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Shearing Day!

Guy shearing away

Yesterday was shearing day, an exciting day in the sheep calendar!

Yogi standing next to field shelter

We look forward to shearing for so many reasons but the number one reason is sheep welfare.  We really feel for our sheep as spring turns to summer.  They get quite down in the dumps in hot weather, ours park themselves in their field shelter and barely move.  They much prefer the fresher weather of early spring and late autumn when there is tasty grass to be nibbled, but it is still cool enough to forage without getting hot and bothered and pestered by flies.

Flies are a constant problem throughout the summer.  They zoom in on faces and bottoms (which isn’t a problem in itself apart from being irritating), unless we’re talking about the dreaded Blow Fly.  The Blow Fly, commonly known as the green bottle, seeks out damp places, (preferably with a hint of dung), on live flesh, on which to lay her eggs.  Once the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow into the flesh which as you can imagine is very unpleasant and can be fatal if not caught in time.

Sparkle

Something else we need to look out for in the spring is sheep getting “cast”.  Sometimes sheep roll over onto their sides to scratch an itch and end up on their backs like beetles with their legs waving in the air.  Usually they can roll out of this position again, however if their wool is particularly heavy, as it is at this time of the year, they can be so weighed down by it that they can no longer right themselves.  If stuck like this for too long the outlook is not good.  This year we found Sparkle stuck on her back on a flattened pile of nettles in a little dip by the lambing shed.  She was pretty shaken up when we found her, but luckily perked up within the hour.  We stayed with her to make sure she was OK after getting her on her feet and during this time we watched her going from panting, to having a wee, to shaking herself, to walking about, to finally foraging and then cudding.  This is why we check up on our flock three times a day and are always counting them.

So, there are many reasons we look forward to shearing, but in a nutshell, once they’re sheared they are fresher, perkier, less attractive to flies, and less prone to doing roly polys and getting stuck on their backs!

fleeces fresh from the sheep

As a result, we are happy and more relaxed, and I haven’t even mentioned wool yet!

After shearing I have huge bags stuffed full of fleeces.  I love nothing better than bags full of freshly sheared fleeces with that rich scent of lanolin wafting around and soft bounciness when you put your hand in.  But most of all I look at those bags as being worlds full of potential and exciting things, new woolly projects I can get stuck into, my mind goes into a mini whirlwind just thinking about it!

sheep waiting in the wings

 

This year shearing went really smoothly.  We have a “small flock” shearer, Guy, who specialises in, you’ve guessed it, small flocks 😉

post shearing cud and cuddle

He comes along with his partner Dee who runs around getting fresh blades and oil and rolling up the wool.  Meanwhile myself and Adrian make sure the sheep are where they should be.  We pen them up in a mini coral made up of hurdles and once the shearer has finished one sheep we need to have the next one ready and waiting.  Minimal time, minimal stress is our motto on shearing day.  Easier said than done however, our sheep are normally easy to handle, but the atmosphere of shearing makes them quite frisky.  Getting each sheep ready to post through to Guy was a little fraught at times, a couple of times we fell over and were baptised in dung, but this is all part of it.  Despite feeling a little worse for wear by the end of the afternoon, it was a brilliant day and the sheep are happy little souls once more.

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New Sheep Paddock Proves a Hit

new paddock with sheep

One of the things we have puzzled over since moving here was what to do with a large expanse of grass that sat between our house and two neighbouring cottages. It need constant mowing to keep on top of it but was never really used for anything except the odd game of ball with the dogs. This spring, we decided to transform it into an additional sheep paddock. As well as offering some extra spring grass, it’s close to the winter feeding stations so will provide more space for the sheep to spread out between meals of hay. It has to be said, the sheep tend to hang around the ay feeders most winter days rather than heading off into the fields, so it can get a bit muddy.

new paddockIt needed quite a bit of fencing as we also planned a hedge along the border with one of the cottages and that beeded two fences, one for the border and one to keep the hedge safe from the sheep, who are more than partial to a bit of twig and leaf. It’s also quite a large area and, all in all, took about 100m of fencing to complete. This time, we employed a contractor to help thump the posts in as the ground here is pretty stony and unforgiving. He brought a digger with a post thumping attachment so that helped a lot.

new paddock gateWe also installed a wooden gate so that it looks more rustic. This needs to be hen proofed to keep our hens off next door’s veggie patch, but that’s another story.

Anyway, it took me a few days to get all the fence netting installed and Nicole a few days to transplant the daffodils (they’re poisonous to sheep), remove foxgloves (also poisonous) and clear the few brambles that were also eyeing the area up.

That all done, it was ready for the sheep. Serendipitously, they were waiting the other side of the gate so all we had to to was open it. As soon as they saw the gap leading to virgin grass, they were straight through and enjoyed a few hours of happy grazing. We all enjoyed some time, the sheep exploring and staring at new sites (next door’s barn) and us sitting with them, enjoying their company. Later, we ushered them back out, unable to leave the gate open till we have made it hen-proof.

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Sheep approve of new variety of hay

We ordered some different bales of hay recently and our first thought was, would the sheep eat it?  Sheep are creatures of habit and can be quite fussy with their hay.  They prefer the softer variety rather than the stalky hay, and they like it fresh and sweet smelling, (well that is understandable, who wouldn’t)?  By the way, if you ever need to test if hay is fresh and tasty, have a good sniff of it, if it smells sweet and a bit like weetabix then it’s likely to go down well with the little darlings.  Well, the new hay we’d had delivered was certainly fresh (tick), and it smelled sweet and weetabixy, (another tick), but it was definitely on the stalkier end of the hay spectrum, uh oh!! Their old hay was soft as can be and they loved it.   So when we filled the feeders up last week we resigned ourselves to the wee woollies turning their noses well and truly up.

sheep head up hill after breakie

Well, it just goes to show you shouldn’t count your hay before its scoffed, you’ll be happy to hear, they loved the new hay!  Stalks and all!  In fact, they told us in no uncertain terms that this new batch was much tastier than the stuff they’d been munching all winter!! We reminded them that there is still a bit of winter left in the farming calendar, the grass doesn’t come through till the end of April, so they can have their new type of hay for another few weeks yet.  They were happy with this news but told us they still preferred grass when push came to shove and they couldn’t wait for winter to come to end, we nodded our heads in agreement, we can’t wait for spring too!

 

 

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A special delivery for the sheep

Winter on the smallholding is all about keeping our woolly friends fed, watered and mucked out.

The beginning of November marks the start of the “big hay ceremony”.  This means that every morning and evening we fill the feeders up with fresh hay while the sheep mill around “helping” – which roughly translates to them helping themselves to hay while we attempt to get it in the feeders!

eagerly awaiting new bucket licks

The hay sees them through until spring but if the winter is mild they’ll spend less time at the feeders and trundle up the hill to the higher pastures foraging for grass and small plants bravely making an appearance.  Winter grass isn’t very nutritious though and our Ryelands are lowland sheep and not as tough as their hill bred cousins.  The wouldn’t survive a Scottish winter without their daily hay.

new buckets arriving!

This year the winter has been particularly cold, we’ve had snow on the ground for more than two weeks and since Christmas the sheep had had enough of foraging in the hills and set up camp in the paddock by the house.  The paddock is their sanctuary, a lot of our sheep were born in the paddock so it’s also a nursery.  It’s a safe place for them to come to to get out of the elements.  There’s a big shed where they can shelter from the rain, there are also apple trees which they enjoy sitting under whilst chewing the cud.  But best of all, the paddock is home to their hay feeders and their favourite big orange buckets.  These orange buckets are a special winter treat which sheep adore, they’re lick buckets which contain nutrients, vitamins and minerals and lots of yummy ingredients.  They just can’t get enough of them!

yummy yum!

Yesterday the sheep had licked their buckets clean and were eagerly awaiting new ones.  As I heaved the buckets out of the wheelbarrow and dragged them into the barn I had barely got the lids off when I was set upon by nineteen teddy bears in a Winney the Pooh rugby scrum.  Fortunately I managed to get out more or less unscathed and sat on a straw bale to recover whilst watching their happy faces listening to them licking away for all they were worth, happy days! 😊

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The story of Vera, a sore ear, and a tube of toothpaste

If you are squeamish or having dinner, this story may not be for you😳

As some of you may already know from following our stories, one of our woolly girls, Vera, has been plagued by “the itchies” all summer.

She has developed photosensitisation due to (most likely) eating a plant containing an alkaloid which then causes, in some cases, an allergic reaction to the sun.

Her condition slowly develops with the advance of summer, and then dwindles with the onset of autumn.  During the height of summer, Vera can often be found on her own seeking shelter in the pig ark or the lambing shed, somewhere away from the sun’s rays.  Exposure to the sun causes her un-woolled parts to become red and itchy and gets worse after shearing.

A complication arising from this is haematomas of the ear caused by shaking of the head as a result of the itching and general irritation.   Blood vessels then burst which in turn causes swelling and more discomfort.

It’s a vicious cycle and poor Vera has been in and out of the inspection pen almost daily while we applied udder cream to her sore skin, (we used to use sudocreme but have since discovered udder cream to be much better).  We’ve also been giving her steroid injections on and off through the summer to help with the swelling,  and we’ve also been checking her daily for the shepherd’s nemesis; blowfly activity, aka maggots, (the blowfly have been quite a problem this summer).  Lately we’ve added another job to our Vera care, we’ve been cleaning her ear with cotton wool dipped in hibiscrub as her left ear has been leaking puss recently, probably due to the haemotoma becoming infected.

If you’re eating whilst reading this, you may want to finish first 😉

Two weeks ago, Vera’s ear started to look quite bad, it was already swollen from the haematoma, but the addition of the puss and blood made it look even worse.  The appearance of puss and blood sounds worse than it actually is.  If “stuff” was coming out of the ear that meant that it was draining and the infection would eventually clear by itself, it’s the body’s way of getting rid of things.  But we needed to watch her carefully and make sure infection didn’t take hold.  Sheep are very stoical and will be brave for a long time before giving up over-night.  So we upped our checks and also phoned the vet to check if we should be doing anything other than the daily hibiscrub clean up.  We were advised to give her a long acting antibiotic and to keep keeping an eye on her.

We duly did this, we gave her her first jab of Betamox yesterday and wiped her ear clean whilst being thankful there are hardly any flies around now what with it being September.

Today we had hoped to see some small improvement, but poor Vera seemed to be shaking her head more, and her ear was still enormous, almost fit to burst.

We had a cup of tea and decided to call the vet out to have a look, just to be sure.  We didn’t think the infection was draining fast enough, it looked as though things were backing up, and although the antibiotic would be a safety net for Vera, it wouldn’t stop the immediate discomfort caused by the pulsating swelling.

The vet came out this very afternoon, it was Linda.  Linda, like the rest of the team at the local vet surgery is gentle, caring and very knowledgeable.  She knows Vera well, and Vera also knows Linda though tends to give her a wide berth!

So before Linda arrived we penned Vera up.

Once Linda arrived we got to work, we knew what Linda would be doing would be quite invasive and we had to keep Vera as still as possible.

We backed Vera into a corner and Adrian made sure she didn’t swing her rump round and try a three point turn.  I supported her head, while Linda held her ear and got to work.

First she inspected it closely and confirmed our suspicions, there was an infection going along the whole length of the ear.  There were two main “pockets” of infection, one at the tip end, and one at the other bottom end.

There was already a small escape route at the bottom end where blood had been seeping out for the last week or so.  However Linda wasn’t sure if the two pockets were connected and wasn’t keen on lancing both sites as there are lots of blood vessels in the ear.

She decided to work at the top end where the blood vessels are more spaced out and there would be less risk of nicking one.

She inserted a needle into the first pocket and squeezed.

Turn away now if you’re squeamish.

Quite a lot of puss came out, but not enough.

So Linda asked us to get some warm water and hibiscrub, she wanted to squirt water through to completely wash it out.

Now here’s the interesting part, it turned out both infection sites were connected, so when Linda injected warm water through at the top, out it came at the bottom!  This was excellent news, it meant that we could wash her ear out in one go, without having to repeat the operation.

As Linda sloshed warm water through using her syringe, all I could think about as I watched what was coming out the other end, was toothpaste.  It was truly fascinating, and weirdly exciting.  Vera for her part was relaxing into the process, chewing cud and giving the occasional sigh.  At times she looked up, stretching her neck with her eyes half closed, it must have been like having a very itchy spot scratched, deep below the surface, a spot which has been itchy for a long time, what a relief!

When there was no more toothpaste coming out and only clear water, we all came up for air.  We were a bit spattered but very happy.  Vera’s ear looked much better, it was still a bit swollen from the internal damage caused by the haematoma, but it had lost that red, angry look.  We gave Vera a wee treat of her favourite sheep nuts and led her out to join the others.

We thanked Linda and said goodbye, put the kettle on and had some tea and plum crumble, I almost declined the cream but decided I was too hungry to say no 😋

 

 

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Hooves and Bottoms

dirty sheep bottom

Sheep need a lot of looking after and one of the primary tasks is checking hooves and bottoms. Much like human fingernails and toenails, sheep’s hooves can grow and become uncomfortable. If not trimmed, infection can get in.

Dirty bottoms are a magnet for flies and the last thing you want is the blowfly laying eggs there. These eggs hatch into maggots which will eat the sheep alive. It’s called flystrike and it’s one of the reasons shearing is so important.

While we check our sheep 2 or 3 times a day, it also helps to take preventive measures and this means keeping the wool around the sheep’s bottom short and clean. It’s a process called dagging.

bringing the sheep inFirst step was to get the sheep together and penned up. We bring them down to the lambing shed. It means they have shelter from sun or rain or both, as often happens here. While I get busy setting up sheep hurdles, Nicole goes and fetches them. These days, they follow happily.

Once in the shed, we construct a small treatment pen. You can’t see it from the photo, but it has a sliding entrance. In practice, that’s a hurdle we can shift sideways to make an entrance.

It’s all pretty calm and most of the sheep just wander in to the treatment pen when called. A couple need bribing with some sheep nuts and one, Bluemli, takes a bit more persuading – she is very wary of pens. We leave Bluemli till last.

It all went very smoothly. I helped keep the sheep calm while Nicole lifted each leg and checked the hooves. Sheep don’t mind their front legs being lifted, but can get a bit twitchy about their back legs losing contact with the ground. I find that if I distract them with neck scratches and soft words, they usually stay pretty calm through the whole process. Each sheep has its own particular sweet spot for a scratch. Find that and it all goes smoothly.
Then it’s a quick bottom check. If the bottom is dirty, it gets a clean and trim. After that, out that sheep goes, the sliding hurdle moves across and the next sheep wanders in.

sheep in penThe ones already treated often hang around outside the pen seeking more tickles. That’s actually quite helpful as their proximity also has a calming effect on the sheep whose hooves are being inspected.

Bluemli, well she went from being a little wild eyed to settling, chewing the cud and then back to wild eyed when it was her turn. I grabbed a handful of sheep nuts, waved them in front of her nose and, to our astonishment, she trotted into the pen with me. Once in the pen, she was quite happy and let Nicole trim her hooves and check her bottom with no trouble at all.

A couple of hours well spent.

 

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Shearing at long last!

This story is a bit late, I meant to post it last week but everything to do with shearing this year has been delayed so it’s no wonder my little blog story is too!

Each year we have our flock sheared.  Our breed of sheep (Coloured Ryelands), are particularly woolly, they’re a “wool breed” which means they were bred back in the olden days, helped along by the monks of Herefordshire, to produce wool which was then used predominantly for making fine garments.  Ryeland wool was shipped all over Europe and sold for high prices.  Queen Victoria reputedly even had stockings made from Ryeland wool!  It was very sought after and Ryeland sheep were kept very busy.

Sadly, nowadays there is very little demand for wool, least of all Ryeland wool ☹ It is a very sad fact because if you’ve ever stroked a Ryeland sheep you will see why their wool is so special.  First of all, the Ryeland looks like a teddy bear, they are woolly all over, legs, tummies and faces.  Their wool is very dense and springy and as it grows they start to look much tubbier than they actually are.  Here is a picture of Yssi taken in early spring, she could easily be mistaken for a barrel!

Yssi
Yssi looking rather barrel shaped

So back to shearing, in Scotland shearing traditionally takes place in June, about 6 weeks later than in England.  This is because of the northern climate, the summer takes a bit longer to kick in up here.  Sheep are shorn as soon as summer makes an entrance, it has to be “post frost” for obvious reasons, and also sheep are sheared traditionally on hot, sunny days as the wool needs to be dry before it can come off.  As you can imagine, this can be a tricky to organise when you’re at the mercy of an Atlantic weather system in Bonny Scotland!

This year we contacted our shearer as we’ve always done, in May and he said he’d come in June and let us know the date nearer the time.  So we carried on with life.  May turned out to be one of the hottest on record and Adrian and I were tempted to bring shearing forward, but lambing still goes on in May and we didn’t want to disrupt Jim’s schedule.  Shepherds have a packed calendar, particularly in the spring with lambing and shearing happening in close succession.

Now, we check on our sheep twice a day, but decided to step it up to three times in the run up to “the big still to be confirmed shearing day”.  Hot weather brings out the flies, and mucky, woolly bottoms plus flies equals a potentially fatal condition; fly strike.  Every few days we took some of the flock into a pen and dagged their bottoms.  All the spring grass was having an effect, especially on the younger ones whose digestive systems were still “firming up” so there was plenty of dagging!  We also ran our eyes over the flock and checked for any odd behaviour which might indicate a maggot problem.  Even despite the dagging, maggots can be crafty and hide in nooks and crannies.  A sheep who’s been “struck” by the blowfly will behave oddly, they will jump at their own shadows and try and run away from themselves.  Sometimes their behaviour change is more subtle so you need to use your intuition as well.   As we were soon to find out.

We also needed to check for any sheep getting stuck on their backs unable to right themselves, all that wool is very heavy after a year’s growth, and sometimes a sheep can roll over and get stuck like a beetle, unable to get up with the weight of their fleece, which can get even heavier if it gets wet.  This happened to Yarr quite recently, click here to read about his pickle:  So these checks were really important for the sheep’s welfare, and also for Adrian and I to be able to sleep at night, otherwise we’d worry non-stop.

May came and went and we were starting to feel run ragged, we’d added another job to our sheep tasks; mucking out the shelter.  The sheep had taken to camping out in their “summer house” pretty much for most of the day.  They really love their shelter, it provides shade and somewhere to get away from the flies, however on the flip side, it can get mucky very quickly.  Unlike pigs, sheep do their business wherever they happen to be, so you could be going round with the pooper scooper and they’d be filling it up as fast as you’d be emptying it!  We’d then sprinkle lemon scented wood shavings down which is great because the lemon scent keeps the flies away, and the shavings provide a lovely soft carpet for the sheep to relax on.

We got into the first week of June and by now texts were going back and forth between myself and Jim to get a shearing date in the diary.  We would be done in between his bigger flocks, much like a small building job is fitted in around bigger building jobs.   By now we’d already found Yarr stuck on his back, and two cases of flystrike.  First Yssi, then Yogi.  One morning I’d gone to muck out the shelter and do my checks when I noticed Yssi sitting a bit strangely, she was sitting up, almost like a dog, her bottom on the ground with her front legs straight out in front of her.  I watched her get up and follow the rest of the flock out while I mucked out and she seemed fine but I thought I’d bring her into the pen anyway.  I straddled her backwards and parted the wool on her backside, my heart sank, there were at least 3 or 4 clusters of tiny wriggling maggots, deep in her wool.  I phoned Adrian who was in the kitchen making breakie, and asked him to bring shears, cotton wool and cider vinegar diluted in water.  We don’t routinely spray our flock so had no chemicals to hand.  I intended to pick the maggots out and clean her up with the vinegar solution.  I would also shave her backside to give the maggots nowhere to hide.

Yogi
Yogi

Yssi was a trouper, she let us do all this to her and we pretty much got rid of all the maggots.  Just to be sure though we whizzed over and got some flystrike solution from the local agricultural store and gave her bottom another once over.  While we were doing this, we noticed Yogi stamping her feet and looking a bit wild eyed.  Oh oh, we both said, lucky we had our vet kit to hand, we brought Yogi in, lifted her tail, and sure enough there was a tiny patch of maggots there, wriggling around.  They were clustered around a “problem area” on her bottom.  A few weeks back I’d found a little patch of infected skin under some damp wool.  I’d shaved it clean and her bottom had healed, however those blowflies had obviously found a tiny bit of skin which was still broken and decided to lay her eggs there.  Great place for a fly, not so great for poor old Yogi!!

We upped our bottom patrol and started mucking out the shelter twice a day, morning and evening.  The weather was still unbearably hot but now it was wet as well with summer storms and heavy downpours.  Jim had intended to come twice but had to cancel due to the rain.  Then he cancelled again because he slashed his arm open and had to be rushed to hospital to get stitched up.  It’s a dangerous job shearing, especially when you’re tired from running from farm to farm between storm showers trying to fit everyone in.

At the end of June there was a week’s reprieve a dry spell once more and we had another date from Jim.  At the allotted time of 5pm we brought the sheep down to the orchard near the house where there’s a power supply and another shelter for them to wait in until Jim arrived.  We were ready and waiting.  We waited, and waited, and waited.

At 7.30pm we could wait no more, I climbed a hill and texted Jim, I didn’t want to hassle him, but the sheep had been penned up a long time and needed to get out.  We needed to know what time he would be coming.  A reply came back, “sorry, two of the team have heat stroke, can’t come this evening”.  Our hopes crashed, we were so upset, we felt sorry for Jim as he was having a hard time, but our flock desperately needed shearing, it was becoming a welfare issue.  Their thick coats needed to come off, we couldn’t wait any longer!

At this point I hear you ask, why don’t you shear them yourselves?  Well, that is a good question, and the answer is, we learnt to shear when we first got sheep, and we sheared our first flock (albeit only 3!)  It took us a long time and the sheep came out looking rather oddly shaped!  The trouble is, you need to put in lots of mileage to get good, and you need to be good to be able to shear, you can’t be “just OK”.  If you’re not good, you can badly injure your sheep, or stress the animal by holding it in position for too long, they can die of stress quite easily.  To cut a long story short, we don’t have enough sheep to practise on and just doing it once a year isn’t enough to get good at shearing.  So having done the course and sheared our lot once, we made the decision to call in the experts.

The next day we sent out an SOS on twitter and rang everyone we knew who had sheep and got numbers of other shearers.  We couldn’t afford to wait any longer, and much as we understood that we’d be done eventually, we didn’t want to wait any more.  We also felt it would be better to have a small flock shearer, we love the way Jim shears, I called him Mr No Nicks, he’s a great shearer, but he’s a big flock boy, and we realised we needed someone who specialised in small flocks that could prioritise us and not fit us in around other bigger farms.

After some frantic phone calls, one or two had the same problem as Jim, they were working through backlogs due to the wet weather so couldn’t help us, we then somehow we ended up with three shearers!! Just like busses!

We settled on one recommended by smallholders in a village not far away and at long last, a new date was set, and this time, nothing went wrong, PHEW!!!

The new shearer, Guy, did a brilliant job along with his partner Dee who helped me collect the fleeces and allocate name tags to them to be later made into rugs and cushions.

We have already booked Guy for next year, we are so happy we found him and I think our flock are pretty happy too 😊

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Clever Sheep

Ymogen coloured ryeland

Hi there, it’s me Ymogen!

It’s been a while since I logged on but recently my pet human took a short video of me demonstrating my intelligence so I thought it would be a good time to tell you all about it.

You’re probably aware that us sheep are herd animals and like to do things as a group.  If Seline heads off up the hill we’ll all follow her.  If Sparkle gets spooked by a pheasant popping up out of a clump of sedge grass and flapping its wings, we’ll all get a bit spooked.  That’s just how we are, its in our nature.

But I’m going to let you into secret, us sheep are not such simple souls as people like to think, in fact, we’re very clever!  As well has having the herd instinct we also have the voice recognition instinct.  Have you ever watched a group of lambs and their mums?  Each mum has a special call for her lambs so each lamb knows exactly which mum to head over to for teat.  (Sometimes a lamb might take liberties and sneak over to one of their aunties for teat but once they get butted away by a cross auntie they soon learn their lesson!  But anyway, I digress.

Ever since I was born here at Auchenstroan, I’ve noticed our pet humans calling us using different sounds for each one of us, just like our mums.  So over time we’ve learnt a whole different language, “human speak”, as well as our own “sheep speak”.  And just like when we were lambs, we get a nice treat if we trot over to the humans when called, sheep nuts! 😊 😊 😊 Or, our second favourite thing, back scratches 😊 😊

In the video below you can see me demonstrating this.  My pet human says my name, I hear her but can’t see her (admittedly I was quite interested in a particular blade of grass at that moment).  But I couldn’t help myself, I found myself looking from left to right, and then I saw the human standing there with Witchy bleating by her side.  I had a wee shake and then headed right over and got a back scratch for my efforts.  Ta daa!

 

 

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New trough welcome in hot weather

sheep having a drink

Despite living in what is generally considered to be a wet part of Britain, we do have prolonged dry spells.  In fact, for the last 3 years, there have weeks of dry weather in the spring.

Since moving here, we have added two water tanks to gather water from hillside springs.  But these springs dry up in the dry weather and if we’re not careful, we have to ferry water up from the river.  This year, just before the dry spell hit, we got a new 550 litre trough installed adding extra capacity.

When they first saw it, the sheep were startled; they are not keen on new things appearing unexpectedly.  But as the rain stopped and the sun came out, they have found it to be another useful drinking spot.

I think, over coming years, we might add further capacity till we have enough water to last for months rather than weeks.

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Sheep vaccinations go well

sheep waiting for vaccination

One of the annual responsibilities we have as smallholders is to vaccinate the sheep.  Each year, they get an injection of Heptavac.  The interesting challenge is how best to do it without getting the sheep overexcited.  We have, in the past, used sheep nuts to misidrect them while they are injected, but then the rest of the flock gather round barging each other trying to get in.  Last year, in all the argy bargy, Ymogen suffered a broken jaw.  This year, we were determined to avoid that kind of accident.

We also had to make sure the wiser of our sheep did not clock what was going on and keep well clear.  Bluemli, particularly, can tell when we are up to something and will stay well clear of any pens.

We hatched our plans.  First, all the sheep were gathered into the shed.  This involved a little bribery in the form of sheep nuts.  However, these were in a trough so they were all able to get some.

We built a small pen right outside the shed with a sliding door, well a sheep hurdle we could move out of the way, to let them in.  They all lined up to see what we were up to (see picture).  On opening the entrance, the first sheep obligingly stepped through.  I held them tight while Nicole administered the injection.  It went like clockwork.  Each time we opened the pen, a sheep wandered in, got their injection and was ushered out into the paddock.

One or two sheep tried to play the bucking bronco card, but all in all it was very peaceful.  So peaceful, in fact, that the vaccinated sheep gathered round to watch their colleagues getting injected.

All in all, it took about an hour do vaccinate our 19 sheep.  We retired for a cuppa very pleased with ourselves.