Your chance to win a £25 Amazon voucher and have your suggested name entered into a pedigree cattle herd book.

Commissioner Billy Neilson is looking for help from children 13 years and under to name some of his calves.  Younger children may need someone to help them to send us their entry.

All the calves born in 2020 will have names that begin with the letter ‘Z’.   Billy’s grandchildren have already named one calf Zoe and as all Billy’s cattle have the herd name of Cruachan, named after the mountain behind his croft, that calf will have the pedigree name of Cruachan Zoe.

Billy also looks after a herd of pedigree Luing cattle who have the herd name of Bonawe. Again all the calves born this year in that herd will have names that begin with the letter Z and registered with the prefix Bonawe.

The herd name for each calf is shown in the photos and you can send an entry for one or both calves. (there is a £25 voucher for each calf)

The calf from the Cruachan herd is a daughter of Waive, now those of you who have read a Blog Billy wrote a couple of years ago will remember Waive as a heifer who took great delight in causing mayhem in the “Big House” gardens  so Billy is hoping her calf doesn’t follow in her mother’s hoofs!

Both calves are heifers and will be kept for stock so you’ll be able to follow their progress over the next couple of years as they grow up.

For the chance to win, enter the herd name followed by your suggestion in the “comments” on facebook or twitter, or you can private message us through facebook or twitter.   Entries can also be sent to with the word “Competition” as the subject.

The competition will run until midnight on 11 May. Thereafter all the suggested names will be emailed to the Commissioners who will pick a winner, which will be announced on 15 May.

The competition is not open to Crofting Commission employee’s children.

Please remember to entry the herd name before your suggested name.



Peat for Heat

An update for Natasha who posed a question following Commissioner, Andy Holt’s short video on raising the peats.

Dear Natasha,

You asked about the cutting and recovery of peat for fuel. There are local variations in the process, depending on which part of the Highlands and Islands it takes place. I live on a small island off the west coast of Shetland, Papa Stour and the peat was worked out many years ago. We used to visit a lady on the isle who remembered going to cut peats as a child. The families travelled by open boat, rowing and sailing, to the Island of Papa Little, about 5 miles across St Magnus Bay. This must have been sometime around 1920-30. We go by boat, our own or the council-run ferry, and drive a mile or so to our peat bank just outside the village of Sandness. Most Crofts in Shetland have a bank which goes with the Croft, but it is possible to get one by contacting someone called the peat constable who administers the system on behalf of whichever estate your preferred bank might be situated.

The process. First the bank, which in our case is around 30 yards long, is flayed. That is, we cut the top turf about one spade depth and two spade widths wide. We remove this in sods about one foot cubed and lay it in a line along the bottom of the bank to prevent erosion. Then we begin cutting using a special peat cutting tool, a cross between a narrow spade and a knife. In Shetland this implement is called a Tushkar. The first row of peats are tossed as far away as possible from the edge of the bank to leave room for the subsequent rows, which are built up into a wall along the top of the bank. When the cutting is finished we leave it to dry for a while. Could be days like this year with the fine dry weather. Could be weeks like last year’s very wet summer. Then comes the bit in the film, the raising. Each peat is built into little wigwam-shaped structures of 4-6 on end to allow further drying. This last process may need to be repeated once more in a poor summer. Finally when it’s dry, we bring a trailer, load the peats into it, bring it home and put it in our peat shed. In our case we build it into a stack in the shed which has slatted sides which allows for more drying. I hope this is helpful.

Best Wishes, Andy