Farmer Focus: Beast made £90 over winter, ate £100 of cake

The plan over the past two months has always been to get the new sheep shed built and completed by the first week of February.

After this, the intention was to get everything set up and ready for calving, and maybe take a couple of days off to recharge before it started.

Meanwhile, in the real world, cow number 31 out of 99 has just calved and I still don’t have everything ready in the calving shed, let alone having the sheep shed finished.

About the author

Steven Sandison
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Steven Sandison farms 90 Simmental and Salers-cross suckler cows on the Orkney Islands in partnership with his wife, Lorraine, on 134ha (330 acres). They have a 150-ewe flock of Shetland cross Cheviot ewes. Maximising grass is a priority.
Read more articles by Steven Sandison

See also: How beef farmer is achieving gross margin of £370 a cow

I am hopeful there will be sheep in the shed by this weekend, although I said that last week, and the week before.

Despite not being completely prepared, the calving has gone fine, but as anyone with livestock knows it can soon change.

We have had four sets of twins, which is always handy, especially at the start of calving. I have continued to feed the cows pre-calver buckets and, thankfully, there haven’t been any more cows down with magnesium/phosphorus deficiency.

Calves have been lively, which is a relief, as the cows were still eating 2020 silage when the first ones calved.

Three out of the five of us have now had Covid-19 over the past couple of weeks. Thankfully, no one has been feeling too bad and it’s been a great help to me having everyone home.

The ewes were scanned in late January. Three were empty, 22 were carrying singles, 117 carrying twins and 14 carrying triplets. This gave a scanning rate of 191%.

We give the triplets supplementary feeding right from scanning and we start feeding the ewes carrying twins a month before lambing.

We sold a few cull cows last week, which met a good trade, with a top of £1,290 and an average of £1,230. We may have had a better price before, but these were not our biggest or best cows.

I also had a young steer that couldn’t be sold in October. He was 315kg then and his pals made 238p/kg. At that price he would have made £750.

He was 378kg on 11 February and made £840. He ate almost £100 worth of concentrate plus silage, straw and dosing. As a friend of mine often says: “You do the maths.”