Episode 3 This Farming Life


Episode 3

An insight into modern farming life. Janet and Alastair put their new young virgin tup to the test. Stevie risks the wrath of the buffalo mums when he ear-tags four newborn calves.


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Transcript


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Across some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes

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of the British Isles...

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There's not many views like that. It's absolutely stunning.

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..Scotland's farmers work day and night,

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producing our milk and our meat.

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Trying out new ideas...

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If a buffalo doesn't want to do something,

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you're going to find it very difficult.

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..and striving to turn a profit in tough economic times.

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We're struggling. We're definitely struggling.

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Over the course of a year,

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six very different families let cameras onto their farms...

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Everything that could have gone wrong there went wrong.

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The idea of lying on a beach, bliss.

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..to share their struggles...

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We have to get her out, or she's going to die.

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..and their triumphs.

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-Thank you.

-It's not about the pay cheque. It's about the lifestyle.

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It's late autumn.

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In Scotland, short, damp days

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are followed by long, chill nights.

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But in the cycle of the farming calendar,

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such harsh conditions spell new life.

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These are the months for mating.

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The breeding season for the sheep and for the cattle,

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it's very important to the financial aspect of the farm,

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cos that's where all our income comes from.

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So, getting the breeding right is the key to the whole business.

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On the Isle of Mull, off Scotland's West Coast,

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new farmers Janet and Alistair Taylor

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rent 700 acres of mixed terrain,

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where they keep 180 sheep...

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-Lie down.

-..20 Highland cattle...

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-..two horses...

-Stay.

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-..and nine dogs.

-Get in.

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They took over the lease on a rundown farm just five years ago...

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..and are still a long way from making a profit.

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This is just a different way of life.

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You have to love being outside and doing this sort of job.

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You wouldn't do it for money.

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You just get bitten by a bug. It's just something you just want to do.

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You just can't imagine doing anything else but farming.

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-See you at the finish line.

-Yep.

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Today, Janet and Alistair

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are bringing their ewes in from the hill.

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He comes across towards me and I come across towards him

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and hopefully we meet in the middle somewhere with the sheep.

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Come on up.

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They have 130 ewes, mostly Cheviot and Cheviot-Shetland crosses,

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which do well in the wet and windy Hebridean climate.

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But building up a farm is a financial struggle.

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Come out of it!

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Janet and Alistair need to increase their flock and their sales.

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That all begins with mating or tupping.

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The main task today is we are sorting out our ewes

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ready for tupping.

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Tup is the male sheep,

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and he will be mated with the females to produce the lambs.

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To us, it's the beginning of the farming year,

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selecting this is selecting what we're going to get next year

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at lambing time.

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This is Alfie with the Irish flag.

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He is our Suffolk tup.

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And then we've got Harold,

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who is the brown Shetland tup standing up facing us.

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And then the black one at the back is Lucky.

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The white tup is the Cheviot tup.

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He's actually retired now.

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This older tup has fathered too many of the ewes.

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To avoid the risk of inbreeding, there's a new boy on the farm.

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Young Owen.

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He arrived a week ago and he's still a virgin.

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Owen's just a lamb.

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So he was born this year, so he's not very old at all.

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A pedigree tup can cost tens of thousands.

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Owen cost £150 from a friend.

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There's a lot of pressure on him.

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He has no idea what's coming.

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What's coming are the ladies,

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who are getting prepared.

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First, a pedicure.

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So, the sheep are going into this wee tray of water.

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It's got a chemical in it to help fight foot rot.

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These are their mineral boluses.

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So these have copper cobalt and selenium in them.

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Come on, fatty.

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And finally, a quick cut and blow-dry.

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This is a rough ewe, so that means she hasn't been clipped this year.

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So, I'm going to give her a wee tidy up so that the tups can get to her.

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I don't know why Janet won't let me cut her hair!

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Out you go.

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Oh, you look stylish!

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Right, where were we?

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The next stage is like sheep Blind Date,

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with four tups in the hot seat.

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Very much matchmaking.

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Choosing the right ewe for the right tups.

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Each tup has a different colour

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and we're just marking each ewe that's going to go with each tup

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with the corresponding colour and it's quite complicated.

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What colour was Harold?

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Er...Harold's blue.

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They are hoping to breed strength and vigour into their flock...

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-Green.

-..while avoiding any inbreeding.

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Now, we've got daughters of one of the tups here,

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so we need to make sure that we don't put them back to him.

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No!

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He's put the wrong mark.

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Luckily it's on a black sheep, so you won't really see it,

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but she's to go to the nothing mark.

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And I've got an eraser here.

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-There you go.

-You can still see it, you put so much on.

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Someone got me in trouble for putting too little on!

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Owen's ewes are ready.

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But the question is, is he?

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The farm needs new lambs.

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Owen will only have a few weeks to prove himself.

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120 miles east in Fife,

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Scotland's rugged terrain makes way for rich lowland pastures.

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It's here that Stevie Mitchell runs his 450-acre farm.

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His family have worked this land for over a century

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and 12 years ago, Stevie decided to think big.

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Very big.

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He started to farm water buffalo

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and he now has a herd of over 400.

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Today, with winter approaching,

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Stevie needs to round up a small group of his breeding females

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and transfer them to the warmth of the barns.

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These cold mornings, they've been appearing down at the gate

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of the farm, almost asking to come in.

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They're water buffaloes from Asia,

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so I think they may be not quite as accustomed to this cold weather.

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Stevie was just 23 when he started this bold buffalo experiment.

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At the very start, it was pretty nerve-racking,

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cos I realised that I'd basically invested

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absolutely everything I had,

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plus, you know, a whole heap of money from the bank

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that I didn't have.

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What was it actually going to be like?

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So far, it's working.

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His buffalo meat is selling well, and his herd is expanding.

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The females he's rounding up today have just calved

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and there are now five newborns in the group, only a few days old.

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They need to be ear-tagged and identified.

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These are quite young calves, so the mums are very protective.

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It's very important that we get this spot-on.

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HE WHISTLES

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Come on, girls.

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With the females successfully rounded up,

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he now needs to get access to the calves for the tagging.

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This is probably the point where the buffalo are most dangerous.

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As you can see, they've got these huge horns

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and they could do quite a lot of damage with them, you know.

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So it's the same as a normal cow, though.

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When they've just had a baby, their hormones are their highest.

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And they don't like the fact that we're interfering now

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with their babies, but it's a job that has to be done.

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We try and make it as safe as we possibly can.

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Let's plan what we're doing really carefully.

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First, they must move all the pregnant females out,

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leaving just the calves and their mothers.

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Good girl. Come on, up, up, up.

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Good work.

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Buffalo are similar to beef cattle.

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But they are more aggressive

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and they can be thoroughly unpredictable.

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Ah, you devil!

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It's always a little bit daunting

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when you have to work so closely with them

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and you kind of need eyes in the back of your head

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cos you don't know what direction they're coming from.

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Luckily, Stevie's right-hand man, Eddie, is here to help.

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I'm so lucky to have Eddie.

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He works with animals every day, and kind of,

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he knows the ones to watch out for and the ones not to

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a lot more than I do these days.

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One mother tries to make a run for it.

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Up, up, as a team.

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Come on, you, go. Well done, Eddie.

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That cow there with the collar, Eddie, she's quite aggressive, eh?

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There's one they know they need to watch.

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Number 22.

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She's never been parted from her calf

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and is particularly protective and aggressive.

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The buffalo have got these horns and they really know how to use them.

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Both Eddie and I are quite aware to be extremely cautious.

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On the other side of Scotland, on the West Coast,

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husband and wife team David and Sandra Coltart

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run a large hill farm that stretches over 3,200 acres

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out towards the sea.

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On this hilly and inhospitable terrain, they farm 550 sheep...

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..along with 45 cattle,

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12 ponies

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and 15 border collies.

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Being a farmer in the time we are at the moment, you know,

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you can't cherry pick the good days

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cos no-one's going to make much money having a hill

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flock of sheep. You really have to take the whole package.

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Your darkest days, when everything goes wrong...

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Oh, the bandit!

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..and you think, why did I want to be a farmer?!

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And there are days, you know, when things are the total opposite,

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and you think, thank God I'm a farmer!

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Like all Scottish sheep farmers, David and Sandra are preparing for

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the financially vital breeding season.

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They need to buy four new tups to replace their old stock.

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Only David is cutting things a bit fine.

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This is the last local tup sale of the year.

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It's the last chance saloon

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in getting a breeding tup in the UK, really, so...

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Cutting it fine. Cutting it a bit too fine.

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But anyway, we'll get something, won't we?

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Yeah, I'll try to get something earlier on in the sale,

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so that I'm not leaving it till last and just picking some scrubber up.

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That way, if we get it earlier, we know we've got it,

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and we can head to the bar.

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-I mean, I can!

-Yeah, I'm driving.

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David and Sandra are looking for blackfaced tups.

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-Last tup is standing right.

-Yeah. It's a good tup.

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But they need animals made of the right stuff.

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What's his history? Any history about him?

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-A Nunnery tup.

-A Nunnery tup?

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-His mother's a 18,000 Willmore.

-Yeah.

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They can't leave empty-handed,

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but they need strong, vigorous tups who can survive out on the hills.

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He's all right.

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Sometimes people keep tups in a pen

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and they're used to living inside and eating a lot of cake.

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And then the minute that you fire them out onto the hill,

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they're like, "Where's the cake?!"

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And they're looking to come back in the shed rather than go away

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and look for ewes to cover, so we want something that's going,

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"Yeah, let's go to the hill and find the girls, basically."

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He's got a good coat on him.

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An ideal tup will have strong back legs for mounting the ewes.

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Good teeth so he can feed and forage on the hills.

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And two other obvious attributes.

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-All right, he's got a pair of knackers.

-Yeah.

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Sandra once bought a tup without a hands-on check first.

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We assumed that he had two.

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Anyway, we got him home and discovered that he only had one,

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-so...

-No, he had none.

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-No, he had one.

-None.

-I thought he had one?

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No, he had no balls at all!

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David has to rotate his tups every two years to prevent inbreeding.

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It's vital they buy four new animals today.

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Check that it's got two.

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Their budget is £200 or £300 per tup,

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but prices can easily reach well into the thousands.

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It's just a bit of a lottery, because, you know,

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trying to get something you want at the right price,

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everyone else probably thinks it's maybe good, so, we'll see.

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It's looking lively in the sale ring.

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-Whoa!

-Whoa!

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-He's a wild one, that.

-Watch your hands.

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-Is that you, no?

-Yeah.

-Right.

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David's been spontaneous and bought a bargain tup, sight unseen.

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Time for a checkup.

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-He's all right, actually.

-Yeah.

-He'll do.

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He's got a pair of knackers anyway.

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The general consensus today is that the price is a wee bit lower.

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It's the last tup sale in the UK, so they really have to sell them.

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It seems to be a buyer's market.

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Prices are low and David's on a roll.

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Time to go and pay before I buy anything else. All right!

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-With an original shopping list of four tups...

-Two more to go.

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..they've ended up with ten, costing £2,400.

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These tups will get just two weeks to settle in on the farm

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before they're put out to work with the ewes.

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Very pleased with our tups and we didn't have to pay too much

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to get something decent, so we're happy.

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We got a lot of bargains today.

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In the end, you leaving things to the last minute, for a change,

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-has worked out.

-Definitely.

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-Isn't that amazing?

-Yeah, for once.

-Exactly!

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So Last-minute Dave works the trick.

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Last-minute Dave!

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THEY CHUCKLE

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85 miles south-east in Fife,

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Buffalo farmer Stevie needs to ear-tag his newborn calves.

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It's a legal requirement to tag and register all new livestock.

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The problem is the mothers, who are protective and unpredictable.

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You can't really tell until you start really handling them

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just what their nature's going to be.

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Cow 22 there is certainly giving us a bit of eye at the moment,

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so we'll be careful with her.

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Stevie chooses the first candidate carefully.

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We'll start with a nice quiet one.

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It's a wee boy calf.

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So we've just got a wee spray of iodine

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to stop any infection getting in.

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It's just like somebody getting their ear pierced, really.

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That wasn't too bad.

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So one down, the next to go.

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Time to choose the next mother and calf.

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Cow 22 is looking unsettled.

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Hey!

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Steady!

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Cheeky devils.

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Hey!

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Get back!

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It's the unpredictability of a buffalo.

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You know, sometimes they can be totally chilled out,

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relaxed and the next minute, that snorting lunatic appears.

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It's the joys of working with an animal that's got such a weapon,

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you know.

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Five years ago, Stevie learned the hard way just how dangerous

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these animals can be.

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A calf came up behind quite innocently.

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Mother just decided that she didn't approve

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and came charging in.

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She butted me down a hill and let out an almighty war cry.

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The whole herd just joined in.

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It wasn't just on the ground. They were literally throwing me.

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That was the most dramatic part about it.

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They ripped all my clothes off.

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I had several quite nasty gores with their horns,

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a horn right into my hamstring,

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back of my leg and one up my backside, unfortunately.

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They really were going for my blood.

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Stevie needed surgery and five weeks in hospital.

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It has definitely made me a little bit more cautious.

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Definitely a lot more respect for them.

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A lot stricter with the guys in the team

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to make sure that we work, like today, in twos,

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never to be left kind of in a situation

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where that could happen again.

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Time to tackle number 22.

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Go on.

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Watch, watch, watch.

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-Right, so what have we got here, a bull calf?

-Er...

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Stop it!

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BUFFALO SNORTS

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BUFFALO SNORTS

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BUFFALO BELLOWS

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-Get back!

-Her anxiety is alerting the other cows.

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Go on!

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The key is, the calf was quite relaxed, you know,

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which helps a lot, because if the calf was fighting us,

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then I suspect that cow would have been over that gate in no time,

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cos they can get over these gates, there's no question about it.

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So, mission accomplished.

0:21:470:21:49

At this time of year, across Scotland, it's dark by five.

0:21:570:22:02

For the sheep farmers,

0:22:050:22:06

it's this very loss of daylight that brings their ewes into season.

0:22:060:22:10

It affects their hormones, so they're ready to mate.

0:22:120:22:15

The seasonal rhythms of nature dictate the farming year.

0:22:170:22:21

Two more. Right, OK.

0:22:250:22:28

She says, no foot baths!

0:22:290:22:32

Come on!

0:22:320:22:34

On the Isle of Mull,

0:22:340:22:35

Janet and Alistair's ewes are almost ready for tupping.

0:22:350:22:38

As new farmers, they're still building their stock,

0:22:400:22:43

and the decisions they make today

0:22:430:22:45

are crucial to the future success of their farm.

0:22:450:22:48

Any females born on the farm, you couldn't put a price on their heads

0:22:500:22:55

because they will become part of your breeding stock.

0:22:550:22:57

They're going to produce lambs for years to come.

0:22:570:23:01

It's the never-ending circle.

0:23:010:23:02

-Good boy.

-Don't hurt yourself. Watch your head.

0:23:040:23:07

This year, they're putting their faith in Owen, a virgin tup lamb.

0:23:070:23:12

-Aw!

-On his chest, between his front legs, we're going to put lots of

0:23:120:23:17

this stuff - that's keel.

0:23:170:23:20

So when he jumps on their backs,

0:23:200:23:22

he will leave some of this on their backs,

0:23:220:23:24

so we'll know which ewes he's been on and which ones he hasn't.

0:23:240:23:27

Are you worried about this, Owen?

0:23:270:23:30

What the hell are you doing with that glove?!

0:23:300:23:32

SHE LAUGHS

0:23:320:23:35

So I'm just trying to work it into his wool, so it lasts for a while.

0:23:350:23:39

Owen has never been with a ewe before.

0:23:410:23:45

It's all just a gamble.

0:23:450:23:47

It's, er, trying something different, see if it'll work.

0:23:470:23:50

An O for Owen!

0:23:500:23:52

SHE LAUGHS

0:23:520:23:54

So I'm just gonna hide in amongst these ewes with my big green bum.

0:23:590:24:03

-He doesn't seem impressed.

-He doesn't.

0:24:030:24:06

He seems more interested in what's happening next door,

0:24:090:24:12

where experienced tup Harold has many successful breeding seasons

0:24:120:24:16

under his fleece.

0:24:160:24:19

Harold immediately gets down to business.

0:24:190:24:22

He's smelling their pee and things to see if they're in season

0:24:250:24:28

and ready for him.

0:24:280:24:30

A practised tup like Harold

0:24:300:24:32

will go for the older, experienced ewes first.

0:24:320:24:36

If the female is fertile, she will stand to receive the male.

0:24:360:24:40

He's interested now.

0:24:410:24:44

-She's just a gimmer, isn't she?

-Yeah, she won't know what's what.

0:24:440:24:48

Owen's getting the idea, but he'd be better off with an older ewe.

0:24:490:24:53

There's a lot to learn and even more at stake.

0:24:550:24:59

In the north-east of Scotland,

0:25:160:25:18

Martin Irvine and his family run a 240-acre farm,

0:25:180:25:23

breeding pedigree Limousin cattle.

0:25:230:25:25

Martin's big love since childhood was his prize bulls...

0:25:300:25:33

..until two women came into his life -

0:25:350:25:38

wife Mel and baby daughter Erin.

0:25:380:25:41

When you're really busy and you're having a hard day or whatever,

0:25:430:25:47

you come home and there's Erin with a big smile,

0:25:470:25:49

it just kind of cheers you up and you forget about it really,

0:25:490:25:52

so that's quite nice.

0:25:520:25:54

-Are you sleepy?

-She does, she fits in with us.

0:25:540:25:56

She comes on the tractors with us.

0:25:560:25:58

She comes up to the sheep with us.

0:25:580:26:00

She comes to the mart with us. Don't you?

0:26:000:26:04

The Irvines have specialised in bull breeding for over 35 years

0:26:060:26:11

and it's the farm's main source of income,

0:26:110:26:15

but for the last few years,

0:26:150:26:16

as previously seen on This Farming Life,

0:26:160:26:19

Martin's struggled with a sharp downturn in his fortunes.

0:26:190:26:23

His bulls weren't fetching good prices.

0:26:230:26:26

Oh, that's just depressing, that, really.

0:26:280:26:30

Not enough. Right, we'll go try the next three.

0:26:300:26:32

I'm nae looking very excited for us really.

0:26:320:26:35

Hard work, really hard work.

0:26:350:26:37

Bulls aren't sold on the merit of what they look like.

0:26:420:26:45

There's another factor, which is figures,

0:26:450:26:47

and the figures in the last stock bull weren't very good.

0:26:470:26:50

So his beef values and all this kind of stuff weren't very good

0:26:500:26:54

and that kind of put people off from buying him

0:26:540:26:56

and that was the problem there.

0:26:560:26:59

Now, with their own new mouth to feed,

0:26:590:27:01

Mel and Martin hope that better times and prices are on the way.

0:27:010:27:05

So we survived a really hard 18 months and, er,

0:27:070:27:11

if you can survive the bad bits, that's the key.

0:27:110:27:14

One of the last Limousin bull sales of the year is in Carlisle.

0:27:190:27:24

It's a two-day event and all the top breeders and buyers are here.

0:27:240:27:28

It's a chance for Martin to make some much-needed cash.

0:27:280:27:32

We're at Carlisle. It is Limousin central.

0:27:320:27:34

It's a prestigious show and sale.

0:27:340:27:37

You're in amongst big competition.

0:27:370:27:40

Bulls from up and down the length and breadth of the country.

0:27:400:27:42

Martin's hopes for a change in his fortunes

0:27:450:27:48

rest on these two young bulls,

0:27:480:27:50

brothers Loki and Luke.

0:27:500:27:53

My pick's Loki.

0:27:530:27:54

A bit more size, a bit more character. He's real flashy.

0:27:540:27:57

But Luke, he's a little bit younger, but he's heavier.

0:27:570:28:00

So he's got more carcass and more weight, but he's just not as pretty.

0:28:000:28:04

It takes a long time and a lot of money to get the bulls here,

0:28:040:28:07

so there's a lot of money invested,

0:28:070:28:09

and if we can get a good show day today, it'll help us sell tomorrow.

0:28:090:28:12

It's money, money,

0:28:120:28:13

and this is our business and you need to make money to survive.

0:28:130:28:16

The auction is tomorrow.

0:28:180:28:21

Today, it's the show day.

0:28:210:28:24

How are you?

0:28:240:28:25

Mm-hmm.

0:28:250:28:27

Yeah. What do you think?

0:28:270:28:30

Yeah?

0:28:320:28:33

It's an Irvine family affair.

0:28:330:28:36

Mum Denise,

0:28:360:28:38

Dad Stephen

0:28:380:28:39

and brother Darren are all here

0:28:390:28:41

to get Luke and Loki looking their best.

0:28:410:28:45

A winner's rosette in the competition rounds today

0:28:450:28:48

can help push up the price tomorrow.

0:28:480:28:52

So all these products,

0:28:520:28:53

all they're gonna do is kind of bulk up the hair,

0:28:530:28:55

it gives the illusion of more size and weight and power.

0:28:550:29:00

The Limousin breed covers so many aspects.

0:29:000:29:03

They've got size, they've got length, they've got a nice bum,

0:29:030:29:06

good character, good locomotion.

0:29:060:29:09

Massive balls. 38 centimetres.

0:29:090:29:12

Nearly as big as me!

0:29:120:29:13

HE LAUGHS

0:29:130:29:15

No, I'm only winding you up!

0:29:150:29:17

These fine animals are the first sons of Martin's current stock bull,

0:29:200:29:25

Irish, to go to market.

0:29:250:29:27

When we bought Irish, we were looking for muscle.

0:29:300:29:32

We were looking for the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bulls

0:29:320:29:34

and he is like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bulls.

0:29:340:29:37

The females are gonna hopefully throw in the genetics for the size

0:29:370:29:40

and power and Irish, with all his extreme muscle and ripness to him,

0:29:400:29:44

he's gonna mix it and, hopefully, the calves off of this will be

0:29:440:29:47

a bit of both.

0:29:470:29:49

Martin bought Irish three years ago - an investment for the future.

0:29:520:29:57

This weekend, he will find out if he chose well.

0:29:570:30:00

It's all about the final touches.

0:30:020:30:04

Looking as good as they can, I think.

0:30:060:30:08

Hey, Uncle Darren.

0:30:080:30:10

Just see what happens.

0:30:100:30:11

BABY WHIMPERS

0:30:110:30:12

Yes. Oh.

0:30:120:30:15

Loki will be first into the competition round.

0:30:150:30:18

I'm just going to head down now to the holding area.

0:30:200:30:23

That's Class Three in now. We're Class Five.

0:30:230:30:26

So a ten-minute wait there and we'll see how good we do.

0:30:260:30:30

Come on.

0:30:300:30:32

Cattle breeding is a long, slow game.

0:30:320:30:35

Martin's about to find out if he has a winning hand.

0:30:350:30:39

A cold snap has hit the West Coast of Scotland...

0:30:540:30:58

..but farmers with sheep to breed, like David and Sandra,

0:31:000:31:03

can't afford to let the weather slow them down.

0:31:030:31:06

They've bought their ten new tups

0:31:080:31:10

and now they need to bring the ewes down from the hills for mating.

0:31:100:31:14

It's the autumn gather.

0:31:140:31:17

Today's plan is to get the sheep and the ewes in for the tup.

0:31:200:31:25

That's the task today.

0:31:250:31:27

It's the kind of last gathering of the calendar year.

0:31:270:31:31

Sandra's come down with a bug,

0:31:310:31:33

so she's not fit for the long, cold climb through the hills.

0:31:330:31:38

Full of dangers but, yeah,

0:31:380:31:39

most of the time, everything works out all right.

0:31:390:31:41

He comes home all bedraggled looking

0:31:410:31:43

and semi-scathed

0:31:430:31:46

and a bit roughed up.

0:31:460:31:48

SHE LAUGHS

0:31:480:31:50

Don't forget your rolls, David.

0:31:500:31:52

You're going to be looking for them.

0:31:520:31:54

-You're going to take a banana as well?

-Yep.

0:31:540:31:56

Have fun!

0:31:580:32:00

David has recruited seven neighbours and their all-important dogs

0:32:030:32:07

to cover 1,500 acres of the farm.

0:32:070:32:11

We'll take the main lot down.

0:32:110:32:12

If you guys sweep back round and see them down to the gate here,

0:32:120:32:15

-we'll open the gate partly...

-Aye.

-..so the sheep can come underneath.

0:32:150:32:18

-Aye.

-As long as there's enough light and the weather's fine.

0:32:180:32:20

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

0:32:200:32:22

The usual chaos before I leave anywhere.

0:32:220:32:26

Forget something.

0:32:260:32:28

Forget my piece, forget my phone.

0:32:280:32:29

At least I haven't forgotten my dog!

0:32:310:32:33

It's an eight-mile drive to get into position before they can even start.

0:32:360:32:40

We didn't want to go until we were sure that the mist had cleared.

0:32:410:32:45

But the snow could lend a helping hand.

0:32:450:32:47

They call it the great white dog

0:32:490:32:50

because the sheep will generally drop below the snow line.

0:32:500:32:53

So hopefully, that's the case today,

0:32:530:32:55

that the sheep will have dropped down to a lower level.

0:32:550:32:58

They start at the far side of David's hills

0:33:060:33:09

and will walk back towards the farm, driving the sheep onwards.

0:33:090:33:14

-Here, dogs, here!

-All 160 of them.

0:33:140:33:16

It will be a long day.

0:33:180:33:20

We're heading over there, just to that skyline.

0:33:220:33:25

I'll go to that knoll.

0:33:250:33:26

Kenny and Robert will go round the face and then they'll start to drop,

0:33:260:33:30

drop down, and hopefully lift the sheep with them.

0:33:300:33:33

The plan is a pincer movement.

0:33:350:33:37

David's team will go up to the top of the hills and spread out as they

0:33:390:33:43

walk back, pushing the sheep downwards.

0:33:430:33:46

The other team will be lower, sweeping the sheep towards the farm.

0:33:480:33:51

David needs to comb the snowy ridge to be sure no sheep get left behind.

0:33:550:34:00

He plans to command proceedings from his high vantage point.

0:34:040:34:07

He has a clever dog...

0:34:090:34:11

Modern communications.

0:34:110:34:13

..and a smartphone.

0:34:130:34:15

Hi, Robert.

0:34:180:34:20

-SHOUTS:

-Are you there, Robert?

0:34:250:34:27

This is the Vodafone voicemail service for 0755...

0:34:320:34:36

If I hear that message one more time I know where the phone is going!

0:34:360:34:40

-SHOUTS:

-Are you there, Robert?

0:34:420:34:44

We're the line now that Robert should come up to.

0:34:460:34:50

PHONE RINGS

0:34:500:34:52

-Hi, Robert.

-Hi.

0:34:520:34:54

Will you come up to my line, Robert?

0:34:540:34:56

Have you got sheep ahead of you?

0:34:560:34:59

We're heading back.

0:34:590:35:02

Right, if you come up just to the kind of snow line

0:35:020:35:04

where there's a level path along here

0:35:040:35:06

and I'll go up a wee bit higher, OK, mate? Right.

0:35:060:35:09

Gathers like this have taken place for centuries.

0:35:140:35:18

They happen through the year,

0:35:180:35:20

but always in summer for shearing and autumn for tupping.

0:35:200:35:24

Jimmy's been making noises higher up.

0:35:250:35:27

Kenny is working his dogs below.

0:35:270:35:29

So they're all just happy moving in a line.

0:35:290:35:32

Hi, Jimmy. How are you getting on now?

0:35:350:35:38

Can you see what David and that are doing and the boys?

0:35:380:35:41

David's family have worked these hills for the last 100 years.

0:35:430:35:46

There's not many views like that.

0:35:490:35:51

You've got looking towards Mull down Loch Linnhe to Lismore to Oban.

0:35:510:35:56

It's absolutely stunning.

0:35:570:35:59

Hey, guys.

0:35:590:36:01

So I think it's enough of me enjoying the view

0:36:070:36:10

and getting down and see what's happening down here.

0:36:100:36:13

After five hours and five miles of walking,

0:36:170:36:21

the team have successfully rounded up a large section

0:36:210:36:24

and are moving them onwards.

0:36:240:36:27

This is where, you know, my good planning has just worked perfect.

0:36:290:36:33

More luck than anything else, actually, to be fair.

0:36:350:36:40

A lot of the sheep were below the snow line,

0:36:400:36:43

but we still had to cover the ground.

0:36:430:36:45

The weather didn't deteriorate any worse than it was, so...

0:36:450:36:49

So I'll just get to the gate and when the gate's open and it's clear,

0:36:490:36:53

then we will take them down into the yard

0:36:530:36:55

and into the shed for the night.

0:36:550:36:57

Lie down!

0:37:010:37:03

These ewes are coming into season in the next few days and will soon be

0:37:060:37:10

introduced to the new tups.

0:37:100:37:12

Well done, guys. Well done.

0:37:120:37:15

Thank goodness for that!

0:37:220:37:24

Now time for the refreshment.

0:37:240:37:27

LAUGHTER

0:37:300:37:32

It's not even that worse off up the hill.

0:37:340:37:37

Yes, it's nice to see them back

0:37:390:37:41

and happy that nobody has fallen out with anybody

0:37:410:37:43

and everybody is still speaking.

0:37:430:37:46

As long as they have got food and dram, they're pretty happy.

0:37:460:37:51

In Carlisle, it's the Limousin bull competition rounds.

0:38:010:38:05

A great opportunity to catch a buyer's eye

0:38:060:38:08

before the auction tomorrow.

0:38:080:38:10

After last year's poor profits, Martin really needs a good sale

0:38:120:38:17

and his hopes are riding on 18-month-old Loki.

0:38:170:38:22

He's a cocky little bugger, really.

0:38:220:38:24

He likes to square up and fight with everybody

0:38:240:38:26

and show himself he's the man.

0:38:260:38:28

So he'll go in the ring and he will pose.

0:38:280:38:31

The worry is that, amongst other bulls, Loki can be unpredictable.

0:38:310:38:35

Once I get in there, I'll suss it out, but nothing I can do.

0:38:360:38:39

What will be will be. Just to get on with it.

0:38:390:38:41

A first or second place rosette

0:38:430:38:46

could really help get a good price tomorrow.

0:38:460:38:48

You always get nervous with showing.

0:38:500:38:51

I think, if you didn't, it would be strange not to.

0:38:510:38:54

I know I get nervous.

0:38:540:38:56

It's exciting nerves, though.

0:38:560:38:59

It's Loki's turn in the ring.

0:39:000:39:03

Martin needs to keep a tight hold.

0:39:030:39:05

The judge is looking for a good breed character,

0:39:070:39:09

so it is usually in a nice big bum, good walking.

0:39:090:39:13

Size as well is quite important.

0:39:130:39:16

A nice straight back and a full back, a wide back,

0:39:160:39:19

that's where you get all your expensive cuts of meat.

0:39:190:39:22

The judge is also assessing behaviour.

0:39:250:39:28

Didn't really stand, just wants to walk.

0:39:280:39:30

It's a bull. It just wants to show himself.

0:39:300:39:33

If Loki doesn't start behaving, Martin won't get a rosette.

0:39:380:39:42

Loki won't stand still!

0:39:440:39:46

Stand still.

0:39:460:39:49

Martin will get a bit frustrated cos I know I do when they don't do that.

0:39:500:39:54

Stand.

0:39:540:39:56

Stand still.

0:39:560:39:59

The judge is just having another wee look.

0:39:590:40:02

Martin is just making sure Loki's legs are all square.

0:40:020:40:06

That's a good start.

0:40:060:40:08

Looks good so far, but you just don't know.

0:40:100:40:13

Thank you.

0:40:140:40:16

It's a win.

0:40:160:40:18

First in class rosette for Loki. A great start.

0:40:180:40:22

A good result!

0:40:230:40:25

As the winner of his class,

0:40:270:40:29

he now gets put through to the overall senior champions round.

0:40:290:40:33

Martin has never won this stage here.

0:40:330:40:35

Nervous. Excited.

0:40:360:40:39

The competition is tough.

0:40:400:40:42

He'd be my pick, but I'm biased, so...

0:40:450:40:47

Stand, stand, stand.

0:40:480:40:52

Stand.

0:40:520:40:53

Yes!

0:40:590:41:00

APPLAUSE

0:41:000:41:02

It's another win for Loki.

0:41:020:41:04

That's him got in senior champion, so...

0:41:040:41:06

And Erin sleeps through it.

0:41:080:41:10

Two red winner's rosettes for the collection.

0:41:120:41:15

Absolutely delighted. First in class and then senior champion.

0:41:180:41:23

We've always been reserve, never champion,

0:41:230:41:25

so off to a really good start.

0:41:250:41:27

The lucky charm is working. Good luck mascot, eh?

0:41:270:41:30

Yes.

0:41:300:41:32

And the day keeps getting better.

0:41:340:41:37

Luke also wins first in class in the intermediates competition.

0:41:380:41:42

It's amazing what a new stock bull can do to a herd

0:41:450:41:48

and it's just taken us a way forward again

0:41:480:41:50

and it's just where we want to be, up at the top end.

0:41:500:41:52

That's where you want to be, at the top end, winning tickets.

0:41:520:41:55

These two sons of Irish are performing strongly so far.

0:41:570:42:02

But the much-needed boost for the farm's finances

0:42:020:42:05

will ride on tomorrow's sale.

0:42:050:42:07

Tomorrow could be a good day and we sell them for £5,000, £6,000 apiece,

0:42:100:42:15

or it could be an amazing day where you get 10, 15, 20,000.

0:42:150:42:19

You don't know.

0:42:190:42:20

There's a lot of buyers out there looking for Limousins right now

0:42:200:42:23

and this is what I have got in my pen, so I'm laughing.

0:42:230:42:27

Tomorrow should be a good day.

0:42:270:42:30

85 miles north, in Fife,

0:42:390:42:42

one of Stevie's young bulls isn't doing so well.

0:42:420:42:46

Stevie brought Asian water buffalo to Scotland 12 years ago,

0:42:480:42:52

gambling his inheritance on this untried market.

0:42:520:42:55

He's been impressed by their hardiness

0:42:570:43:00

but now one of his younger bulls is very sick.

0:43:000:43:03

Stevie doesn't know what's wrong.

0:43:040:43:06

Hey, fella.

0:43:080:43:10

Can we have a bucket here, Eddie?

0:43:120:43:15

Try and get some water for it.

0:43:150:43:17

Poor wee soul.

0:43:180:43:20

He's been unwell for a few days now.

0:43:220:43:25

The vet has prescribed antibiotics.

0:43:250:43:28

But they don't seem to be helping.

0:43:280:43:29

See how skinny it's gotten already?

0:43:310:43:33

I mean, these guys in behind were actually...

0:43:330:43:35

It was, you know, running a group exactly the same as them,

0:43:350:43:39

only ten days ago, but...

0:43:390:43:40

Whatever is bothering it is preventing it from eating.

0:43:420:43:46

I watched it the other day

0:43:460:43:47

and it was able to get the silage in its mouth and it wanted to eat

0:43:470:43:51

but it wasn't swallowing it.

0:43:510:43:52

It was just almost falling back out.

0:43:520:43:54

When you see an animal that you are responsible for,

0:43:570:44:01

you feel quite helpless to actually be able to do anything about it.

0:44:010:44:04

It's horrible.

0:44:040:44:06

Neither Stevie nor the vet is sure what is wrong.

0:44:070:44:11

Buffalo husbandry is still new in the UK.

0:44:120:44:16

If it's an infectious disease, it could spell disaster,

0:44:160:44:20

as all of the young bulls in this shed could have been exposed.

0:44:200:44:23

For now, with the young bull suffering, Stevie must act.

0:44:250:44:29

Your responsibility is just kind of

0:44:320:44:34

what's right for this wee fella, you know?

0:44:340:44:37

He's gone downhill so quick that...

0:44:370:44:40

..I think really all we can do is organise to get it put down.

0:44:400:44:43

I don't like admitting defeat but...

0:44:430:44:46

..you can see it just looks...

0:44:470:44:49

It's as close to death as it could be.

0:44:490:44:51

It's down in the bottom pen, Keith.

0:44:540:44:57

To dispatch the sick animal quickly and humanely,

0:44:580:45:01

Stevie calls in the local gamekeeper.

0:45:010:45:05

It's just about dead.

0:45:050:45:07

GUNFIRE

0:45:180:45:20

Job done.

0:45:230:45:25

From time to time we are going to have sick animals.

0:45:290:45:33

My grandad's favourite saying was

0:45:330:45:35

with livestock you'll get dead stock and I will always remember that,

0:45:350:45:38

especially at moments like this, so, yeah.

0:45:380:45:41

The carcass is sent off for an immediate postmortem.

0:45:440:45:47

If the young buffalo was infectious,

0:45:490:45:51

Stevie needs to know as the rest of his young bulls will be at risk.

0:45:510:45:55

On the Isle of Mull,

0:46:090:46:11

Janet and Alistair have woken to an unwelcome surprise.

0:46:110:46:15

What are you doing?

0:46:190:46:21

I'm sealing up the 17 silage bales

0:46:210:46:24

that one of the horses opened this morning.

0:46:240:46:27

-Whose horse opened it?

-It may have been my horse.

0:46:270:46:30

And how has she managed to get in with them?

0:46:300:46:32

She broke through the electric fence

0:46:320:46:35

and then proceeded to open 17 different bales of silage.

0:46:350:46:40

So some look like this

0:46:400:46:42

which is sealable.

0:46:420:46:44

Some look like this

0:46:440:46:46

which is not so sealable.

0:46:460:46:48

These ones, we'll not be able to tape up.

0:46:490:46:51

We are not actually feeding silage yet,

0:46:510:46:53

so we're just wondering what to do with them

0:46:530:46:56

because they will not last out like this.

0:46:560:46:58

Very annoying. Very disappointing.

0:46:580:47:00

Here's the culprit.

0:47:010:47:04

The reason we could tell she was the culprit was when we came out this

0:47:040:47:07

morning, she was still in with the silage bales.

0:47:070:47:10

And my horse was miles away.

0:47:100:47:12

She won't go near an electric fence whether it's on or not.

0:47:120:47:15

Butter wouldn't melt.

0:47:180:47:20

I think she's hoping for more.

0:47:200:47:22

Janet's hoping another of their animals

0:47:260:47:28

has also been up to mischief this morning.

0:47:280:47:31

Virgin tup Owen has just spent his first night with his 65 ewes.

0:47:310:47:36

I think Owen is doing quite well.

0:47:420:47:43

I think there's a few green bums in the field now.

0:47:430:47:45

We won't know until we get some lambs in the spring

0:47:480:47:51

whether he's done the job well

0:47:510:47:53

and whether he produces as nice lambs as he is.

0:47:530:47:56

Owen seems to be getting the hang of things.

0:47:590:48:03

Yeah, he's trying.

0:48:030:48:05

But the ewes won't stand still until they're in heat.

0:48:060:48:10

So, for now, it's just good practice.

0:48:100:48:12

Fingers crossed he's right for us.

0:48:180:48:21

Next year will be exciting.

0:48:220:48:24

Lambing time. See what we've got.

0:48:240:48:27

The gestation period of a sheep is five months.

0:48:380:48:41

So tupping in early November

0:48:430:48:45

means lambs born in early April,

0:48:450:48:48

when the new spring grass has arrived

0:48:480:48:51

and food is plentiful.

0:48:510:48:53

This gives both mothers and their lambs the best chance of survival.

0:48:560:49:00

Back on the mainland, along the coast in Appin,

0:49:120:49:15

David is about to introduce his new tups

0:49:150:49:18

to the ewes gathered off the hills.

0:49:180:49:21

These are the sheep that we gathered last night.

0:49:230:49:27

I think we got a good number in.

0:49:270:49:29

Unlike Janet and Alistair,

0:49:310:49:33

who have just four tups for their small flock,

0:49:330:49:37

David has dozens for his 550 ewes.

0:49:370:49:40

Watch your back.

0:49:430:49:45

So much tup testosterone means David and his team have their hands full.

0:49:470:49:53

How many is that, four?

0:49:530:49:55

They know what's happening.

0:49:590:50:00

The hormones are raging, and often at this time of year,

0:50:000:50:02

they'll fight and they'll batter the hell out of each other because

0:50:020:50:05

the stronger tup wants to nail that ewe.

0:50:050:50:08

Each tup will lose 15% of his body weight

0:50:110:50:13

during the hectic breeding season,

0:50:130:50:16

impregnating 30 to 40 females each.

0:50:160:50:20

DOG BARKS

0:50:220:50:24

Stay there.

0:50:240:50:26

Stay there!

0:50:260:50:27

The first batch of ewes are ready and waiting.

0:50:270:50:30

Here the tups come!

0:50:300:50:32

This season's new tups are willing and hopefully able.

0:50:330:50:38

The tup, when he first goes out, he's full of energy.

0:50:380:50:41

He's been away from the ewes, you know, for 11 months.

0:50:410:50:44

He's going to be running about

0:50:440:50:46

thinking he's wanting to get his way.

0:50:460:50:48

This first group, five tups to 170 ewes,

0:50:520:50:57

go to the hill park near the farm.

0:50:570:50:59

I'm just letting the sheep settle there to see what's going to happen.

0:51:010:51:04

If a ewe is coming into heat, they'll go and stand with the tup.

0:51:070:51:10

These were bargain tups,

0:51:130:51:15

but it looks like they know what they're doing.

0:51:150:51:17

Hopefully, if you picked right,

0:51:190:51:21

and you've got the ones that are just going to do the business

0:51:210:51:25

and get it done, pretty quickly, you hope.

0:51:250:51:28

Right, Chance, come on!

0:51:300:51:32

In Kirkcaldy, Stevie is hoping for some answers

0:51:420:51:45

to the mystery of his sick young bull.

0:51:450:51:48

If it had an infectious disease, it would spell disaster.

0:51:500:51:54

Simon Ward, the local vet, has the postmortem results.

0:51:580:52:01

Basically, the cause of death

0:52:030:52:05

was the baby teeth were starting to loosen,

0:52:050:52:08

but there were no permanent teeth pushing it through,

0:52:080:52:11

so the food was packed around the teeth

0:52:110:52:13

and that just obstructed the...

0:52:130:52:14

..obstructed the throat and then it couldn't drink either.

0:52:140:52:17

Would that...? The silage would be harder for it than grass,

0:52:170:52:21

so maybe a combination...?

0:52:210:52:23

It is probably more the age than anything,

0:52:230:52:25

because that's the time when these teeth are starting to come out.

0:52:250:52:29

-If you haven't seen in any other ones...

-No, never.

0:52:290:52:32

..you're hopefully just unlucky.

0:52:320:52:33

But from what they're saying with animals on the Continent,

0:52:330:52:36

it's not that uncommon a thing.

0:52:360:52:38

The vet believes the problem was genetic and specific to that animal,

0:52:410:52:46

because it couldn't chew the food caught in its throat.

0:52:460:52:49

Most importantly, it wasn't infectious to the rest of the herd.

0:52:500:52:54

The thing about buffalo,

0:52:560:52:57

you never quite know what could be around the corner.

0:52:570:52:59

But now that I've got over the initial sort of disappointment

0:52:590:53:02

of losing that animal, I'm almost quite pleased and relieved

0:53:020:53:05

to get that information today that it's not going to be something

0:53:050:53:09

that's likely to affect any more.

0:53:090:53:12

It's part of being a farmer.

0:53:120:53:13

You see new things all the time and you've got to store that one in the

0:53:130:53:17

memory bank and just got to take the positives out of it

0:53:170:53:21

and be better equipped for the future.

0:53:210:53:24

For all livestock farmers, careful breeding is important.

0:53:280:53:33

For pedigree farmers, it's imperative.

0:53:330:53:36

South of the border in Carlisle,

0:53:450:53:47

potential buyers are checking out prime breeding bulls

0:53:470:53:50

before today's auction.

0:53:500:53:52

Martin hopes Loki and Luke will be the start of a financial turnaround

0:53:530:53:57

for his family.

0:53:570:53:59

He is 18 months, he's 17 months.

0:54:010:54:04

Martin is doing his sales patter and anybody that comes in the ring

0:54:040:54:08

can chat to you and they can ask any questions about the bulls.

0:54:080:54:11

You know, this is our bread and butter today for the farm,

0:54:110:54:14

so we need a good sale.

0:54:140:54:16

Even though we had a really good day yesterday with the bulls,

0:54:160:54:19

it doesn't guarantee a good sale.

0:54:190:54:21

It has cost me around three grand to get there.

0:54:210:54:23

That's our kind of number for costs. We need to be making profit.

0:54:230:54:26

I think they are good bulls,

0:54:260:54:27

so if I can average five for the pair, I'll be happy.

0:54:270:54:30

If I get more, I'll be really happy.

0:54:300:54:32

The Carlisle auction is a place for surprises.

0:54:360:54:40

Last year, one bull fetched a world record-breaking 140,000 guineas.

0:54:400:54:46

Each guinea being worth £1.05.

0:54:470:54:50

It's Luke's turn in the ring.

0:54:530:54:56

The arena is packed. A good sign.

0:54:560:54:59

The bidding starts at 3,000.

0:55:030:55:07

-AUCTIONEER:

-4,000 guineas.

0:55:070:55:08

4,500.

0:55:080:55:10

All in, 4,500.

0:55:100:55:12

5,000.

0:55:120:55:13

5,500.

0:55:130:55:14

6,000.

0:55:140:55:15

6,500 now.

0:55:150:55:18

6,500.

0:55:180:55:19

At 6,500.

0:55:210:55:22

6,500.

0:55:220:55:24

6,500 still in.

0:55:240:55:27

At 6,500.

0:55:270:55:29

All yours, 6,500.

0:55:310:55:33

Thank you, Dean.

0:55:330:55:35

6,500.

0:55:350:55:37

That's more than double his average last year.

0:55:370:55:40

Much better, really much better.

0:55:440:55:47

I was hoping to get at least five for Luke.

0:55:470:55:49

He went for 6,500 to a good home.

0:55:490:55:52

So real chuffed.

0:55:520:55:55

Now it's the turn of overall senior champion, Loki.

0:55:550:55:59

Looking as good as he can be, so there is nothing more we can do.

0:56:000:56:04

-AUCTIONEER:

-The first prize senior champion here.

0:56:040:56:09

Martin wants a minimum of 5,000

0:56:090:56:12

for what he believes to be one of his best bulls in years.

0:56:120:56:16

He's the youngest in the section.

0:56:160:56:17

18 months old.

0:56:170:56:19

5,000 bid.

0:56:190:56:22

The bidding starts off at 5,000...

0:56:220:56:25

5,000 bid.

0:56:250:56:27

6,000 bid.

0:56:270:56:30

..and climbs rapidly.

0:56:300:56:31

9,000.

0:56:310:56:34

10,000.

0:56:340:56:36

12,000.

0:56:360:56:38

At 12,000.

0:56:410:56:43

At 12,000, bid.

0:56:450:56:47

Lots of power.

0:56:490:56:51

At 12,000 guineas.

0:56:520:56:54

12,000.

0:56:560:56:58

It's the best sale Martin's had in six years.

0:56:580:57:02

Pressure's off.

0:57:040:57:06

Nothing worse than walking around with a bull not sold,

0:57:060:57:09

but he's sold.

0:57:090:57:10

We're making £12,000. Really happy. We can celebrate a bit now.

0:57:100:57:14

Rearing pedigree bulls means Martin can make these substantial profits,

0:57:180:57:24

far in excess of anything a standard beef animal would fetch.

0:57:240:57:29

I've got another three or four years of this blood line coming through

0:57:290:57:32

and if this is a taste of what it's going to be like,

0:57:320:57:34

it's going to be enjoyable and more fun, more exciting,

0:57:340:57:37

and, of course, profitable.

0:57:370:57:39

Much better.

0:57:390:57:40

Just going to get a photo with the bull. This will go into the paper.

0:57:420:57:46

The new breeding programme has produced a winner.

0:57:460:57:49

For Martin and his family,

0:57:500:57:53

for now at least, the future is looking good.

0:57:530:57:56

Thank you.

0:57:570:58:00

Next time on This Farming Life...

0:58:020:58:05

Good afternoon, Rowan's Dairy.

0:58:050:58:06

..dairy farmers, the Rowans, take on the supermarkets

0:58:060:58:10

with their doorstep delivery.

0:58:100:58:11

The shops make more money out of that milk than we do,

0:58:110:58:14

which is ridiculous.

0:58:140:58:16

Stevie experiments with a new diet for his buffalo.

0:58:170:58:21

Could be something that the buffalo really thrive on.

0:58:210:58:23

Could be a complete disaster.

0:58:230:58:25

And Robin and Penny's family join in the Christmas ceilidh.

0:58:250:58:28

APPLAUSE

0:58:280:58:30

There you go, you even get a kiss from your daughter.

0:58:300:58:32

On Mull, Janet and Alastair put Owen, their new young virgin tup, to the test. Stevie risks the wrath of the buffalo mums when he ear-tags four newborn calves, early snow on the Western Highlands helps David gather his sheep and Martin, Mel and Erin hope for a windfall at the Carlisle bull sales.