Farmer Focus: Store lambs earn us decent money

They say variety is the spice of life. My work has certainly had plenty of variety these past few weeks.

I’ve always enjoyed doing building work – whether it’s farm buildings or kit houses. I’ve been helping a friend this summer with a house extension.

Even though many houses in Orkney are clad with Welsh slate, it was the first time I have used it. We are now working on the inside, which is a good job as the weather has turned more autumnal.

See also: Strong ewe lamb market presents big gamble

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

At home, I have been servicing machinery on rainy days. The days the weather is better I’m putting an electric wire around more existing fences.

I once heard a farmer say that an electric wire doubles the life of a fence. I don’t know how accurate that is, but with the price of fencing materials now I want to get as many years as possible out of any fence.

This year we have hosted quite a few visits throughout the summer. A local tour guide who also specialises in farm tours has teamed up with Bay Farm Tours and we’ve taken three groups to date.

We also had the Scottish Shorthorn Club on a visit recently. I didn’t have any Shorthorn cattle to show them, but it has been great to welcome visitors to the farm again after a quiet year in 2020.

Our first lambs were sold as stores in early September. They came to £82.50 a head, which I was happy with.

When our lambs are still stores, and other farms that lamb later than us are selling prime lambs, I think we must be doing something wrong.

We probably are, but my excuse is that our wee Shetland cross Cheviot ewes are easily kept and have reared 149 lambs from 85 ewes put to the tup.

There are also another nine pet lambs. A few years ago, the lamb price didn’t cover the cost of the milk and feed but, thankfully, with the better prices, it is now viable again.