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?’

 

Trailer Trouble

So sorry I haven’t posted for ages, but life has been crazy recently. To give you a bit of background info, DH & I both work as relief milkers, between us we work on 4 different farms. We juggle this with childcare, at the moment DH works mornings and weekends while I’m at home with T, and I work afternoons while DH has T. It’s a pretty good arrangement, as we both get time with T and we both get to go out and meet other humans. This in itself keeps us busy, what with a tearaway 10 month old. To add to our workload, we have decided to become farmers in our own right, and have spent the past few months buying in sheep and equipment and getting our heads around the horrendous paperwork that goes with it. We now have 60 ewes which we plan to lamb in April/May next year.

As if this wasn’t enough work, DH managed to break his foot playing football a couple of weeks ago, and has been unable to work, drive, or wash up. Ok, he can wash up, but complains bitterly about it. As we are both self-employed, there is nothing to fall back on if we can’t work, so he’s now a full-time stay-at-home-dad while I am doing as much of the milking work as I can. Let’s just say things are a bit hectic.

So that’s where we’re up to right now, and I will probably blog about sheep in the future. Today’s adventure revolves around sheep. Our lives revolve around sheep, so yours can too for the next few minutes.

We were going to North Wales to collect our final batch of sheep, taking us up to the 60 mark. 2 hours each way, not too bad of a journey, the plan was to be unloading at home by 1pm, with plenty of time for something to eat and maybe chill for a little bit before having to go to work for an afternoon shift. We got there in good time, loaded the sheep, had a chat, a brew, and did all the paperwork, and set off on the return journey. T had been really good, he’d slept all the way, and it was a hot day so we were glad he was staying happy. He wasn’t really too impressed at being bundled back in the car, and throwing crisps in his direction only kept him quiet for a short while. We decided to stop at the next services, let him have a crawl about and stretch his legs. We stopped, I took T up onto a nice grassy bank to sit and play in the grass while DH hopped around the pickup and trailer. T patted the grass, wriggled his toes in it, and then sat and picked pieces which he then gave to me. Eventually I fed him and we headed back to the car, got loaded up and off we went.

Except we didn’t. I turned the key and it made a heart-droppingly clicking noise, then nothing. There was a couple with a caravan nearby, so I trotted over and asked if they could very kindly jump-start us. They were lovely, drove around and got us started up, we had a bit of a chat and thanked them profusely, and set off.

Except we didn’t. As I pulled away I noticed one of the trailer wheels wobbling about at rather alarming angles. I stopped, keeping the engine running, and got out to have a look. The wheel had pulled free of all the wheel nuts except one, and wasn’t far off falling off. After a lot of tyre kicking, discussions and a pointless call to RAC (they don’t fix trailers, and want nothing to do with livestock), Mr Muscle aka my husband just pulled it off. We then had further discussions about how to get home, and with more profuse thanks to the lovely couple, set off again, this time with a 3-wheeled trailer.

Except… just joking. We drove at 50mph all the way back home (apart from the mile where we were behind someone doing 40), knuckles almost white on the steering wheel, and seriously overusing the wing mirrors. About 10 minutes after leaving the services, whilst having a careful look at the trailer in the mirror, I said to DH, ‘Ummm, the fuel flap’s hanging off. I’m sure it wasn’t like that before, we’d have noticed it.’ DH replied with these comforting words; ‘That’s the third thing now, we should be fine from now on!’.

And we were. We slowly and carefully made our way back home, and up the field. Upon arriving at the new home of our sheep, we pulled up and I climbed into the trailer to worm them. DH stood outside passing me the drugs, and T played in the grass. As we let the final one go, we stood back to look at them, feeling very relieved that they were back safely. I bent to pick T up and remarked that he was a bit muddy. On closer inspection, it wasn’t mud at all. His legs, feet and hands were smeared in sheep poop. He’d been playing where the muck was coming out of the trailer. A quick dunk in the water bucket to clean the worst of it off, we went back home where I stripped him and threw him in the shower. Not sure we’d win any awards for responsible parenting, but he should have a strong immune system!

Thankfully the day is over and we are all safe. Tomorrow we have a lot of fixing to do, but for now T is peacefully sleeping, exhausted after all the playing in the grass he’s been doing, DH is in bed nursing a migraine, as the day and the heat got to him, and I am enjoying a well-deserved whisky and coke. Time for bed for me now I think, as tomorrow is another day of never-ending activity.

Friday the 13th

So I am not superstitious, but today has really been one of those days. And please don’t point out that we are only half-way through the day! It started early this morning. I get up, go downstairs and let the dog out, make a brew, then go back upstairs to get dressed for work. Today, I unlocked the back door to let the dog out, and the handle came off in my hand. Being a logical sort of person, I stared at the handle for a moment, then opened the window, reached out and opened the door from the outside. Problem solved, at least temporarily. Only thing now was, the window wouldn’t shut. They are modern UPVC windows with metal hinge/brackets and some of the screws that hold the bracket to the frame had sheared off, leaving one screw behind which meant the whole bracket was pivoting. I stuffed a £2 coin in the window frame to hold the bracket in place, and managed to shut the window. We worked out that the handle will open the door, you have to fit it on the spindle, open the door, then put the handle back on the window sill until you have need of it again.

I went about my day as usual, things have quietened down a lot now in the lambing shed. This week I have been getting one or two ewes lamb a day, so easy enough to deal with. I’ve had other jobs on however, which has meant that so far this week, I have been putting in a lot of hours. I had a few hours to spare yesterday, but I really needed to go to town and do some shopping, so my day was full. Today, I planned to get my work done in an hour or so, then spend a few hours at home catching up with housework. (I hate to have to admit it, but I have run out of clean saucepans.)

It was not to be. An automatic milk feeder decided that despite having been fixed once, it didn’t want to be automatic any more. You have to kick it when you walk past to get it started again. I left a tap running to fill a water butt, then got distracted, and came back to the sheep shed awash with water. I had to start scraping and sweeping away sludge and water, trying to get as much of it cleaned up as I could before it soaked the sheep pens. I have, up to this point, had 8 sheep lamb today. That’s a 400% increase on yesterday. I think they’re making a final push, trying to get done before my weekend off. Then I set to burning a load of waste, as the bin was overflowing. It started to rain.

So as things stand, I still have no clean saucepans. I still have jobs to get done at work, as I didn’t have time this morning. Tomorrow is my day off, and the plan is to stay in bed until at least 7am, then I get to spend it doing housework. But right now, I am going to get a sandwich and watch another episode from the box set of Arrow that my sweetheart gave me for my birthday. Happy Friday the 13th!!