Farmer Focus Livestock: Breeding rams are in short supply for Alistair Mackintosh

Sheep sales have passed with higher prices than last year and we have increased numbers this year. However, buying breeding rams has been challenging, not because of higher prices, but because of shortages, especially Suffolks.

Five years ago, my local auction used to have an annual sale of Suffolk breeding rams with more than 1000 entries. However, this year, at the same sale, there were less than 70. Hopefully the higher prices will encourage more breeding and numbers will be better next year.

Ewe condition is good due to an abundance of grass and by the time you read this the rams will have been released.

Winter barely has at last been sown. However, ground conditions were horrible and we found ourselves having to decide whether or not to go ahead.

Calves have been clipped out in readiness for sale or housing, with bull calves kept for further finishing. A combination of poor weather and a longer calving period means some of the calves are not as forward as they have been in previous years and will have to be kept until spring.

However, thanks to more selective breeding and the use of high index bulls, I’m confident the quality of the calves is improving year-on-year.

Cows and humans alike are finding it difficult to adjust to the out lay of the buildings on the farm, which we have recently taken on. Although the animals have adapted much quicker than us, I still can’t figure out why some of them persist in reversing into cubicles and laying with their heads out, it probably sets them up for a fast getaway.

The calves are always getting through the feed barriers and then can’t find their way back to their mothers. I’m confident superior intelligence will win through in the end.

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