3rd April 2017
Far from being beaten by a major set-back to his sheep farming business in 2015, Rory is showing real commitment this year by taking a six-month sabbatical from his career in structural engineering to see if he can make a fulltime living in agriculture. As a passionate Beltex breeder, Rory was personally and financially devastated when 31 pedigree in-lamb ewes were stolen from land he rents near Thainstone, Inverurie. But he has bounced back and is determined to continue working with his breeding flock while shearing in the summer and scanning in the winter.
Through genetic selection and embryo transfer work, Rory has set himself some tough goals. He wants to increase to 250 ewes in order to set new breed records in the sale ring and develop the ‘perfect terminal sire’ to work in commercial systems.
Top fact: Well on his way to achieving his goals, Rory has already won the Beltex group of three title at the Royal Highland Show and sold a ram lamb for 9,000gns.
My first two months of being a full time, self-employed shepherd have been busy to say the least. The majority of my time has been spent working for a local farmer filling in until a new shepherd started at the start of this month. This involved lambing 100 Primera ewes and managing the other 1,200 highlander ewes strip grazing turnips.
Alongside my contract work, I was able to take a few days off to lamb my own synchronised ewes which was a great success. I am not entirely sure what I've done differently this year, but my mortality rate for lambs was less than 2% and both my Beltex cross ewes and Mule ewes are running with approximately 195% with lambs at foot. I am really pleased with my lambs and they are thriving well, I am looking forward to getting them all out to grass once they have finished eating the 20 tonnes of distillers draff I got delivered just before lambing. It's a great belly filler and they seem to be milking really well.
This week I start lambing for somebody local with 350 ewes outdoors and, at the end of April, I am going onto another farm with 900 ewes. This should keep me busy for the next month or so. After undertaking my first scanning season, I’m pleased that feedback I’m getting from farmers seems to be good and pretty accurate.
With my own lambing long finished, the last month or so I've mainly spent contract lambing which has been great overall. Mid-April did see three days of bad snow though, resulting in the loss of many lambs at the farm in which I was working. It was a terrible experience and no matter what you did for them in the horizontal sleety snowy conditions it wasn't enough, resulting in hundreds of lambs lost.
Following lambing, I've been helping several farms to mark and tag their lambs, I'm doing it in my sleep after the thousands I’ve done so far!
Shearing is just around the corner and with a new shearing trailer home I'm dying to get going. Last week I spent a couple of days on my first British Wool Marketing Board training course where I managed to get my Silver Seal award.
Last month I found I was fortunate enough to win the Louise Hartley Memorial Fund, £2,000 which Louise’s family wanted a young farmer with inspirational ideals to benefit from. After getting through to the final five and interviewing in front of Louise's family, Phillip Hallhead of Norbeck Genetics and the Farmers Guardian I was delighted to find I had won. The big secret is what I’ll be spending the money on. I'm currently going through patenting and testing a prototype and I hope to be able to release more details later this year or early next year.
I'm working night and day at the minute but I love it.