If 2011 was disappointing weather-wise, 2012 was a shocker. Once again, fine weather in April and early May raised morale, but it was firmly dashed by the Weather-God’s offerings since then. Hay-making was almost a non-event; thank Heavens for the invention of silage-wrap!
Writing this in mid November, just after the very satisfactory calf sales, we are in the midst of change (or perhaps muddy turmoil might be more accurate!). Our aim, however, remains unchanged - to produce top-quality suckled calves. Also unchanged, thank goodness, is the man who produces them, Neil Drummond.
On the ‘personnel’ front, Greenhaugh Black UTwo has retired. Just short of his 10th birthday, and after six years at Cloquhat, during which he has produced a string of excellent calves, many of which have now joined our breeding stock, he has moved to pastures new. In October 2012, still in excellent shape and working well, he ‘emigrated’ to Orkney, to look after a smaller harem. We wish him, his current ‘ladies’ and the Rendall family well.
Marlepark Albert has assumed the role of ‘senior Limmy bull’. He has been here six years and continues to throw excellent calves. He has recently been joined by Dyke Gambler, hot-foot from the October 2012 UA Stirling Bull Sales. Gambler looks right for our sort of farm. He is a very shapely bull, with real length and muscle, and, which is important of our steep slopes, strong legs planted squarely at each ‘corner’. Furthermore, with 200-Day and 400-Day Growth, Muscle Depth and Beef Value all in the top 1% of Limousin, and Calving Value in the top 10%, his figures are really impressive. The Stirling Bull sale produced a really good show of commercial Limousin bulls this year, but, while there were several with excellent Growth figures, few also suggested easy calving, which is so important to us. We hope for great things from Gambler, who will have his first ‘sex lessons’, probably with a few ‘experienced ladies’ this autumn.
Two years ago we decided to introduce some British Blue blood into the breeding herd. Every Vagabond joined us; we now have some very nice-looking Spring and Autumn 2012-born heifers which are scheduled to join our breeding stock.
We have also moved into the renewable energy world, with two 4kW solar arrays and a 20kW wind turbine being constructed during 2012. Needles to say the sun has not shone, nor the wind blown since they were erected, but we hope to generate some power and income for the farm in future years.
The heavy snow of winter 2010-11 took a toll on one of our most important buildings. The 1947-built shed in which we have our race and handling facilities, creaked and groaned unreasonably. Some of the old wooden timbers gave way; shoring up could only be a temporary measure. It became clear that further delay would be stupid, so we decided to build a new shed. The real problem was that, because of the steepness of the ground and a wish to double the size of the shed, vast earth-moving operations had to be undertaken. The quagmire of mud has been indescribable, but we feel fully qualified to advise anyone seeking to undertake any minor operations, such as building the new Forth Road Bridge! Hopefully, the end is in sight. I have no wish to be unduly critical of our electricity supplier, but life is not made easy when one has to deal with three separate departments of the same firm, who do not seem to talk to one another, in order to remove the old electricity supply, provide a new supply and then position a meter. Once the new shed has been fitted-out we expect to have an excellent facility. We will probably crack a bottle of champagne and hope for a more peaceful 2013, and, dare I hope in vain, a summer.
We hoped that a splendid April and early May were 'pay-back' time after a long, hard winter, not a "pay-forward' time for a lousy summer. We were wrong! If possible, it has been an even worse summer than the last two; it was depressing to have to walk round the fields in wellies in August.
Eventually we did manage to gather in the winter feed. Though most of it had to be wrapped in plastic, we did manage to get 300 bales of hay.
Saturday 27th August was the annual Strathardle Show at Kirkmichael. This traditionally produces an outstanding show of commercial cattle, 'as good or better than anything else you will see anywhere in Scotland' as one noted auctioneer said. One of our November 2010-born stot calves won his class and went on to become Champion Stot and Reserve Supreme Champion. Although red-coated, he has much of the length and shape of his sire, Greenhaugh Black Utwo. We also had 2nd in the Winter Heifer Class. But perhaps the most significant success was to get 1st and 2nd in a large and strong class of Spring 2011-born Stots, and 2nd in the Heifer Class, particularly pleasing as none of the animals shown had had any special treatment or feeding - all having come in for dressing and halter-training only five days before the show. With one of our cows taking 1st in the Cow in Milk Class, a 2nd in the Heifer Pairs Class, and the herd also securing the Champion Herd Trophy, it proved to be a bumper year for Cloquhat.
Our main aim, at Cloquhat, is to produce high-quality, fast-growing spring-born calves.
2011 lambing figures were a bit down on recent years - typical, when lamb sale prices have been high! However, we sold all our 60 early lambs in May and June; the main crop of lambs seem to be coming on quite nicely.
There is no point in worrying about what the Weather-God has in store for us next winter - we have had enough fun sloshing through his summer offering.