As we start tupping in early November, now’s the time to make sure all our sheep are healthy and ready for the winter. We MOT’d the boys, making sure their feet were in good condition, and giving them all a dose of wormer, flukicide and a vitamin drench. It’s important that the tups are in good body condition and have good feet, as they have to serve about 50 ewes each in the space of 6 weeks. If they go lame they may lose interest, and if they aren’t well fed at the beginning they may not have enough energy to do a good job. Our boys all looked good and were raring to go.

Next we brought all our ewes in, and gave them the same treatment. Again, making sure they are in good body condition at this point. Too thin and they may not carry a lamb through the winter, too fat and their fertility could be compromised. We put a mark on the back of each ewe’s head indicating which tup she would be going with. It should save us time later when we need to split the flock into separate fields for tupping.

At this point in the year we start to get a bit impatient, and are getting excited about next year. On more than one occasion one of us would say to the other ‘Maybe we should put the tups in early, just a week or so…’ We will wait though, as we lamb outside we need the weather to be on our side, and there’s more chance of that in April than in March!

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Now is the time when we start thinking about the next breeding season, and preparing the ewes for meeting the boys. We vaccinated all our new breeding ewes against abortion this month. Unfortunately enzootic abortion is becoming more common, so we took the decision to spend quite a lot on the vaccines in the hope that it saves us money in the long run by reducing our losses. A lot of the time you are gambling in farming, gambling with the weather, with market prices, or with vaccines and medication. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you really don’t know if it made any difference whatsoever!

We also put lick tubs in the fields for the ewes, containing minerals necessary for fertility. We need them to be in peak condition in the run up to tupping season, to ensure they produce strong, healthy lambs.

We also got our first batch of meat back from the butcher at the beginning of the month, and delivered it locally. We sold all 4 almost immediately, and sent another 4 in at the end of the month, all pre-ordered again. Hopefully we can keep up this level of custom in the future!

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August was always going to be a big month for us. We were due to wean all our lambs, and I was due to give birth. The order of importance is debateable!

We welcomed our daughter, Jess on the 2nd of August. By 2 days old she had ridden up the field in the pickup to check on sheep. At 4 days old she slept through while Dad, Mum and Big Brother weaned all the lambs.

We needed to separate the lambs from their mothers in order to give the ewes a chance to rest and recover before being bred again. A lot of the older lambs were barely drinking milk by this point anyway. We ran them all through the race and gave all the sheep a mineral drench, and we wormed the lambs. We then sorted them all, letting the ewes go one way back to their field, and keeping the lambs back in order to move them to a new field, out of sight and earshot of their mothers. It was quite a job, as we were also sorting ewes and lambs into lots and taking pictures, ready for putting some of them up for sale.

Throughout the month we sold all the ewes that we wanted to move on, and replaced them with new stock. We’re focusing on the Mule breed as they did well for us and are hardy and produce good meat lambs. We also sent our first batch of 4 lambs to the local abbatoir, for sale locally in meat boxes, and sent 2 batches of fat lambs to auction. We made a good price the first time, not so good the second time, but it was a good learning experience for us.

We had pre-orders totalling 2 & 3/4 lambs, so we sent 4 in so we would have a bit extra to cover other orders coming in. That day we sold another whole lamb, and by the time we collected the packed and ready meat it was all spoken for! Unfortunately there was none left for us so we haven’t even tried our own lamb. We are sending another small batch in next week, (mid September) and while we want to sell it quickly, a few cuts for ourselves would be very nice.

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Bobby, Blue Faced Leicester

Sammy, Suffolk

In July we had some routine dosing to do, but the major event this month was buying in our new tups. We bought some Swaledale and Dalesbred ewes and needed a Blue Faced Leicester tup in order to breed mule lambs. We also wanted to try breeding some Suffolk cross fat lambs, so we needed a Suffolk tup. We went out tup shopping one day and came back with our hopes for next year!

 

 

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This month we’ve been doing a lot of routine vaccinating and worming, made more difficult by the fact that lambing was spread out so much. Some of the drugs can’t be used on really young animals so we’ve had to split them up into batches based on age and do a batch every few weeks. As there are 3 batches, and each batch needs 2 or 3 treatments a couple of weeks apart, it feels like we’ve been doing something every single week.

The main event this month was getting our ewes clipped, or sheared. We had to wait for good weather as the fleeces have to be dry, and as we used a local contractor we had to wait for him to have an available slot. He was good though, and fast. We gathered all the sheep ready for when he turned up, and he was here for no more than 2 hours, which included getting all the equipment set up and put away after. The sheep looked quite relieved about having lost their wool, as some of the fleeces were very thick and heavy. We rolled and packed the fleeces into big sacks, and took it off to the wool depot the next day, where it will be sold on our behalf.

The next jobs on the list are to find some new tups and get them settled ready for tupping in November, and weaning the lambs, which we plan to do at the beginning of August. This gives the ewes a chance to rest and get ready for next season. There’s always something to do around here!

First the ewe is clipped…

then we roll the fleece into a bundle…

and pack it in a wool bag.

The Mules (brown & white faces) and Suffolks (solid dark heads) looking much cooler.

 

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Lambing slowed down drastically this month, with a lamb appearing every few days. However, as the older lambs grow, we have to think about vaccinating and worming them to prevent any outbreaks of disease. We vaccinated all our ewes before lambing so that some immunity would pass to the lambs. This only lasts for a short period of time and the lambs need to receive additional vaccine in order to keep up the cover. We have to jab them all between the ages of 3 and 6 weeks, then repeat the jab 4-6 weeks later. They then receive an annual booster, usually before lambing themselves. As the lambs are fairly spread out in age we have split them up into three batches, depending on how old they are. This makes it less of a big job as we only have to do a few at a time, but we do have to take the time to make sure we have the correct lambs, so we have to check all the ear tag numbers and cross-reference to a our records. We weighed them while we were handling them too, to see how they’re growing, and were fairly happy with the results. Our Snowy was around 3kg when she was born, by 6 weeks old she was 20kg. She’s going to be a big girl!

 

Snowy at around 6 weeks.

Now that this season’s lambing is just about over, we¬†are already looking ahead to next year, planning which lambs we are going to keep back, and thinking about buying in new stock to increase the flock. We went to a sheep auction around the middle of the month and picked up 7 Swaledale ewes with a total of 14 Mule lambs at foot, 12 of them being ewe lambs which we will be breeding from. They have settled in well and the lambs have really come on in the past few weeks, so we’re very happy. We also now have 4 pet lambs in the garden…

One of the late additions…

Toby with 2 of our pet lambs.

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April was a busy month for us, with the bulk of the ewes due to lamb. We had to juggle lambing outside, away from home, work, a toddler and attempt to keep some semblance of normality around the house. We were very lucky in that the weather, while very cold sometimes, was generally fine, and we didn’t often have to spend hours huddled in the rain assisting ewes. During the month 46 ewes lambed, giving us a total of 83 lambs. Sadly not all of these lambs survived, some being still-born, some too weak to get going and notably, 3 being carried off by foxes, but unfortunately it’s all part of the job. You can’t win them all, even though we tried our hardest. Towards the end of the month we also found ourselves with a couple of orphan lambs, living in our back garden! It’s not every little boy who has his own pet lambs just outside the back door, but Toby loves them almost as much as our dogs.

A pair of newborn lambs.

Our first orphan, Eric.

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We were officially due to start lambing but nature has her own schedule, and our first lamb arrived on the 29th of March. She is a Mule x Texel ewe lamb, and we plan to keep her for breeding. As she is the first lamb born to us she’s a bit special, and we always look out for her when we look round the flock. Daniel thinks her mouth quirks up a bit at the corners like Tintin’s dog, so she has ended up being called Snowy. We don’t make a habit of naming our sheep apart from the tups and any that particularly stand out (usually for the wrong reasons!) but this one has a special place in our hearts. We hope that she will have a long and happy life with us and produce good strong lambs. You can keep up with her progress, and see what happens over the next year, by checking back here.

Snowy at about 2 days old.

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