While livestock is the main source of income here at Auchriachan, we have taken the opportunity to diversify and open four glamping pods on the farm. We officially launched www.glampinginthegorms.com in late June and we have been inundated with visitors since.
Having a diversified income, especially in these more difficult times, definitely made sense to us and being located in middle of the Cairngorms National Park, glamping pods seemed the ideal fit.
View from the glamping pods on the farm at Auchriachan.
Located just outside Tomintoul – the highest village in the Scottish Highlands – we are close to the Lecht ski centre for the winter months, with tourists to the Highlands passing the road end from spring right through to autumn. An added bonus for visitors is seeing our Highland cows and Blackface ewes grazing in the fields close by.
Elsewhere on the farm, it is business as usual. The breeding season is progressing well. We have five bulls out with various groups of cows this year. There are 10 Highland cows with a Highland bull, as we keep a nucleus herd of hill cows pure. The remainder of the Highland cows are with one Shorthorn bull to produce our Shorthorn-cross Highland cows.
We then have a batch of these Shorthorn-cross cows with another Shorthorn bull. The first of their calves are on the ground and thriving well. Any suitable females will be retained as replacements for the in-bye herd. Unfortunately, there are more males than females this year.
Finally, the in-bye spring cows are running with a Charolais bull to produce store cattle for sale and a group of replacement heifers are with a Limousin bull.
There are three main aims for the newly established hill herd: to make better use of the hill ground and increase output from it; improve this ground for sheep grazing; provide a consistent supply of heifers for the in-bye herd going forward.
Grass is in decent supply across the farm. The in-bye spring herd is on a loose rotation in some of the bigger fields. It still means that they get moved to fresh grass once a week.
We have managed to take out 14 acres of the autumn calves’ rotation as surplus bales just last week
The autumn calves are really thriving at the moment. They seem to have grown a lot of frame in the first half of the summer and are now starting to look the part. We will hope to start to sell these from late October onwards. If they can continue to thrive as they have been up to now, our sale weights will be increased.
We have managed to take out 14 acres of the autumn calves’ rotation as surplus bales just last week.
It yielded 10 bales to the acre to boost our silage reserves nicely for the coming winter.
Silage at the out-farm, Glenconglass, where the young stock are housed, was made the first week of July. Again, the yield was excellent. We have closed up most of this ground again for a second cut, which we are aiming for six weeks after first cut. If we get a decent crop of bales from the second cut, we may look at buying in some weaned calves for wintering again this year to boost output.
Excellent yields were achieved for first-cut silage.
On the home farm we hope to make silage this week, although the forecast is not looking favourable. This ground had ewes and lambs grazing on it until the end of May.
The earlier-born lambs have remained on the in-bye ground this year. They are grazing alongside the autumn calves and are certainly benefiting.
We should start to draft lambs from this batch in another three weeks or so.
Clipping is the next job for the ewes once silage is made. Since the beginning of the programme we have started weaning lambs at clipping time and getting the lambs onto decent silage aftergrass.
We have made good progress over the last few years in increasing the number of lambs finished. In year one of the programme we sent just over 50 lambs, compared with over 220 last year.
In an attempt to increase this number further, we have sown four acres of Skyfall in recent days.
Skyfall is a new hybrid brassica – similar to Tyfon. It provides a high-protein, highly palatable, leafy feed with regrowth potential.
The plan is to draft heavier lambs onto this for finishing every few weeks. It will be divided into acre paddocks and the lambs will graze it in rotation.
It is important not to overgraze it throughout late summer and autumn, so that it regrows and we use it to its full potential.
It will be a learning curve for the first year to see how it performs. However, grass growth often dries up here quite early in autumn, and if this works it will provide us with forage for finishing a greater number of our lambs.
Selling Blackface lambs in the store market at £30-£35/hd is not very profitable. If we can raise this to £65-£70/hd for a fat lamb it will make a huge difference to the overall profitability of the sheep enterprise.
Adviser comment: Declan Marren
It’s amazing how quickly we can forget when farming. Rewind just a few short months and there was hardly a bale of silage in the country and farmers everywhere were trying to stretch fodder reserves by any means possible.
This week, every road I have travelled I have seen cattle up to their bellies in headed grass – lambs nearly hidden.
All the while, there isn’t a topper in the country that hasn’t been hooked up to a tractor in the last two weeks.
This is hitting farmers’ pockets on the double. Not only is it a waste of potential winter fodder, it is also compromising the liveweight gain of the stock currently grazing these swards. Is there a better way to manage grass supply on your farm?
The Duffus family has managed to make 140 bales of silage from surplus grazing so far this year – all due to having a simple rotational grazing system in place – 140 bales that in a set stocked system would be gone out of control, been trampled back into the ground, or have cost money to top and reset.
Bales that the farm might well be glad of before next winter is out. Although silage yields are excellent this year and yards are filling with winter fodder, who is to say it won’t all be needed by next spring?