In her final instalment of Country Chronicles for Indie Farmer – Jodie updates us on farm life over the summer, explains what culling means and makes plans for the future..
Well the Summer well and truly arrived in August! I am so pleased we have had enough dry weather to get the farm tidied up.
Sheep and the Farm
August is a mega month for the sheep, we have welcomed the arrival of my new ram Otto, he is a Kerry Hill x Herdwick, an unusual mix and he is certainly an unusual little man.
Everyone was wormed and checked over for flystrike before being showered in Crovect, it has not really proven effective for us this year so I will be swapping to a different product for comparison in 2017.
Four of my shearling ewes have moved on to pastures new, if you pardon the pun! They are going to the farm I lambed for last year so I will still be able to visit them and see how they’re getting on.
All of the ewes were health checked, as the end of August marked 10-weeks pre tupping, they are all individually checked for any lumps or bumps in their teats, their teeth are looked at to make sure they all have a full mouth, and their body condition is scored. One of my little hill buelah ewes, only has one tooth, but as I am a small flock I can afford to feed her up if she needs it through her pregnancy and beyond. I pulled out two who will possibly need to be culled this year, I’m not sure if you remember back when I was lambing, I had a ewe who prolapsed and had terrible ringwomb when she was giving birth, she will be leaving us, along with possibly another ewe who doesn’t seem to be coming back after weaning. She became quite unhappy after her lamb was weaned and lost some condition from it, I have been feeding her and given her one to one care, so I am hoping she will come back in time for tupping, if not she will be culled. To cull, means to move on (or sometimes, in my case, slaughter), it’s a very strange and little used word outside of the livestock world!
Thankfully all the girls have perfect ‘lump free’ udders, and teeth were all strong, they also had their body condition checked, the ultimate body condition should be at 3-3.5 for tupping as this is the best condition to be at when conceiving. I also look at their general health and alertness, if they look poorly or unhappy I will give them something to help. The last thing I check is their feet, both condition and soundness. Every single sheep I have is treated at the first sign of a problem, I never ever have the view of ‘I’ll see what you’re like tomorrow’.
Poor health leads to poor condition, poor condition leads to poor yields and in turn, the ewe’s lambs having poor health, leaving me with what is known as a ‘poor return’.
The geese have moved into the little trailer, sadly badgers have commandeered their original house. I am very grumpy about this, they have quite literally torn holes to gain entry. Thankfully they did not hurt them and to be honest the geese are very taken with their new house! Every morning, Bess walks them down to the orchard and every evening she walks them back up to the trailer.
I have been having great fun with the new strimmer, I’ve been able to get almost everything looking smart and well-kept again.
The pigs will soon be leaving us and their pens and field will be returned to pasture, eventually I would like to put a barn in there but I may need to win the lottery first! I also have decided that when they eventually move on and we have taken the pens out and turned it back to pasture, to sow some wild flowers as well, not only will it look stunning, but it will help feed bees and butterflies to name but a few!
Bess is becoming a brilliant sheepdog, she is starting to have whole steady sessions of training as opposed to on and off sessions of calm and then madness!
The other day she was able to collect the sheep in the field calmly and direct them towards me, they all responded well to her and I was overjoyed to see how relaxed both her and the sheep were. She kept them to me, moving from left to right if one went to move away, she stopped and walked up on command, then when I said ‘that’ll do’ she immediately released them and moved away with me.
I have always been conscious of my own abilities to teach her, just purely out of forever questioning myself, but, so far, we are progressing, in a brilliant manner and at the end of the day, that is all I can ask and expect of both myself and Bess.
My Readers Digest article has been published, I love the article itself, but I look like a zombie! You can definitely tell I had very little sleep for the 6 weeks prior to the shoot!
I have also been asked to sheep sit for 17 Jacob ewes and one wether whilst their owners go sailing for 3 years. I am thrilled to be able to do this, as I am allowed to breed from them and so forth, as if they were my own. The owners bred my Jacob x Welsh Mountain shearling ewes, and have only met me once, but I feel immensely chuffed that they trust me enough to leave their much loved flock in my care.
My Etsy shop is doing well, I am now making cards using the wool from my sheep, along with my other handmade and knitted gifts, new items are added all the time so please swing by if you can!
It is with a heavy heart that I wish to let you know, this is going to be my last post for the Indie Farmer website as I am off to ‘pastures new’, I have had a great time writing for and working with Nigel. He has helped me no end on the ladder of writing for an online publication!
I wish Nigel and the Indie Farmer Team the best of luck for the future in all their endeavours,
Thank you so much for reading,
Jodi and Bess