The hill tups are on the rake. I had a phone call with a shepherd from over the border on Monday lunch time, he'd spent all morning hunting his tups out; the first cut of sheep he came to on the hill had the wrong tup with them, he continued expecting to find he'd swapped with his neighbour and travelled to the adjoining cut of sheep. No, there was no tup there either, or the next cut. He gathered four cuts and found one tup.............
Even more frustrating was the fact this was day 16, the tups were wandering a tad soon really. After the 17 days you expect them to set off in search of a ewe to tup as you'd hope there would be very little choice for him by then, these ewes had caused trouble a day or two sooner than they ought of.
Were the tups ever found? Dunno! But they would be, a shepherd doesn't settle 'til he gets his tups back to their respective places.
Some hill farms don't have sufficient field ground to allow them to tup their ewes 'in-bye' - in an enclosed area - many are still tupped out on the open hill which necessitates daily herding, gathering every cut (heft) of sheep up to a) ensure the tup is there b) make life easier for the tup to find the ewes which require his services c) to enable the shepherd to cast an eye over the flock and get an idea of whether or not the tup is working properly and that he hasn't done himself a mischief.
Once second time over comes in (the second 17 day cycle) the tups are changed, just in case! you may think the tup appeared to be working well, however, if he hadn't you really don't want him left out with the ewes for a further 17 days, he is replaced, if possible with a fresh sheep who hopefully will work and catch any of the ewes which come back a tupping.
Out on the open hill second time over can be hard work for the shepherd, tups aren't content with small talk from the ewes, they want action and if it's not forthcoming on their doorstep they'll go looking for it and may wander a long way in their desire to search out a willing female. It was not unheard of for a shepherd to come in for lunch in the mid afternoon when herding on foot, the missing tup on the first cut materialising on the last cut of the hill and having to be driven back to where he was meant to be stationed, a lot of walking to keep the tups in their respective places, necessary though to ensure you know how your lambs are bred.
So, Tarset hill tups are into second time over, hopefully not too many ewes are seeking their services. Farmers and shepherds alike are waiting with baited breath to see how many ewes come back to be served, there'll always be an odd one, lets hope that's how it remains. Come the start of the fresh year the tups will be brought in, services required or not their job will be finished, just as you like to know when the lambing is due to start you also like to know it is going to end.
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