Friday, 7 November 2014

Soaked by rain like liquid ice after a day gathering sheep from the hill. Revived by a very hot shower and a wee glass of vino collapso.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Nose ring on a Highland bull

At the byre this morning I found Sean the bull attached to the side of the cattle crush by his nose ring. He must have been rubbing his head against the crush and by accident caught his nose ring on one of the little slots designed to hold the restraining bar. It was easy enough to work the ring back and free him. But what if we had been away for the day?

Perhaps its time for the ring to go.

Here's a photo of the offending piece of cattle jewellery.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Calf

Had to a day-old calf in the byre last night as the weather was bitter cold and snowy. The mother cow refused point blank to go in so I left the door ajar so as she could see the calf and retired for the night. 

This morning, still dark, dogs barking had me looking out of the kitchen window. There was the cow in the back garden looking back at me. She had jumped two fences to get where she was. She followed me back to the byre, I freed the calf from its snug pen, the cow mooed, the calf mooed and promptly ran out of the door to join its mother.

Hard to believe. But true.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

So long Jay and thanks for the many years of fine companionship

You would think that a person with three dogs would not be too sad if the oldest died and he was left with two. But you would be wrong.

Jay, our Beardie collie, had to be put down last week and it is not so easy as I thought to come terms with her demise. I mean, she was the only dog in the house, with a bed by the kitchen door so she is instantly missed each and every morning. But this will fade in time, of course.

It was her time and she had a good life so, so long Jay and thanks for all the good times and for the company.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The tale of the missing Spike.

We were gathering sheep near the Storr, high on the Trotternish ridge, when the cloud came down with visibility near to nil. Conditions soon worsened with the onset of persistent, driving rain. 

Sheltering in the lee of some large rock I realised Spike was missing with only Lola left grubbing about. Spike and Lola are border collies, by the way. 

There was nothing to be done. On the ascent some of the climb was extremely steep and I was in no mood to try and return that way through the swirling cloud and rain. Much too dangerous.

So I waited behind the rocks, waited some more, getting wetter, colder and more miserable by the minute pondering how strange it was that Lola was totally unperturbed by it all. She didn't seem to notice that Spike was missing never mind the cold and the wet.

But I did and was worried. What if he went over a cliff? What if the Sea Eagle spotted on the way up had grabbed him in its talons and carried him away to feed squawking, giant chicks, in a nest full of the bones of wee collie dogs? My imagination was running away very fast.

In the end discretion and valour  forced me  to go straight down the slope of the hill in the direction of the Haultin river and once down it was just a matter of following the water course to the start line of the gather. I halted at a quad bike left by another of the gatherers, and waited some more. After a while a man with a dog slowly appeared from the swirling mist and then there was two of us bemused by the sudden change in the weather.

Then came another dog came from behind a rise chasing some sheep and I thought it was Spike. But it was just another gatherer, this time working at what we had come so far to do. There was nothing for it but join in and we eventually managed to drive a fair sized flock of sheep down to the field by the road end.

All this time I assumed Spike would have made his way back to the Land Rover and would be sitting patiently by the rear door. And my assumption was wrong. There was no sign of the wee fellow.

There was nothing for it but to go back up the hill, soaked through and cold, whistling and calling. I eventually reached the area where I had last seen him and was searching through the rock under some cliffs for signs of his  lifeless body, still calling.

And then he materialised by my side, looking a bit sheepish but otherwise fine, like he had found a warm, dry, den and had a good sleep.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Highland heifers

Yesterday I decided to move three young heifers away from the cows and put them in an adjacent field we call 'over the wall'. This was easy enough if not time consuming.

The heifers were penned, pushed into a livestock trailer and driven to the next field. Of course they were not happy at this separation from the rest of the herd and made a fair bit of noise so as their displeasure would be noted. But I was immune to this tactic and assumed they would settle down soon enough.

 This morning, much to my surprise, the blighters were along with the rest of the herd having obviously escaped from 'over the wall'. Now this will not do at all, as they are growing fast and our new bull may fancy a bit of underage procreation.

So, only solution, as we have we only have a few fields, is to string an electric wire along the top of the fence that they jumped. And if that does not work, then I'll try something else.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The flying dog

Was feeding the cows hay on the quad and noticed Jay had followed behind. I heard a very loud 'yelp' and turned to see an old, blue-grey, beardie bitch flying through the air. Lucky for her the horn had swung under rather than through. Her eyes and reflexes are just not up to being around cows. Next time she may not be so lucky.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The vet's visit

All is back to normal on the croft following the vet's visit yesterday with the cattle back in their respective fields and the little bullock seemingly ok after being dehorned and castrated. Always a stressful experience, more for him than for us, no doubt.

Monday, 30 April 2012


We sold Big Iain our stock bull today. He had been with us for nearly five years. But, he was 'coming into his own heifers' as they say, and therefore had to make way for new blood. Still, it was a bit sad.

Good thing, though, he went to a fantastic new home at Arnisdale, near Glenelg. New cows to serve and new people to feed him. Such is life.

So long Iain, and thanks for all the calves.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tale of two sheep

We have a field across the Mill road which we keep free of sheep and cattle for the winter months. When the grass grows in the Spring we move our cows into this fresh pasture and everybody is happy. A while past it was a tad annoying to spot a lonely, little, sheep seemingly happy enough wandering about the field and grazing what grass was left from last season. The sheep did not belong to our croft and had obviously, somehow, got in from an adjoining field where a neighbour had recently introduced some sheep.

But the issue was only slightly annoying and I left the little blighter in peace, for a while. Then one day I took a notion to return the sheep to where it belonged, summoned the trusty Spike who swiftly cornered the little beast in a corner and I made a grab. Finding it slight and light I just lifted it over the fence and thought 'job done' and went home for a munch of homemade fruitloaf.

Next day, as is my want, after feeding the beasts came a stroll with the dogs down the Mill road to the shore. Much to my chagrin and annoyance what was back in the field happily munching, but the little sheep with the one horn. A change of strategy was called for, obviously. But the day was too nice and the dogs needed their walkies. Tomorrow for the interloper.

The dogs romped on the shore, chasing birds and looking for buried treasure in the form of bones or in the case of Lola, interesting shells. And on the way back their day was even more enlivened by the sight of a stray sheep on the Mill road. The sheep panicked, the dogs gave chase and they all went round in circles at great speed with me shouting at the dogs to let go. The sheep headed for the shore and escaped and that is one of the reasons sheep should be kept firmly in fields, behind stout fences! Sheep and dogs don't mix, unless the dogs are working.

The incident was forgotten but the little sheep with the one horn was certainly not. Next day I took the quad and Spike the dog and duly cornered the sheep again. This time I hoisted it onto the back of the quad and holding the sheep with one hand and steering with the other, took it to another of our neighbour's fields and let it go. Goodbye little nusiance sheepie and problem solved.

A few days later, both the aformentioned sheep turned up at the gate of another of our fields, exactly at the spot where I was feeding the heifers. They had obviously came along the shore and managed to breach the fence there.

For three or four days it was a battle of wits. The sheep dashing in trying eat the heifers food and me waving arms to chase them away. I even tried feeding them, to keep them busy while the heifers got fed, to no avail. One would leave its feed and circle around the heifer's food and then go back for the remains of its own. Tricky devil.

There was no alternative. I took Lola and Spike on a sheep chasing mission. The dogs jumped out of the Land Rover, saw the sheep, I gave the command and the sheep with great haste headed back to the shore. For good measure I chased them far along the shore in the direction of where they should be.

But they came back two days later. So persistent! And the dogs gave chase again and fingers crossed, that will be the last I see of them. Wouldn't like to bet on it, though.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Highland Cattle

We have been rearing Highland cattle at Romesdal for over ten years now and the thought struck me as to how my views have changed over time. Then, the most notable feature of the Highlander was colour. Now, it is whether they are capable of producing a suitable large calf which will sell well at the mart.

In other words, who cares what colour the cow is as long as she is in proportion.

At calving time in the early years we would be slightly disappointed if the calf was male, for some reason thinking heifer calves best. Not so now. Once you have your optimum fold number and don't need replacements then you get more bucks from your efforts from bullocks. Fact of life.

The Highlander, apart from being more photogenic than other breeds of cattle, is part of the larger grouping of cattle bred primarily for beef. It stands to reason therefore that a good proportion of heifers will also end up as beef or the planet would soon be overrun by them.

That is why as a breeder you get immense satisfaction when your lovingly reared heifers are sold to continue the line in some other part of the country or indeed some other part of the world.

To return to the question of colour, what I really like about our little fold of six breeding cows, Iain the bull and their followers, is that we have one black cow, one white, one yellow, one red and two dun. As for their followers, we have one not so little white bull (son of Iain), three white heifer two year olds, one red three year old heifer and five little calves of varying colours from last year.

The moral being the more colour the merrier as long as the quality is there.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The storm

Terrible storm outside. Wind howling and rain lashing since mid morning.
Television on the blink owing to sat dish unable to take the strain. A few puffs above 'normal' and pixels are us. However, can still get the BBC IPlayer using a broadband dongle. And, the radio still works and there are plenty of logs for the fire. Reading a good book as well.
The dogs in their kennels have started howling in competition with the wind! Must go and see.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Lola and the rabbit

Lola caught a rabbit at the Scrappy's and brought it home to the back garden. I then took only her to the Co-oP and on to feed Neal's dogs.

We came back and she started chewing on the rabbit. I left her to it and went into the house, leaving the back door open.

About 10 minutes later Lola strolled in the back door and promptly vomited a load of rabbit guts onto the floor of the Utility room.

(Image of Spike and Lola)

I cleaned up and took her and Jay outside. I then let Spike out of his kennel hoping he would dispose of the rest of the rabbit. But Lola was on guard and growled at him.

Some people drove down the Mill lane and started to take photos of the cows and calves, getting a bit excited in the process and making noise. The dogs all started barking and running about. Spike saw his chance, grabbed the rabbit and expertly began the demolishing process.

Then the latest B&Bers (Spanish again) came and all hell broke loose, with Spike trying to bark with a bloody rabbit leg in his mouth and, to add to the pot, the neighbours from across the road came with their dogs and then a torrential rain shower flowed from the sky and we all got soaked.

The moral of the story?

Never underestimate a dog named Spike.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cattle and colour

I usually wear a German army-surplus, camouflage, parka about the croft. It is light and reasonably weather proof but no match for this morning's torrential rain and high winds. So on went the heavy-duty, yellow oilskins.

As I went to feed the cattle, the younger beasts stared with startled looks, before bolting off. The bull gave me a funny look as well and I kept well away from him.

Seems my cattle anyway, have a dislike of bright custard yellow. Such is life.

Monday, 14 February 2011

A near miss

I was feeding two beasts the other day, a 2 year-old heifer and a similarly aged bullock, when I came near to being another agricultural injury statistic. Both beasts are pretty well grown and on the feisty side of feisty.

Anyway, the heifer has quite a large spread of horns and she was my main concern as I had to cross an expanse of field with their cobs to reach the feeding tables and she is most keen to get first bite. So, I took my eye off of the bullock.

Finding myself caught in a position between the two beasts, to my surprise, the bullock jumped into the air and kicked out with one of his back legs, just scraping my chest at heart height. Had the blow connected properly, most likely I would have been seriously injured.

As it happens, just some bruising and a bit of pain in the chest. Memo to me. Shoot the bullock and get rid of the heifer.

Anyone want to buy a feisty Highland heifer? Only jesting. She stays and will calm down eventually.

Promise of Spring

The land is slowly awakening with new life and the best time of year approacheth. In the words of the great Canadian prophet, Mr L Cohen, hallelujah indeed.
And now the sales pitch: 1 yearling pedigree Highland Bull (white) and a selection of yearling Highland heifers 3 white and 1 dun. Praise be.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


The inevitable can be delayed no longer, rain or no rain, so goodbye warm world of slippers and soft furnishings and hello smelly wellies and mud.

Monday, 16 August 2010


A lot of rain has fallen on Skye since I last posted and it is now the season of the midge, moth, crane fly and mushroom. This morning I had to hoover the window sills to clear away last night's debris of dead insects. The mushrooms are outside, of course.

There is something special about mushrooms which brings out the curious in me. I like to seek them out and have a good peek. So many varieties of colour, form and size to stare at. And always the question at the back of the mind is this one or that one deadly poisonous?

This time last year we had one dog, Jay, for working the sheep. A year later and we have three. Jay, Lola still with the mind of a pup although she has grown full size and Spike, bought in June as a fully trained working dog.

Among the many things I never expected in life, one of them is to be cast in the role of pack leader. Spike is a Border Collie from the Borders or very near there. The 'Borders' for those not in the know, is what we call the border region between Scotland and England.

I had a wonderful time going to collect Spike. The first holiday from Skye in a good while and appreciated the break from the confines of Kingsburgh and the croft.

Apart from all that, we now have six new calves, four white, one red and one dun in the ratio of four female and two male. And, not forgetting the lambs, eighteen of the little blighters. If Lola had her way we would have none as she would kill the lot, but that's for another story.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Death on the croft

Jay (dog) just bit me on the end of the nose when I was drying her in the kitchen. She must have hurt the pad on her foot and I gave the area a too vigorous a rub. Memo to myself, shoot Jay. Would need to borrow a real rifle so perhaps I wont bother. Lost a bullock to a rifle bullet. Vet had to put the poor creature out of its misery. It had damaged a leg and then managed to find its way into the only bog on the croft. No way we could get it out.

And then a dog killed two of the lambs (twins) on Sunday. Must have been a dog as they were ok in the morning and mangled in the afternoon. What can you do, as they say up here, but carry on regardless.