Saturday 24 April 2010

Thank the lord for small mercies

That is how I feel at the moment; we need to thank someone for small mercies. Why? I hear you ask. Well, because it’s dry – it’s not raining, that has to be something to be thankful for.

Let me explain.

I did say in a previous post that things were looking up, specifically meaning the weather. We’d experienced a mini heat wave. The ewes had settled on the hill and no longer chased the bike looking for feed. It was short lived.

Temperatures have once again plummeted. There is a strong, bitterly cold wind astir and what little grass there is has a blue look about it. heat would be good, heat with moisture would be even better. Unfortunately where I am it is actually cold enough for snow. Now I can’t speak for Tarset, but as in the past we generally have slightly better weather up here in the Borders than them I can only surmise life ain’t much better down there either.

I am writing this on the eve of the 20th April. The winds are of a northerly aspect and strong with it. I set off to the hill with three base layers on, a fleece jacket followed by waterproof and windproof jacket followed by down filled waistcoat (gilet to posh people) – I’m sure I must resemble the Michelin man. I also don gloves and hat. It’s nearing the end of April and I’m wearing the same as I had on in January – what is life coming to?

I’ve never introduced you to the hill ground yet. There are four cuts of sheep which Shep is responsible for. The Dodlaw, Auld Faulds, Little Heugh and the Crunchylaw. The first three are lambed out on the open hill, the latter being the only cut held in an enclosure to be lambed.

This is the third year I have lambed here and it is interesting to compare the behaviour of the sheep over that duration. The first year was a wet one, Auld Faulds and Little Heugh were lambed in a field, it was exposed to the weather and got quite muddy therefore the following year (last year) I opted to lamb them out on the open hill. They were settled, there was less trouble with pinching of lambs, it was a ‘growy’ type of spring and the ewes were content. This year these two cuts are quite a handful.

Opting to lamb on the open hill once again as the field was bare (no grass) and basically the sheep fare better out on their own ground. They are nowhere near as cooperative as last year. Once the mini heat wave subsided they took to running to the bike once again, causing mayhem amongst any twins which were strong enough to head in with their mothers. (After a few days the twins are walked in off the hill to a field, none of these sheep are pregnancy scanned).

Now these sheep have taken to heading onto the Crunchy Law as the ewes are off there and obviously these two cuts of sheep must think there is more grass on that side of the hill. They really are terribly unsettled. I have thought of barring them into the ‘lambing’ field but then that is so bare of grass it is pointless. I did open it up for them to rake into in the mornings, which was fine for the first couple of mornings; however they’ve taken the top off the field now and aren’t quite so enamoured with the idea as they first were.

Where the hell is the grass? Now you may well have cut your lawns and be wondering what I am rabbiting on about but bear in mind that there is nothing grazing your lawns. The sheep are eating any fresh growth as soon as it is showing, they’re almost standing over it waiting for it to pop it’s head up ready to munch it off as soon as.

We definitely need to be thankful. When it is as cold as it is at least we don’t have driving rain too, even hill lambs could succumb to that.

Talking of which........... I saw the news tonight – on the telly!! It was quite exciting to see the telly again and watch a weather forecast. Anyhow the Scottish news channel had coverage of the bad weather experienced at the end of March beginning of April. There have been many, many lambs lost, and ewes too, amongst the earlier lambing flocks. One farmer in the Peebles area reportedly had two one ton dumpy bags loaded with lamb carcases waiting for the dead cart to collect – heart breaking, another in Aberdeenshire reported losses into three figures. The Scottish Government are subsidising the collection of dead stock and looking in to the cost of the winter to their farmers, it’s good to hear that those in authority take the situation seriously, makes me wonder what the British Government might consider doing for their farmers?