Saturday 20 June 2009

Lamb Marking

The first few weeks of June is the traditional time for lamb marking.

After lambing time ewes and lambs are let away back to the hill, if they hadn't been lambed out there in the first place. They are herded twice a day, raked up and down the hill, a sharp eye on the look out for the tell tale signs of a lamb in the drain (the ewe will usually be hanging around the drain), ewes on their backs (called kessing or cast), anything trailing at the back - unwell or lame.

Eventually they are all gathered in for the lamb marking, a health check if you like. Ewes and lambs are dosed if necessary, any dirty backsides cleaned before flies get a hold and sheep end up maggoted, feet are sorted if needs be and the lambs receive their stock mark, lug mark( notch taken out of the ear, a more permanent stock mark) and any other treatments necessary.

Early mornings are usually the norm, setting off to gather at 5 - 6am is not unusual, especially if the weather is hot as sheep don't travel too well in the heat and the dogs are to be considered as well as they cover a lot of miles and find it easier in the cool of the early morning. Also it pays to pick the sheep up before they naturally begin to rake themselves in, this way hopefully they are not spread out as much and are easier to contain.

The sheep are usually run up a shedder(a race with doors off into different pens), allowing lambs to run one way, ewes another and any geld ewes or hoggs can be run another way. This saves lambs getting bashed around too much by the adult sheep and enables the shepherd to concentrate on each batch individually.

The hoggs and geld ewes are held in as they will be clipped (shorn). Hoggs are last years lambs, the replacement females for the flock. Geld ewes are the barren ones, the non profitable creatures who for what ever reason didn't have or rear a lamb this season.

Ewes and lambs are returned to their own cut (heft) on the hill after they have all been dealt with, there is generally a great deal of blaaring goes on and it is truly amazing to sit back and watch them as each ewe and lamb finds each other and trot off merrily to their own little patch on the hill.


Dr Clive Dalton said...

Great to read the Tarset lamb marking news. As an owld Daft Laddie from up the Tyne we also had cock wor lugs te the local lingo when told about an 'owld yowe'. She could be an aged beast, but if she was an 'oweld yowe'- yid bettor git away and cowp her on tiv hor feet, as she'd be on her back. An oweld yowe, and God forbid, an oweld tup could very quickly leave this planet for the bonnie hills up abun!

Am looking forward to many more of the Heord's reports - they are a grand read from doon heor in Kiwi land.

Tarset Shepherd said...

Thank you for that Dr Dalton, hard to believe the Tarset Shepherd is being read down under. Did you ever come across the idea of carrying the shears and if not fit to clip you were to clip out the tail and up onto the rump, towards the hook, that was meant to stop them getting oweld again? Often wondered if it did really work or whether it was just shear luck that they never cowped again. Pleased you appreciated the lamb marking crack.