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Glensaugh News – 3 November 2008

At Glensaugh we are about to start another production year as our Texel tupps (rams) will shortly be introduced to the flock of crossbred ewes. In advance of this we have had our entire sheep flock dipped. This very important operation safeguards against the spread of sheep scab (a highly infectious disease caused by a skin burrowing mite) and also kills sheep ticks and other ectoparasites. The dipping has been carried out later than usual this year because our contractor has been held up with potato harvesting. The potato harvest has been one of the most difficult ever due to wet ground conditions and has tied up men and machinery for much longer than usual. John Black (Glensaugh’s tractorman) is always in demand by local neighbours at this time of year (he has helped out on two farms in recent months), but it’s good to have him home again.

Scanning cows has just been completed and most are once again confirmed in calf. Dovetailed into the scanning operation was a Department of Agriculture cattle ear tag check being carried out as part of our whole farm cross compliance inspection. A successful check of tags and passports (yes, cows have these although they seldom travel abroad) has brought the inspection to a close.

A word on the economy: while most sectors saw a second quarter decline in GDP terms, agriculture did not. This adds weight to my argument that agriculture in the future will assume greater economic importance, not necessarily because it will grow, but because other sectors of the economy will diminish. As previously suggested, we still need to eat, but we do not need to fly, drink bottled water, buy plastic toys or shop till we drop.

Our autumn experimental programme continues to run smoothly. The WP 2.5 grazing study is now its third quarter. WP 3.6.2 sheep have been gathered and dipped; meanwhile their GPS collars have been temporarily removed to allow data to be downloaded and batteries changed. Work is about to get underway in the old deer plots on Cairn Henney where the tree browsing behaviour of 6 hinds will be observed. In the Animal House a met crate experiment is under way involving the feeding of a controlled diet to a group of 16 blackface lambs; this as an adjunct to the WP 2.5 grazing study.

Finally our annual forage analysis has been carried out by SAC. The results were returned with a complementary letter suggesting that our analysis was one of the better ones for the area. A significantly better fermentation seems to have been obtained by fine tuning how we seal the pit. While normally unenthusiastic about competition farming, this year we might be tempted to enter a sample into the annual North of Scotland Grassland Society silage competition.