New tups

Our tups are out! 24 well rested virile males have been let loose in the fields at Glengorm. As winter fast approaches, the circle of life here on the farm keeps going.

We have 24 tups on the farm, 4 are Suffolks, one is a cheviot and the rest are all blackface. They range in value from our own home bred up to £4000. This year, we are using tups from Dyke, GlenRath, Pole, Midlock, mainland Balimeanach and locally from Mull. We also have some tup lambs which we use as chasers.

We have almost 800 breeding ewes on the estate, and they are divided into groups and are put out into out to our ” in bye” fields. These fields have been kept empty for a while to allow the grass to grow, ready for this time.

The ewes are put out to graze for 2 weeks before the tups go out. This period is called flushing and is done to increase nutrients and body condition of the sheep and this will bring on ovulation.

Sheep ovulate in 3 weekly cycles. They do not ovulate all through the year, but have a specific time of the year when this starts happening, although the better condition of the ewe the more she will ovulate.

When the first tups go out to the ewes, they are put out for a 6 week period. Our best tups go out first for the first 3 weeks, then we will put in what is called a chaser, this is a tup of lesser quality or maturity but will hopefully catch any sheep which are not pregnant. When a sheep is pregnant it will not entertain a tup.

The sheep are selected into groups and their tup is chosen accordingly. We have 9 groups of black face sheep, which we keep pure bred and they have a blackie tup. These are kept in groups of about 50 sheep per tup and are ranked according to their features, so the best group of sheep will be put to the best tup. We breed these sheep for either increasing our female stock, or as tups which we may keep or sell. Only the best are selected and the rest will end up in the food chain.

We have 140 commercial ewes which are good at reproducing, but are at the poorer end of the black face lot. These ewes are pedigree but not our best and generally will not be kept for breeding except if they are good. Offspring from this group will be kept as replacements for old sheep or any that have may die in the year from the Glengorm flock, if they are good.

To produce larger sheep, we cross our blackface ewes with a cheviot tup. This gives cheviot cross which we then put to a Suffolk tup. We will keep the best to increase our flock and replace older animals . This year we have about 70 ewes being crossed with our cheviot tup, which we have bought locally from Robbie MacDougal.

Cross Cheviot ewes waiting for the Suffolk tups to be released

Finally we have a group of 120 cross cheviot ewes that we cross again with a Suffolk tup. This group produces the biggest off spring for meat and hybrid vigour. The Suffolk tup is regarded as a terminal sire as all offspring produced will be killed for meat. Our Suffolk tups is local too and comes from John MacDowell.

Generally 80% of ewes will get pregnant on the first ovulation cycle, but the good tups are given the opportunity to try again if they have missed one. Earlier this year, our lambing started 5 days ahead of the start date, this was possibly due to all the ewes being in good condition when the tups went out. The gestation period for a sheep is 147 days and our lambing season will start in early April.

The Goodlife is back…….

Autumn sunrise

What a year this has been for us all. Covid has reeked havoc with us all and all our businesses, and here we are now coming to a slightly premature end to the season. The season that we have had has been good. Pretty choc a bloc here, which has been great for our sanity and we appreciate it all.

This blog has suffered though, for various reasons here we have never seemed to have the right staff , and busy farmers markets and pie making has taken up a lot of my spare time .

Now it seems, another lockdown is not far away. As England has already locked down, and the Central belt of Scotland is on a travel ban, there are not many people on the move and I can’t help but feel we won’t be far behind as the numbers are not coming down in Scotland.

Covid has made it to Mull, we have small clusters of cases. Up until then, the only people I personally knew that had the virus are a family friend in Edinburgh and my own wee boy Jack, who started Glasgow University this September. He lives in the now very famous Murano buildings in a flat of 11, and 8 of them all tested positive and showed very few symptoms. His sister Asha had a visit from him in Edinburgh, the day his flatmate was tested. She was tested and had to isolate for 2 weeks, but was negative. He has been fine and doesn’t seem to have any repercussions.


Some happy news here, Triggy has had puppies, after years of trying she has finally given us a litter. Her mum Lexi is 12 and we feel we need to add to our doggy family. Cloudy has been accepted by Lexi an Triggy after a long couple of months, and in a week or 2 she will be running riot with the 4 new additions.

The farm has been having a fantastic year. The weather has been favourable and has been suiting grass conditions, the live and dead price for animals has been at a premium and the circle of life has continued to roll.

Our farm renovation project, to provide affordable long term accommodation has been finally approved by the Rural Housing fund and we hope that this will be finalised soon and work will start next year to provide 5 new properties.

We have other various projects in the pipeline and they will be appearing on the Goodlife soon. Stay safe everyone.

Back to the new normal!

We have now been back to business for a while, and the lockdown period has been relegated to the dim and distant past. Life has been hectic and I haven’t found the time recently to post anything!

Our self catering re opened on the 3rd July. This date came pretty quickly, as the hospitality industry was set to open on the 18th July, but they brought forward the date of the self catering. We rallied to the challenge and wanted to get our business back up and running as soon as we could.

It was nice to have a soft opening, and as our self catering wasn’t fully booked from the 3rd, we enjoyed letting guests back into Glengorm gently.

Dunara cottage

During the whole of the lockdown period, I was not keen to clean the main part of the castle. I kept it tidy but did not relish the prospect of dusting and hoovering until we were opening. Through lockdown, we managed to catch up with our redecorating work and some repairs, in the main bed and breakfast rooms and the Tower room apartment. It was not going to be a quick task getting the house reopened but with the help of Asha and Jodie we would get there.

We finally managed the get the majority of the Tower rooms wallpapered , and the results have been greatly admired.

The bed and breakfast opened on the 18th July. We had lost the majority of our bookings, but it didn’t take us long to fill back up again. Our cleaning regime has changed, disinfecting is the new way forward. Whilst we have tried to maintain the experience guests have here, it is all accompanied but some disinfectant wipes or hand sanitiser!

All of guests have been great. They have been very happy to comply with our requests and we have kept them all informed about what we are up to. We are fortunate that the Castle is large as social distancing is easier and it never feels too busy. The only main difference in staying here is at breakfast time, we have to stagger bookings and our buffet selection is sightly different.

For a while we have been trying to improve our signage to Glengorm. We have upgraded to purple, and we are all delighted with this new look.

Glengorm has remained busy all year, there has always been something going on. The farm quietens down a bit at the end of lambing, calving and clipping. Animals have been moved about just now and we have a selection of cows and calves grazing the roadside on the way up to the Castle. its a great opportunity for guests to get up close and personnel to the animals, but sometimes they get in the way!

The Coffee shop opened on the 6th July for outside seating and inside from the 15th July. Gail has been having a busy time since and is open day,y between 10 am and 5 pm.

The Gardens are also open and are operating an honesty box for purchases, and like ourselves, Sarah can be found at the producers markets in Tobermory on Mondays.

Its great to be open again. Being able to offer people a holiday has been great as we have such a higher proportion of domestic tourists this year. We have been having a good share of tourists from the continent, but this may change with lockdown restrictions changing frequently.

It would be lovely to be able to get to the end of the season without another lockdown, but whatever life chucks at us these days we have to just accept and get on with it. We are enjoying being busy and hope this will continue.

Hogs, tups and bullocks

Rhoda in action with a Tup

This week at Glengorm saw our hogs and tups getting sheared. They get clipped at this time of year, as their wool is ready for it. They are in better condition than the ewes that have had lambs, and they have an earlier rise in their wool which makes clipping easy. The rise in wool is when it thins out and can pull away from the body of the animal easier to get the clippers in.

Rhoda Munro comes and does ours, and Brough John along this time too. She comes armed with her clipping trailer which makes the job easier. The sheep are fed though the race and line up waiting to get taken out by the shearer and then let loose. The wool then gets passed on to the roller to rob the fleece and pack away in the big wool bags.

Alex rolling and packing

Shearers are paid per sheep they shear, so this process tends to be quite fast. The wool is taken and sold to the wool board and is usually turned into wool products. However this year, there is a 7.3 million tonne surplus of wool so the market has disappeared and unfortunately the wool may end up being burnt this year as it will cost island farms to take it to the mainland to give it away.

About 250 sheep got sheared, mainly blackies, and 14 tups. Of the hogs that got sheared, 10 were kept back for meat, 15 of the best were kept as our elite and will be brought on for showing. All of the others will go over to Mingary to graze until they are ready to go to the tup in November. The rest of our sheep will be sheared in late June, early July. This is called the Milk clip ,as it is all of the ewes which have had lambs. The wool on them is ready to clip later on in the year as they are not in as good a condition and they haven’t had a rise in wool.

Mingary is a 200 acre piece of land that we rent to graze cattle and sheep on. It is just next round the coast from Glengorm but is not that easy for us to get animals to as Mingary estuary and burn get in the way.

Last month, we took our bullocks round there already to graze. It really is quite beautiful . This year, we loaded them up in the pick up and trailer and drove them through the forest tracks. In the past Alex has walked them there, but as the bridge in the forestry land has moved it is now a 5 mile detour, and animals don’t like going over bridges!! They would normally walk through the river, but as the forest has been felled and there is lots of wood, we felt they might be confused.

Using this extra space for grazing allows us to manage our field rotation better and helps us reduce our animal food costs. Highland cattle and blackface sheep are suited well to being outdoors and having wild grazing.