Farming on Islay Estates – Update

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Chantelle, Sybil, Justine, Ginger, Brownie and Blondie

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Barley at Gartbreck

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Barley at Ardlarach

Last week we bought 6 Luing heifers from the Islay market.  They had been reared on Oronsay so are well acclimatised to to west coast climate.  they are currently grazing at Gartbreck and have been named as Blondie, Brownie, Ginger, Chantelle, Sybil and Justine.  The explanation for the names is a little obtuse – blame my daughter Emily for coming up with them.  The cows are doing well so far, they are occasionally hand fed to keep them friendly and we will hope to put them to the bull in June next year. The barley is looking ready to harvest at Gartbreck and Ardlarach – the yield will not be as high as it should be this year as this is the first time the fields have been worked for some years so the fertility of the soil is a bit low.  I also think that the soil is a bit too acidic so we’ll be testing it again soon with a view to liming the stubble.  The important thing is to get the crop off before the migratory geese come in – which could be some time soon.

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Sheep grazing by the shore at Gartbreck

The sheep are doing well – we hope to increase the size of the flock over the next few weeks.  The aim is to be able to produce good quality store lambs from a Scotch Mule/Suffolk cross.  The first stage in this process is to get the Blackface ewes crossed with a Border Leicester tup.  The hogs we bought earlier this year will be put to the tup in November and we’ll buy in some additional Scotch Mules to help us on our way.

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Greylags lifting from the crops

  There are 3 main types of geese on Islay.  Greenland Barnacle and Whitefronts – geese that migrate at the end of September and stay until April – and Greylags.  Greylags are increasing in number and are present throughout the year; they generally roost on the mosses during the summer and spend time out at sea but they come onto the crops just before harvest time and can destroy a field of barley very quickly.  They can be shot for sport after 1st September but their increasing numbers do cause concern.

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A field of Oats at Bowmore

We are involved in a trial with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to see if the migratory geese, specifically the whitefronts, accept some alternative feeding.  We have sown a field of swedes, oats and fodder beet to see which (if any) they prefer and how we might have sacrificial crops to prevent damage to the farmers’ grass.

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