Well? - Water! Oh, how often that has been the beginning of a foolish few minutes between Shep and the better half as a game of word association ensues. We both have a terrible habit of saying 'well.......' could mean any number of things and more often than not that is the start and finish of the sentence. "Well.........."
"Water", "rain", "puddle", "flooding", "Noah's ark"........................
We're very fortunate here in Tarset, unlike many of our Cumbrian neighbours. Our homes and businesses are not under water, our bridges are still standing. We have a great deal to be thankful for.
Life in Tarset is pretty much waterlogged, quad bikes are leaving black marks across normally dry fields; tractors are making a mess. Sheep driven in to pens are making a mash on the fields; lots of tiny cloven feet digging in to soft ground leave a black trail behind them, until the next deluge when it washes in again.
The blue faced leicester tups aren't too happy being out with the ewes, they have very fine skins and can be seen sheltering behind stone walls away from the driving rain. Some are trying to head for home, especially now that the earlier tupped ewes aren't in need of their services.
Ewes have an oestrus cycle of 17 days, after which the tups are changed around for fear one hasn't worked somewhere. Every farmer and shepherd is herding his ewes with fingers crossed, hoping not too many are coming back to the tups as they don't want the lambing to drag on forever. There will always be the odd one but you truly hope and pray there isn't the activity there was over the first 17days.
The services of the boys are almost obsolete and they are beginning to dream of those sheltered closes/paddocks, or even buildings where cake will be offered in troughs and life will be comfortable.
The hill tups haven't been out very long at all, they are better suited for poorer weather, being a woollier/hardier breed. Some have struggled to get their ewes gathered and tups out. Burns in flood have delayed some hill sheep from being gathered, those that have to cross burns to come in to the pens have had to wait 'till the water ran in. For some the traditional date for releasing the tups was put back a day or two as the driving winds and rain made conditions unsuitable for hassling flocks.
There is no doubt about it November saw very poor stock weather. Sheep are hattered. They had a kind back end and went into tup time and winter in good fettle but weather like we've seen over the past month has trashed them and for all ground is still green and growy looking the flocks will be beginning to take hurt. Tighter woolled sheep will be surviving the wet weather better than those with more open skins, they won't be getting soaked to the skin as easily. You know yourselves how much happier you feel if wearing decent waterproofs and remaining relatively dry rather than being soaked to the skin with out waterproofs on - stock react exactly the same.
Some cattle have been housed and some haven't, there are those who winter out anyhow. Vets are reporting a high incidence of pneumonia in the cattle sheds, not surprising as up until recently the weather was mild and many cattle would be housed wet. Regardless as to whether they were housed wet or not the mild, muggy, damp weather is sufficient to cause pneumonia in the sheds.
All doom and gloom? No, not really, just a fact of life. We have stock in Tarset, it hasn't been washed away down the rivers and thankfully the rain we had over the past month wasn't snow. Don't get me wrong, hard weather is kinder to stock. Snow and frost is kinder stock weather than torrential rain, so long as it is in moderation. Had the rainfall and wind that came with it been snow we really would have had problems.
On that note the first snowfall in Tarset came on Friday 27th November - a dusting on only the highest of ground, with a heavier dusting on Monday 30th November. December came in with a hard frost with -7 recorded at Shep's house. We can cope with weather like that.
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