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.

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Catching Sheep

Thursday was the big day, all due to two reasons. Reason one was that one of the vaccines had a use by date of Friday. Reason two, I wasn’t working until 4pm on Thursday. We had our trailer up and running again, so all we had to do was round up all our sheep, transport them back to a barn on our property, work our way through them and put them all back into their new fields. Simples.

One group of sheep was in a paddock surrounded by other paddocks, which were inhabited by horses during daylight hours. This meant that we could only move them in the evening, which was fine in July, not so fine in late September. We needed to get them moved on Wednesday night ready for bringing in the following morning. We set off as soon as I finished work on Wednesday, getting there just after 7pm, as it was beginning to get dark. DH set up the trailer and some hurdles and I set off across the fields with a bucket of feed, hoping, very naively, to entice them to the tailgate of the trailer, where we could then pen them up and drive them in. In the gloom, they took one look at the figure heading towards them, took fright and bunched up. I shook the bucket and called them, and a few braver souls came towards me. Once they realised who I was and that I had food, I had no trouble leading them out of the furthest field and into the field where we had the trailer waiting. They soon got distracted by the new grass, and the fact that they were following a bucket but no food appeared to be forthcoming. To cut a very long story short, we spent the next hour and a half chasing, shouting, enticing, cajoling and fuming, all to no avail. As it neared 9pm, was pretty much fully dark, and we were still getting no closer to getting the sheep anywhere near the trailer, let alone in it, we gave up. We were also getting quite concerned about the fact that someone could call the police on us, and we’d end up getting arresting for attempting to rustle our own sheep. Thankfully, the littlest shepherd had slept soundly throughout the whole ordeal, so we made our way home and to bed, setting our alarms for 5am (on the one morning I had a chance to have a lie in!) with the intention of trying again in the morning, in daylight.

We got up early the next morning and set off just as it was starting to get light. We parked up again, took a bucket of feed and went to collect them. I led them right up to the gateway where the trailer was parked, they took one look at the trailer and shot off. We could not entice or herd them anywhere near after that, despite a good half-hour of trying. Finally, we opted for cunning and blatant disregard of the state of the field. We drove across the field (carefully, doing as little damage as possible) and parked up in the next gateway. We made a funnel of hurdles between 2 gateways, which were both in the corner of one field. The idea was that we would drive the sheep through their gate, they would turn the corner and, voilĂ , there was the trailer, they were penned in and we were right behind shutting the gate on them. Once cornered, the game was up and we could send them into the trailer. First attempt was a partial success. They went into the funnel, then panicked. One leapt into a water trough in a bid for freedom, and another flattened our hurdles, leading the rest to scatter across the field. We improved our design and tried again, this time with success. Once they realised we had them beaten they trotted into the trailer like the well-behaved lambkins they most definitely weren’t. We gathered up all our hurdles, troughs and other bits and pieces and got away before anyone turned up to see what we were up to. We drove home, deposited group number one in the barn and set out to group number two.

This second field was a 20 minute drive away, and we had 31 sheep plus the majority of our hurdle collection to bring back, so we planned 2 trips. These sheep had given us the run-around in the past, but after asking a friend to bring her dog and teach them a lesson, they’d generally been easier to handle. Today however, they decided to mess about a bit. Half went in the pen, while the other half ran straight past the entrance. We sent them round and tried again, to pretty much the same effect. Cunning had to come into play again, so we secured the sheep already caught by putting them in a smaller pen at the back of the main pen. We sent the loose sheep around again, got a couple more in the main pen, added them to the small pen, and repeated until all sheep were penned. Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day so running about chasing sheep wasn’t such a hardship. We loaded half the sheep, as many hurdles as we could spare, and carted them home, hoping that the remaining sheep wouldn’t escape while we were gone. Back again for the rest, which were thankfully where we had left them, and we had to load up all the hurdles. In the process of loading them into the trailer I smacked myself in the face with one, and still have a greenish bruise near my eye as testament of how hard I hit myself! Home yet again, and we were nearly done. Just one final group of sheep left and we’d have them all in.

The last group was the newest group, and we’d only had them a week. They were pretty calm and biddable, so we weren’t expecting too much hassle from them. We backed the trailer into the gateway, herded them towards it and they walked straight in and up the ramp, not even the slightest hesitation. We were quite shocked at how easy it was, and wished all the rest had been that simple, but it was, at long last, job done. We’d only been on the job for six hours…

61 sheep, all penned up in the barn. Stage one complete, and we were all ready for a break and something to eat. It had been a long morning!