man not afraid to pay for quality, but with nearly 1000 bulls catalogued. The poorer, plainer bulls went back home where perhaps they should have never left.

Estimated breeding values were well in evidence in most breed catalogues. This may well in future be used as a helpful guide for buyers, but at the moment with most of the accuracy printed in the catalogue at under 50%, I wonder if this is being counter productive at this point. A figure printed with an accuracy of 35% means very little. After all even a glass or two of Glen…I can still guess at 50%!

A national beef event named Beef 96 is being staged at the Perth Agricultural Centre on May 8. It promises to be an event with something for all beef producers. It will feature demonstrations on the latest production methods, presentations by various experts as well as breeds, products, equipment and services on display.n

Enough silage for the rest of the winter but with spring calving cows receiving 10kg/head up to calving it is disappearing fast.

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Peter Scott

8 December 1995

Peter Scott

NOVEMBER must go down as one of the warmest and wettest on record. We have only been able to plough on two or three days and still have a lot of spraying to catch up on. There are certainly no water shortages here and we would be only too willing to export some to south of the border.

Thank goodness we brought in all the cattle at the beginning of the month or the damage to grassland would have been disastrous for next spring.

The cows weaned at the beginning of November have now been wormed and put into groups according to condition, with the fittest 200 getting only treated wheat straw till the end of January. The rest are on rations of barley straw, silage and dark grains, depending on condition.

This last group seems to contain most of the cows with 50% of dairy blood. These are the cows which will cost more to winter and are more prone to calving problems in the spring.

All the calves now on complete diet feeding weighed in at similar weights to last year, with entire bulls the same weight and heifers 10kg heavier.

The recent hike in grain prices will make the finishing of cattle over the winter more expensive, which we hope will be reflected in their sale price.

Having a foot in both the livestock and the cereal growing camps, I dont know whether to laugh or cry, except that most of the straights we use were bought in May/June at what now seems a very keen price. But the same cannot be said for the wheat sold forward at harvest for November delivery. I suppose its what you call swings and roundabouts.

I spent two days stewarding at the Scottish Winter Fair last week. How this event has progressed over the last few years. This year the quality of the stock was outstanding. And with nearly 10,000 visitors, what a shop window for Scottish livestock. &#42

All the ewes are now out with tups and it could be a quick lambing.

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Peter Scott

26 May 1995

Peter Scott

I HAVE just spent three days of hell filling in and checking three different sets of IACS forms. Not only has MAFF changed them again, but given us extra sheets to fill in readiness for another change next year. In Scotland it has been a case of find the mistakes in the pre-printed forms as well!

Someone, some time up there, will have the idea of putting IACS, BSP, SSP, SAP, and the twice yearly returns in one form to be sent to us on Christmas Day. To make matters worse, during this form-filling spree, it coincided with three of the best days so far in the year.

What a difference sun and a bit of warm dry weather makes to calves and lambs born at this time – they never seem to look back.

Our own lambing is nearly over, with more lambs on the ground than I can remember for a long time. I thought before lambing the ewes were on the thin side, so extra concentrates were fed and this certainly must have helped as milk is plentiful and troubles few.

The calving has been going at full steam, with 240 cows calved in the first five weeks, which is surprising because of the lack of grass last year at bulling time.

The cobs and straw fed in July is now paying off. Without this extra feed calving would have been more spread out with a lot of geld cows.

So far we have sold 45 bulls averaging 619kg liveweight, with 86% U and Es.

As their average age was only 12 months, they really have moved on at a pace.

We also took the 50 younger heifers, which would not have fattened out of the house, to market. The early grass certainly helps store sales, with the heifers averaging 135p/kg.

The top was a pen of 11-month-old Simmental crosses weighing 405kg, and fetching 154p/kg.

We could certainly use some rain just now, with many of the small streams on the hills nearly dried up. This is unusual so early in the year. Some of the crops are starting to show signs of stress.

Last Sunday I was invited to "relax" for an hour in the garden, "digging the roses".

Gardening has not and will not be one of my favourite pastimes. We already have one expert in the house – two would only cause trouble.

Peter Scott enjoyed the fine weather after three days of checking IACS forms. But, with the crops showing signs of stress rain will be welcome.

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