Farmer Focus: Race to get new land ready for cows

“Never cast a cloot [cloth] until May is oot” is a saying we use every year when we are experiencing cold, windy weather during May.

Changeable weather is something we are used to in this part of the world. It can be very frustrating when it changes for the bad quickly, but it’s great when it happens the other way around.

This has happened twice over the past month. Grass growth was very slow until the second week of May.

See also: How to set up electric fencing to optimise grazing

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

Then things changed suddenly for the better and I turned out all the cows and calves in a day-and-a-half. But it still wasn’t quick enough.

Although May was cold, thankfully there was enough rain to keep the grass and barley going. And on 1 June, the temperature turned up and the forecast is now looking good.

Last year, the opportunity came up for us to buy 40ha (100 acres) of land on our doorstep. To finance it, we decided to sell off some of the land we had bought in 2020, which is eight miles away from the farm.

The new land we have bought was needing a lot of fencing, drainage and a new water system put in.

The deal went through just before Christmas, but I was limited in what I could do until the weather improved and the land dried up enough to carry machinery.

It was early April before we actually got started, and now it’s a race to get each field ready for the cows as they need a shift. It’s safe to say boredom hasn’t been an issue this spring!

Lambing took a wee bit longer, but was far more pleasurable than last year. We lost four ewes with sudden death and the vet diagnosed blackleg.

The ewes have been vaccinated once with Ovivac, but the vet reckons they still don’t have enough immunity.

Thankfully, the lambs have been OK, and on the vet’s advice we have vaccinated them as well to be on the safe side.

I must go now and find an overnight bag and my Nuffield tie, as I’ve been asked to speak at Scotland’s Beef Event in Dumfries. It will be good to get a change of scenery.