Farmer Focus: Losing cows on the railway dents morale

At the risk of tempting fate, we have had a good winter so far. When days are short it makes a massive difference if they are dry and frosty and stock do far better.

The ewes are nearly finished rotating round grass fields. Supplementary forage will be introduced soon with the plan being to use stubble and grass fields, which will be ploughed in the spring, to feed out silage and hay on until scanning.

See also: Read more from the livestock farmer focus writers

Resting grass early is something that we always aim to do. It’s often not done soon enough, but this year should be different as the plan is in place.

Once we know where we are in terms of those carrying multiples we can move to phase two of the winter feeding regime with fodder beet being introduced gradually.

Our final batch of rams have been let loose on the Sutherland block, where Lairg-type hill cheviot ewes are either bred pure, if in the A mob, or to the Texel or Beltex if in the B mob.

On the same day that these lads were turned out we took the rams away from the stud ewes, letting them get mobbed up, which will make life easier with fewer groups to manage.

Steep learning curve

Our joint venture into finishing Shetland lambs for the first time has been a steep learning curve. They are difficult to keep in, don’t respect dogs or humans and demand for the light lambs seems to have slowed dramatically.

We are still optimistic that we will make a profit, despite the issues we have experienced, and will review whether we repeat the exercise once the last lamb has been sold.

Scanning results in all cattle herds have been acceptable, with a range of 94-98%. Again the Luings on the Sutherland block topped the pile but didn’t exceed their previous best of 105%.

They seem to suit the area up there and thrive on poor quality forage for weaning calves, which are then brought south for out-wintering at Fearn.

Railway losses

We have however lost three cows this year on the railway line. It seems Network Rail doesn’t have the same proactive approach to fencing as they once did. Losing cows is always frustrating and as farmers we accept it happens, but when its avoidable it dents team morale.

Hopefully, we will see some more action soon, which will allow us to fully utilise fields next to the track.

Countdown to Christmas is now definitely on for some in our house. Archie (8) is still a believer in the big lad in the red suit, while the other three, Lexie (11), Izzy (13) and James (15), are looking forward to some time off school.

Fiona has various lists of things that need to be done before the festivities begin and I have alcohol to source, purely for medicinal purposes of course!


John and Fiona Scott farm 200 suckler cows, 4,500 breeding ewes as well as some crops across 2,226ha. They also has two contract farming operations and generates energy from a small-scale wind turbine and biomass boiler