Monday 2 November 2009

Tailing ewes

Shep has been busy tailing ewes. Tup time is fast approaching and many like their ewes to have been tailed - their bikini lines trimmed - ready for the boys being let loose.

The whole idea of tailing is to give the lads an easier access and also to ensure they have less chance of hurting themselves. Since the ewes were clipped in the summer one or two may well have scoured out a bit, causing muck to gather on the wool on their tails, not nice for the boys to have to circumnavigate lumps of muck in their quest to tup the girls. The gimmers will also have bushier tails than the ewes due to the fact they were clipped earlier. Should we get frost or snow at tup time that can also cling to the long wool on the tail and cause discomfort to the tup.

Hill sheep have long tails but the wool is usually only removed around the area of the back end, although some do like to give a brazilian and bare the tail off completely and crutch at the same time, being old fashioned I don't like the look of this but it is thought to make life easier in the spring when the fresh grass can literally run through the ewes and again cause scouring.

Traditionally hand shears are used, more and more farmers are beginning to use the electric machine which makes the tails bristly and so has to be done well in advance to allow the wool to grow and soften before the tups are let out, no point in trying to make their job easier then making them work through the equivalent of wire wool is there?

Anyhow, that's what I've been busy doing for days, 100's of ewes have been tailed, in fact 1,000's. Day in day out bending over at the back end of a sheep removing wool off tails. Now there are fat tails and thin tails, clean tails and shitty tails, tails that wiggle and tails that don't, tails attached to sheep that jump and cause mayhem and then the ones that stand quiet and co-operate, but at the end of the day tailing ewes must be paramount to working in a factory. One of those mind blowingly monotonous jobs which can either leave you blaspheming or daydreaming.................which leads us on to conkers.

CONKERS? yep, I didn't say bonkers, although that is highly probable. There I was tailing swale ewes (bushy tailed characters who weren't enjoying the attention I was giving them) and I began to marvel at the career I had chosen for myself all those centuries ago, one which seemingly meant I spend an awful lot of my time bent over looking at my feet. I was obviously having one of those off days, a lets feel sorry for Shep day - when something hit me on the head - did it knock any sense in? Well no, of course not! It did however get me onto a different train of thought - Conkers!
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I was working below horse chestnuts and on closer inspection of the ground around me, as that being basically all I could see due to my stance, there were conkers all around. Ah! my childhood..... many a happy hour spent along side my cousins hunting conkers and then duly competing with them (somehow mine never survived very long compared to those of the lads), what fun we had.

My musings continued, kids don't seem to be as conker daft as we were, is this due to computer games and DVD's I wondered? Possibly, but also we now wrap kids in cotton wool, I recall hearing or reading somewhere that there are health and safety issues surrounding conkering, it will be deemed un safe for the kids of this generation to partake in such a sport. If that's the case who on earth is going to tail ewes in the future? Hand shears that could stab or cut yourself and electric shears with which you could electrocute yourself? If we worried about all the probabilities we'd never have any fun. It was at this stage that I concluded the conkers had sent me bonkers as obviously I was considering tailing ewes as fun. Thankfully the task for the day was almost over and there was hope my sanity might return.