The Melplash Show was fantastic! We woke early to dreary weather, but the forecast was more optimistic for the day, clearing with some sunny spells but a possibility of afternoon showers. We hadn’t had sun for a week. Loading went well, with Archie and Richard getting the bull on the trailer very smoothly. He had been coaxed into one of the shed pens the night before, with the two shearling rams in the pen next to him. We were taking eight sheep, and have now recognised we need a bigger sheep trailer. We squashed the 2 ewes and 4 lambs in the front, then put up the divider and popped the rams in. Not too comfortable. The trailer is perfect for around the farm as it is light enough to hook onto the ranger. But a larger one will be needed if I continue to do these shows.
The show ground is close by, a twenty minute drive, but queues were already forming at 7 am. The reason became obvious once inside; all the rain made for muddy roadways inside inside the show ground and big horse lorries needed a tow. Tractors were ready and waiting. We got sheep in the pens, sun began to appear and I raced over to see the bull already settled in under his beautiful blue gazebo! Amazon to the rescue as I had the gazebo ordered two days before in anticipation of pouring rain.
We had shampooed Frazzle the day before, fluffed him up as best we could. I even bought a livestock hair dryer especially for the task, although Richard assisted with a leaf blower. So the gazebo would protect his lovely locks from the rain. Robert, his wife Sandra, and Jane, who had all co-owned Frazzle, were already under the gazebo, giving him the last minute attention, a bit like an actress on Oscar Night! Walking down the aisle of cattle was like walking into the perfume department of Harrod’s!
Minty had spent the night with us and she and I prepared the sheep, fetched water, etc. Portland Sheep are shown ’in their working clothes’ so no primping and combing allowed. The competition began with the Ram class, Dan and I showed the boys, Bongo and Beaver, and received a First and Third! Off to a good start. Minty took over and in the Ram Lamb class, her boy Chicory also placed First! We proceeded to get two more Seconds and another Third, six in total.
Meanwhile, the Bull class in which Frazzle showed went ahead without me, as the timing conflicted. He was a good 3 and a half years older than his competitors and also tried to kick the judge, so no prizes there. But he was the first Highland shown at Melplash and was certainly one of the most popular!
Finally, later in the afternoon, we went to receive the Cup for Best Small Farm Conservation and Environmental Practices. Got home, exhausted, unloaded all the animals and has an early night!
.I don’t know where the time has gone. Two weeks ago we weaned the lambs…and gave Frazzle the Highland Bull a shampoo and blow-dry! All went very well as we had the assistance of Robert Tedbury from whom I purchased the bull. He has shown Frazzle a few times and is going to drive down from West Sussex and do most of the work at the Melplash Show. I could not do it without him.
Since that day the weather has taken a turn for the worst. August has been wet and gloomy. But Minty and I have continued to work with the lambs and shearlings and we are feeling confident they won’t completely embarrass us on the big day. I really want Minty to do well and win a prize, as she has trained two of the lambs.
I have also been feeding up Frazzle to get him in show condition. He is a working bull so will never be the biggest beast, but he looks good to me. I noticed his eye was weeping last week, though, so called the vet to have a look. I moved him to the holding pen, into the race and down into the crush when the vet arrived. Frazzle was not very happy when we attempted to tie him up very securely so the vet could inject his eye. That is when I got careless and WHAM he caught me with his horn on the underside of my upper arm. My shirt was torn and I didn’t feel anything…until the vet saw blood. I had been gored by my bull! Dan was down in the barn, luckily not far away so he was called up to help. After the vet got a big bandage wrapped around my arm I went in for a cup of tea while they got the bull’s eye injected. Then off to the Bridport minor injury unit where I received 10 stitches while sucking away at ‘gas and air’. Two days in a sling and after another checkup two days later, with no infection and healing well, I am back in action. And very grateful I was not more seriously injured. I have said my prayers of thanks many times since then.
Now it is a quick countdown to Melplash Show in four days. The weather forecast is dire, but after all the preparation, we will make the best of it. I am busy making lists, gathering equipment to bring, filling out paperwork, and trying to find a gazebo to cover the bull. We will pack up the two Land Rovers the night before, only needing to load up the livestock on Thursday morning. Really nervous already. butterflies just thinking about it.
Oh, and we now have FOUR beehives (swarms collected and re-housed) and still not a drop of honey.
Wow, a great day on the farm. Not great for poor ewes and lambs as it was time to separate for weaning. The lambs are four months old and have had a lovely time with their mothers. But mums need a break now, as they will be back with the Ram in a few short months. Now they will get moved to a sparser field, not full of rich grass, so their milk dries up.
Minty and I got collection pens set up, hauling hurdles on the back of the Polaris Ranger, the most useful piece of equipment on the farm as far as I am concerned. There were two groups of lambs and ewes to sort. We did a fantastic job, with just a bit of help from hubby, Dan. (he was concentrating on his bees). The first group of 25 were moved from Nine Acres to the field next door, then on into the holding area. Not a problem!
The second group of 17 were in a much smaller field. Six of these were our trainees. They behaved and with their mums went straight into the pen. The rest decided to give us some exercise and that is when we called in Dan to help. We ran up and down the field a few times but they gave up in the end. It was a lovely day, not too hot so we almost enjoyed our sporting afternoon.
Once our trusty little sheep trailer was hooked up to the Ranger, sheep were loaded and shifted to the appropriate location. We have become much better at loading. The experienced sheep will jump right in. But never leave a tiny gap, as some silly lamb will squeeze through it and disappear to the other end of the field. All the sheep loaded without incidence (almost a first for that) and the lambs are now behind the barn, with the ewes near the house.
I feel so badly, as ewes and lambs bleat for each other. But it usually only lasts a couple of days, then everyone settles down.
Almost a week of halter training and the four lambs are still wiggling and twisting and throwing themselves around! I have recruited 12 year old Minty to help. She is entered in the Young Handler class at the Melplash Show and will help me show my sheep on the day, too. Very keen and very good with the lambs, they are calmer with her than they are with me! Melplash Show is our local agricultural show, in a beautiful setting at West Bay by Bridport. It is definitely my favourite show to attend.
Minty and I went to the New Forest Show last Thursday. I was going to show but Dan unable to help, so I cancelled. But Minty and I had a good look at the competition and she was able to watch the sheep being shown. She thinks our lambs are already walking as well as some in the show, very badly!
MInty has also now officially named us the ‘Evil Twin Sisters’. I am actually flattered by this as Minty is only 12 and very pretty. I am neither of those. And we are probably the least evil halter trainers there are, the lambs even get a gently kiss on the nose when we release them!
After our training session today we found another grey squirrel in my trap, set up by the hen run. I am on a personal mission to eliminate Lewesdon Hill of every one of those nasty invaders from North America. (Although I amy be viewed in the same way but some people!) And I am on my way, must have trapped at least 15 since I started my project in early July. A biscuit with a blob of nutella and peanut butter is my bait, so they have a tasty last supper. Once caught, a quick shot in the head with the air gun…and it’s bye-bye grey squirrel.
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.