LAYING HEDGES AND CRUTCHING EWES
Spring is in the air. We have had dry weather for several days, and some lovely sunshine.
Dan finally moved two beehives away from the barn where I lamb, halter train sheep, etc. Apparently it is okay to move bees 3 feet or 3 miles, but anything in between is trickier. He is moving the two hives down near the ponds, and hopefully the bees won’t be too upset. I am not allergic to anything..that is until his bees discovered me last summer. After several bee stings and a rather nasty reaction, (see earlier blogs), I have requested their removal from my work area! I do hope they survive and we get all that honey Dan has promised.
Dan and Richard have been very busy laying hedges. The hedgerows on our farm had been neglected for many years. Although badly overgrown, many can still be restored. It will take several years, and Dan is planting many new young plants to fill in gaps. All hedge laying must cease by the end of March so nesting, etc is undisturbed. The newly laid hedges look very beautiful and as they fill in over the years, these hedgerows provide a magical home for all sorts of insects, birds and little creatures like the dormouse and hedgehog.
Lambing will begin in only two weeks. I ‘crutch’ my ewes before they lamb, that is trim all the wool around their back sides and their tail. The new born lambs will have an easier time finding the teats and it makes the whole birthing process a bit cleaner and tidier. Archie and I have used hand held shearers in the past to trim all that wool. It is hard work and probably more stressful for the ewe than using a properly trained sheep shearer. So a fellow Portland owner came to my rescue and the job was done in no time.
My Portland ewes are now only a month away from lambing. So it was time to administer an annual vaccination. Doing it now means the new-born lambs will have the immunity passed on to them for a few weeks, then they get the vaccination themselves in two jabs and so it carries on every year. Heptavac P immunises against pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial diseases, the biggest killer of sheep. Apparently they pick up these organisms from the soil.
I spent the morning on my own catching all the sheep in pens. Setting up the hurdles takes time, but the sheep were very cooperative and they all gathered in with the rattling bucket of sheep nuts. We vaccinated the four rams first. Dan holds them while I jab the needle under their skin. The first time I had to stick a needle into an animal I was petrified. It still isn’t my favourite task on the farm, and I let others jab the cows if required, tough skin!
Next we tackled the lambs and wethers in the top set of fields. As there are sixteen, it was important to mark them with a sheep crayon so no one got it twice. They all got a lovely green scribble on their heads.
The ewes waited patiently while we vaccinated the others. We then jabbed and marked them and they were then ready for transporting to the field behind the farm buildings. They will be moved close to the lambing shed. And ewes need ‘flushing’ in this last month of pregnancy. That means getting them on as good a grass as possible. They also require extra feeding. Lambs grow quickly in their last month of gestation and the ewes struggle to eat enough grass to get all the necessary nutrients. So it was all aboard the little sheep trailer and down to a greener field. They are now happily settled and every morning look forward to their favourite sheep nuts.
I never heard of a Felfie and I don’t do selfies, but I am pleased to present two “Felfies”, that is Farm Selfies.
The first is the result of poor aim. Matt was helping me load a trailer full of our beautifully seasoned firewood, which I sell locally. A log accidentally went awry and landed on my head. It looks far worse than it was, I did not even realise it was bleeding, just that it hurt. As there was a busy afternoon ahead, no time for a visit to our fantastic Bridport A&E. And I was too embarrassed to show my face there again, having two closely timed visits over the summer. So Richard got out the trusty Terramycin, a veterinary spray used for cuts and gashes on cattle and sheep. It comes out a lovely blue, leaves a stain, stings when applied.
My second Felfie is more benign, and Balfour the little bullock posed beautifully.
Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.