On Monday my daily visit to check the livestock didn’t get underway until early afternoon. The cattle were fine but their water trough in Swallow Coombe field was almost empty and it was a very hot day. Panic!
Most of the water troughs in our fields are fed by a spring on Lewesdon Hill. When we moved to the farm this water system was no longer functioning. But after a search using old maps we discovered the spring and old well above our farm on the hill. With a special ‘mole plough’ behind the tractor and miles of blue poly pipe, we renewed the system. The farmhouse water supply is also feed by a very old spring, and in the 1970’s water was bottled at the farm and sold locally and to the House of Lords. We still have a permit to bottle our water, it has a wonderful taste, very pure.
A couple of years earlier I had found an empty water trough and we discovered froggy bits had clogged the flow into the trough. Since then we have improved the filter in the well. Archie checked this empty trough but there wasn’t anything preventing water flow. There was simply no water. We went up to the spring and well. The well was very low. We have had a couple of weeks of very dry weather and thirsty cattle have increased demand. This empty trough is at the end of the system so wasn’t refilling.
We had to get them water. So the IBC plastic tank was pulled out and filled at the barn. (The barn water is on the house system). The IBC was tied up on the tractor, driven down to the trough and voila the trough was filled.
No rain was in the forecast so Archie and I spent the evening rigging up a new trough at the other end of Swallow Coombe. The field next to Swallow Coombe has a little spring and well, all on its own. We tapped into this, fed polypipe across the field and soon the new trough was filling. Two days later the rain arrived and the empty trough refilled.
Water crisis solved, and then I discovered one of my lamb rams had developed an ulcer in his eye. The poor little guy looked miserable. He is a small ram lamb and I had already realised he would have to be castrated and not used with the ewes. I love my sheep but it isn’t right to keep an unhealthy animal in my flock. But I hoped this infection could be treated and he could have a happy year or two on the farm to fatten up and be turned into mutton.
I took him to the vet in the back of my land rover. The vet injected an antibiotic directly into his eye, I couldn’t look. He told me to give him extra feed and wait and see. I put ram lamb into a pen in the open shed with a little ewe lamb for company. I’ve been giving them plenty of sheep nuts and he is growing fat! After another week applying an antibiotic eye cream he is seeing well and getting strong. He’s been reprieved and I’m glad!
Summer is whizzing by! There has been plenty of activity but I get so caught up in the moment I usually forget to take photos.
Most recently we weaned the lambs. I hate to take them away from their mums. I wait for about 100 days before separating. There is much crying and weeping and baaing, both ewes and lambs. I moved the ewes on Sunday, putting them in a field recently cut and baled. They need to be on sparse ground as this helps the milk dry up. On Monday and Tuesday we had rain and fog I think it may have helped them settle a bit better, they couldn’t see or hear. By Wednesday all was reasonably quiet.
We baled two fields in mid July. Last week there was a break in the weather, and finally the two other big fields were cut, gathered and baled. 124 bales in total, a record, very good quality haylage. Thanks to our contractor, Simon Woods, who has been such a help since we bought the farm. Another local good guy.
We took some Portlands to the New Forest Show last week. Dan wasn’t available so Archie stepped in. He didn’t realise he wasn’t only transporting me and the sheep, he was going to show them! He got a third with the shearling ram and I had a good day with my son. We rarely get a whole day together, I did promise I wouldn’t talk his ear off on the journey back and forth.
I entered a Portland fleece at the show and got a first. That was a very pleasant surprise, against fifteen other fleeces, too. I shall be paying much more attention to my fleeces and will get good advice before shearing next year. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Portland fleeces are loved by hand spinners.
Today was a very special day for Frazzle the Bull. Little did he know that before the day ended he would be surrounded by six beauties - four cows and two heifers. But first we needed to move the group of twenty one from Swallow Coombe, a field at end of the farm, back to the holding area and separate into two groups, of ten and eleven. Some heifers are still too young to be with the bull. Calves need to stay with mums, two mums have ended their breeding life so won’t be put with Frazzle. All very confusing.
We walked them all across two fields and into the holding area and ran them down the race. Plenty of shouting as Archie and Richard called out their numbers and I opened the appropriate gate, either keeping them in the pen or letting into the opposite field. I had my chart with all the cattle names and numbers but was terrified I would screw up. Plenty of shouting (and swearing) for sure!
We walked the four cows, with their calves, and two heifers back to Swallow Coombe. They cooperated beautifully, following me in the Polaris ranger with Archie and Richard following behind. Now it was Frazzle’s turn, who suddenly seemed very aware of the situation...he was in Holes Ground, just opposite across the bridleway. I called him, gates opened and he ran right across. Gates slammed just in time to stop a couple of steers from following him in all the excitement. It was lovely to watch him, sniffing the air, standing proud, as the girls came over to investigate. Once they realise who he is they mostly walked away!
The only job left was collecting the other group of eleven, who sauntered down the bridleway and moved into their new field. A very good day.
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.