Friday 12 June 2009

blowing hot and cold

The tropical conditions subsided, cold winds returned, who would think we could have Northerly to Easterly winds in June? Usually a sign of snow during the winter months, however last week there was snow fall reported further west on the Penines over at Alston so who knows??

Yes - it rained too, quite welcome in actual fact, freshened everything up, washed fertiliser in on the hay crops and gave the grass a reason to grow. Tarset at the moment is getting hit by almost every sort of weather. Cold winds sometimes masked by hot sunshine followed by showers, some heavy and prolonged. The midges have enjoyed the damp spells, biting with ferocity when they find bare skin. (Personal reminder: order Avon Skin So Soft - midges don't seem to like the stuff and all us shepherds get to wander round smelling sweet!)

Midges do help set the ewes out at night, hill sheep are raked - set down in the mornings and up at night - the ferocious midge can set them onto the hill tops in the evenings sometimes easier than a man and dog!

So why are sheep raked? Well, if left untouched they would sit on the sweeter ground and forget about the rest, also an important management tool. If the sheep are moved any problems are easily seen, if they don't want to move there is generally something wrong, if a lamb shoots off without it's mother again there is probably something sadly amiss.

This time of the year is often known as the 'rough time' - prior to the shearing season the sheep are heavy in wool, not surprisingly they can get hot, sweaty and itchy too, they can get on rubbing their backs and before you know it could well be found lying flat on their backs with all four feet in the air - not a good position for a sheep! The fit ones have a broader back and might not find it as easy to roll over again, their wool may also get caught up in the heather preventing them from rolling over.

Once on her back a ewe will fill with gas and eventually die, herding and raking the ewes will hopefully give the shepherd a chance to prevent this, unfortunately we're not always successful, certain conditions can cause a ewe to succumb quickly - just one of those things but infuriating all the same.

Once the ewes are clipped (shorn) the pressure is off as they are less likely to end up on their backs, every shepherd looks forward to the light relief gained from their sheep finally being clipped.