Monday, 8 September 2014

Stop the Bleating

A big day for the sheep today. Movements, treatments and separations.
First the movement bit. For the last week most of the sheep have been at the far end of the land, the last area to be grazed before they come right back to the beginning and start over again.
Until now, moving them from one section to another has been a doddle, for they are always chomping at the bit to get to the lush grass in the next section. But the task today was to get them all the way back through the previously grazed sections, some of which are pretty lush and green again, preferably without lingering too long.

The plan was that half way along they would be lured into a pen of hurdles. For once, the plan actually worked, apart from the White-faced Woodland who, as usual, was on a different side of the fence to everyone else.
Once encircled by sheep hurdles, we closed the hurdles in until the sheep were squashed in with no room to escape or jump. For we still needed to apply flystrike treatment to those who had evaded capture last week. This simply involves spraying some blue liquid down their backs and around their bum. It needs doing every six weeks as long as there are flies around. Hopefully this will be the final treatment of the year.
The White-faced Woodland, eventually reunited with the flock.
So one of today's aims was completed successfully.

Next job was to separate the Shetland lambs from their mums. For two of our ewes came with twin lambs at foot. The black lambs weaned themselves a while ago, but one of them is still 'intact' and needed to be separated from the females. The black and white lambs have continued to suckle, though more and more infrequently. But this puts a strain on mum and she now desperately needs a break so she can build up her condition ready for breeding later in the year.

This mum needs a break from her lambs

It seemed a good idea, while the sheep were tightly penned, to lift up the lambs and carry them down to the top paddock. I started with the  intact one and boy did he wriggle! Luckily he has small horns now, so I was able to 'lead' him. But it sure did seem a long way and my arms were aching by the end of it. I went back for his brother, but not having horns I had to carry him all the way. Let me tell you, by the end I was feeling as if my arms were about to drop off. I decided to leave the other two till later in the day.

Then, for the rest, it was onwards to the pasture closest to the farm. The Shetlands followed Sue and the bucket all the way. The others decided to linger a while. This was much better than it being the other way round, for the others are much tamer and easy to catch if necessary. In the end, we went back to them and it was easy to drive them to their destination.

Some of the Shetland ewes in their new home.


Back to the beginning of the rotation.
The grass has grown back nicely.

One thing I had forgotten was that the flock were now right next to the Shetland ram and his wether companion. It wouldn't take long for his loins to be girded. One determined fence hop and he would be in with the flock, which I did not want to happen... not yet, otherwise I could end up with lambs in January. So we hurriedly drove the two of them back out of the pig enclosure, where they have been eating down the weeds, and up the land to join the two black lambs in the top paddock. Sue led with a bucket, I followed behind, moving them along and making sure they did not turn back.
 
I needed a break before attempting to separate the final two lambs from their mother, so to fill the time I planted the oak 'sapling', an operation which had been interrupted by stumbling across a hornets nest several days ago. In fact. I used the hole vacated by the destruction of the underground nest to plant the oak into. If it grows, I'll always think of those hornets when I look at it.
 
With my arm muscles rested, I quickly moved the two lambs. They were easy to catch having become the tamest of the Shetlands, but I had to carry them all the way, kicking and protesting as we went (the lambs, not me!) For there was no way they would follow me away from their mother.
I put them into the top paddock with all the other boys and they spent the rest of the day bleating pathetically. People had told me they would do this but in fact they weren't quite so persistent as I had expected.
The lads size each other up.

Everyone is now settled in to their new homes. Rotating the flock through the pasture will be simple again for the next five weeks, when it will be time to come back to the beginning again.

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