From the end of October through to the beginning of April (give or take), we move the little darlings onto hay. During the winter, the grass pretty much stops growing and what grass there is isn’t very tasty or nutritious. While many sheep are thrifty and do fine in the leaner winter months, ours are a lowland breed and appreciate their creature comforts. We also have several elderly ladies in our flock who need a little extra tlc.
As well as providing the teddies with daily hay, over the years of keeping sheep we’ve come to realise what our woolly friends really appreciate is having somewhere to get out of the elements, whether that’s the scorching sun in the summer, or the driving rain in the winter. So we give them access to the lambing shed which they love. To be honest, they are rather too fond of it at times and can make a real mess if they set up camp for too long. While we like them to have access to their shelter, we don’t want them to spend all day in there. So we’ve found if we fill up their hay feeders (which are next to the shelter) in the evenings rather than the mornings, this encourages them to go up the hill and forage during the day and only come down to the paddock in the evenings for the daily hay ceremony.
The daily hay ceremony is basically me bringing the little darlings hay every evening. Usually the gang are still up on the hill somewhere, but it’s not long before they make an appearance led by Seline the flock leader. They have an uncanny knack of knowing what time to come down for their tea.
I really enjoy the hay ceremony, mostly because I love the smell of hay. Good quality meadow hay can be hard to come by and our little darlings are particularly fond of soft hay without tough stalks. During the first few years here on our smallholding we struggled to find good meadow hay. Our first year here we made our own but didn’t have enough to last all winter and ended up scrabbling around.
Our second year here we decided to buy in hay. Unfortunately that turned out to be a bad decision as it was the year of the ‘beast from the east’. That winter went on and on and on … there was hardly any hay to be had and we ended up buying in posh, dainty bags of haylage from the local agricultural store. Our winter feed budget took a big hit that year.
So our third winter here we couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered that our Highland Cattle friends from up the road, Jim and Fiona, (https://www.highland.scot/) had started supplying hay! We feel very fortunate about this, it’s taken a big worry off our shoulders.
Every four weeks, Fiona comes by in her ‘hay-mobile’ with a delivery of hay. Whilst tipping bales off the truck we have a good old catch up. As smallholders on somewhat remote farms it’s good to chat to a likeminded soul and compare notes about this and that. I always look forward to Fiona’s visits and I’m sure our sheep do as well!