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!
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.