Shearing, and an announcement

We finally got our sheep clipped last week. After a few weeks of bad weather, it stayed dry enough for a week to get them done. The original plan last year was that I would do them myself, but as I am currently 8 months pregnant it was out of the question! We got a local contractor and his friend to come and clip them for us, and as we only had 40 that needed clipping it was all done in under 2 hours, and they did a good job.

Here is one of the guys in action. I think that particular ewe actually gave him quite a bit of grief, she decided to fight back!!

I think they were relieved to be rid of all that wool, it had been so hot that week, and they look much happier now (though it has rained for days since!) It was one of those jobs that’s weather dependent and we were waiting on someone else to have the free time to do it for us, hopefully next year we can do it ourselves when we want, which will take the pressure off a little.

With it being the middle of summer, the grass is growing like crazy and we now have too much, we’ve had to borrow a mower and ‘top’ a couple of the fields (basically mow it so there’s only a couple of inches of grass left on the field, instead of knee-high stalks!) just to try and keep it under control. What with the lambs and some more sheep that we’ve bought in, we have about 170 sheep in total, and we still can’t keep up with the grass growth. Come winter though, we’ll be paddling in mud and talking about buying in extra feed…. you can’t win!

Next month is just routine work really, basic health checks to make sure everything’s healthy and not having issues with lameness, as we’ve finally finished all the rounds of vaccinations. We’re also weighing the lambs every few weeks to keep track of their growth rate, and to see when they’ll be ready for market. The next big job is going to be weaning all the lambs at the beginning of August, to give the ewes a rest before it all starts again, with tupping in November and lambing again next April.

In other news, we finally have our website up and live. D&J Hay Mutton and Lamb We’re still tweaking it a bit but after months working on it, it’s great to finally have it running. Big thanks to my Dad for sorting it all out for us!!

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It All Kicks Off

We are due to start lambing tomorrow. However, we have had a few little early surprises.

On Wednesday morning this little lady had already made her entrance into the world by the time we got the the field.

This might look like a pretty tiny, cute thing but it is a huge thing for us. She is our first ever lamb. The past 10 months of spending what feels like shedloads of money, spending time working with the ewes and on 2 occasions watching them die and being unable to do anything all boils down to this. We finally have something to show for it all. Mr Scatterbrain has announced that we are keeping her. Luckily, being a she, she has a long future ahead of her but I think she will always have a special place for us.

The next morning we came out to this –

Even more of a surprise, triplets! They are 2 days old now and doing really well, their mum is looking after them perfectly and thankfully has enough milk for them all. Triplets generally aren’t good news for shepherds as sheep are really only designed to rear 2 lambs, but on this occasion I think we’ll be able to leave them all with their mother. We are keeping a pretty close eye on them to make sure they stay strong and well-fed and if it becomes necessary we will hand-rear one, but mum’s always best.

This is always my favourite time of year, the weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, the sky is blue and the grass green, and everywhere you look there is new life. After many months of seeing dry, brown, skeletal hedges along every roadside, it is a welcome sight to see them filling out with fresh green buds. The birds sing as they nest, the lambs play in the fields and the first few cows are being turned out to graze. After surviving a cold, wet, muddy winter, this feels like the reward for hanging on. It makes me glad to be a country girl.

The Start of the Breeding Year

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Paddy

This is our new dog, Paddy. He’s from working stock and has plenty of natural enthusiasm, but he’s a work in progress right now. Hopefully at some point in the future he will be able to round up and move our sheep for us, but right now we’re still having to do most of the work ourselves.

On Wednesday we put our tups in with the ewes. This is pretty much the most important event in the sheep farmer’s calendar. If they don’t do well now, due to the tups not performing, or fertility issues with the sheep, then you won’t get many lambs, which affects your profits when it comes to selling them all. Once the job was done and we stood watching one of the boys meeting his girls for the first time, we felt quite a sense of excitement. This is where is all starts, any successes or failures in the next year hinge on the next few weeks. So I’ll walk you through what we were doing on Wednesday.

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Our flock

With a bit of help and a lot of hindrance from Paddy, we penned up our ewes. We have two tups, so we needed to sort out which ewes were going with which tup. Some were staying here, the rest were going to a new field, so we had to load them into the trailer and take them to their new home.

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Foot trimming

One of them was a bit lame so I turned it over and trimmed it’s hoof back. A few of the ewes are a bit overweight, but on the whole they’re looking fit and healthy, which is what we need at this time of year. The boys are pretty big too, but they tend to loose a lot of weight during tupping, as they have more important things to be doing than eating.

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Teddy

Once the ewes were moved, we went to fetch the boys from their summer grazing. We loaded them in the trailer and spread raddle, a coloured paste, all over their chests. When they mount the ewes they spread it all over their backsides, so if a ewe has a brightly coloured bottom we know they’ve been served, and can hope it will result in lambs! This is Teddy, sporting some lovely yellow raddle. He’s an Easycare, as are some of our ewes, so we hope to breed some pure lambs from him.He took a couple of days to settle in, but this morning we found 3 yellow bottoms, so the girls have obviously accepted him.

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Max

This is Max, our Texel tup. He’s a big lad, and his hormones have been getting the better of him recently so he’s been a bit nasty. He was raring to go though, and he had already tupped one ewe before we’d even left the field! He’s also tupped 3 so far, so we’re getting off to a nice steady start.

The raddle rubs off over a few days, so we have to keep re-applying it. We did both tups this morning, and next week we’ll change colour so it’s easier to keep track of which ewes have been newly tupped. Hopefully, by the beginning of April, we should have some lambs gamboling about. We’re expectant and excited to see how they do, and it’ll be good to see some actual results from all the money and work we’ve spent so far. As they say, ‘the future’s bright, the future’s … erm… yellow?’