Friday, 19 February 2010

Spring is in the air

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Thought I'd share this with you all. I'm a bit late in getting the photo as this lamb is now a month old, didn't have the camera last time.

When the weather picked up in mid January Shep's first port of call was to get over to Cumbria to dose and copper a flock of sheep. I have known this particular farmer all my working life, we met initially at Galloway cattle sales, he bred them and I went with the boss looking to buy them. When I ended up self employed he found out and duly employed me to assist with his flock.

When I turned up in January he was telling me he was soon to have his eightieth birthday, which did surprise me somewhat. Anyhow, I went off to gather one lot of sheep whilst the farmer stood on the road to stop the traffic and turn the ewes in the right direction. As I entered the field I could see the lamb with it's mother at the far side and said "see you've got a lamb". It fell on deaf ears (quite literally), I raised my voice and repeated the utterance to get the reply "Er, Aye" which basically meant he had heard me but had no idea what I had said.

However, once we had the sheep in the pens and we were at close quarters with them the elderly farmer said "there's a lamb! I've no idea how that happened" I couldn't help but laugh and have a bit leg pull " If you don't know how that happened at your age there's no hope for any of us!"

Obviously the farmer had meant he did not know how a tup had managed to have access to one of his ewes but it did amuse me for the rest of the day! What is it they say about simple minds........?

The lamb looked far cuter a month back, being only a matter of days old it was like a breath of fresh air after all the snow we had been battling through. Mathematics showed the ewe would have been tupped in August.

Anyhow, as said, I was back there to inoculate the flock prior to them lambing, they are due in the third week of March - slightly earlier than around here. They are actually meant to be lambing at Easter as the farmers grandson was to take time off work to lamb them - the dates for Easter must have got mixed up as they are going to be a fortnight into the lambing before Easter arrives, I'm told this was due to a 'senior moment'!

This farmer in Cumbria has always enjoyed his sheep and loved his Galloway cattle. In 2001 when foot and mouth ran wild throughout the country the farmers in this particular area were told to have their sheep culled in order to try and keep their cattle safe. It was a couple of years before sheep were re introduced onto this farm, by this time the farmers son had taken the helm and really did not like sheep, however his father did and couldn't help but get some more.
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Having always had Greyfaced ewes that is what was bought back onto the farm. Greyfaced ewes are the same as what we call Mules except these are the cumbrian version and are out of the Swaledale ewe to the bluefaced leicester (there are many in Northumberland the same way bred and we still call them mules).

Anyhow, after a year it was decided to reintroduce a few more sheep, the farmer had heard of Lleyn sheep (pronounced Clin (I think)), these are a welsh breed and meant to be an 'easy care' breed which encouraged the farmer to give them a go. The sheep which he bought seem to have many variations of the type but basically they are a mid sized, white, tight skinned creature.
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These photos give you a vague idea of the beasts, you might also note the tup in the fore ground. I said in an earlier blog I'd met my first Berrichon de Cher tup, well, this is he. Just a tup hogg at the moment and it will be interesting to see what he breeds like.
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The Lleyns are not such prolific breeders as the Greyfaced ewes and are apparently lazy when they lamb. Having been crossed with a Texel in past years the lambs are often very short but the ewes seem to share this tendency, so it's not likely to be the fault of the sire.

It is refreshing to work for a farmer, now in his eighties, who is still trying new ideas - it gives us both something to look forward to and discuss. I wont be back there 'til well after lambing time but I will be looking forward to seeing the lambs off these 'strange' sheep.