Monday 13 September 2010

Lambs away.

I mentioned the wagon was due in, away out bye, to lift the fat lambs and take them direct to slaughter - much work was to be done to get everything ready before the wagon pulled up in the yard. The weather broke, sunshine gave way to rain, sheep were saturated and working conditions were less than perfect. That's life!

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The conditions were really quite uncomfortable, it pissed down, no polite way to describe it really. Rain ran down my face, off my nose and chin end, finally ending up running down my neck and getting soaked up by clothing below - not the best, except....... it was mild which I'm sure was a help, steaming below waterproof gear there was no doubt about it I felt warm!

The shepherd from out bye and myself split up this particular morning. He shepherds a huge patch of ground which possesses two sets of sheep pens, the ones at the home farm he worked in all morning with his helper and the ones two miles further down the road I worked in all morning, again with assistance. We were both doing similar tasks.

Each field of sheep was gathered in. At my end every lamb other than a keeping ewe lamb was shed off along with the old ewes which are getting drafted from the flock. Those which remained were set back out to the hill ground where they belong before gathering the next field in. The wagon wasn't due 'til 2pm so there was little panic, allowing a minute or two to shelter in the hay shed away from the rain.

Finally the pens I was working in were full of lambs and draft ewes which were to be walked the two miles down the track to the 'home' farm.

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Reminiscent of the days of the drovers (which believe you me I can't remember). Drove roads are to be found all over the borders, roads which led to auctions or railway stations. Men on foot or horseback would drive sheep and cattle for miles and miles, often needing to stop overnight somewhere before resuming their journey the following day. Once upon a time all stock was moved in this manner.

The above photo shows the lambs and old ewes being driven a couple of miles, no shank's pony for the 'drover' though just a modern day quad bike. Lambs are notoriously difficult to drive when fresh spaened, they have no adult sheep to lead the way and are capable of panicking and running in all directions. Good dogs are essential to keep them together in a flock and control them. This drive was made easier by the fact the old ewes were with the lambs, some 'sensible' sheep to lead the way and respect the dogs.

The good news was we weren't the only ones to get a good soaking, the weather had been no better two miles down the road!

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There were in actual fact one or two sunny blinks, soggy jackets were discarded for a short while. Soon all became apparent as the muggy, clammy, sticky weather and it's horrendously heavy rain showers were joined by flashes of lightening and brattles of thunder - what a surprise!!

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Eventually all the lambs destined for the wagon were tagged and ready and waiting - all 346 of them, they were run into a shed in an attempt to prevent them from getting any wetter whilst for us dinner was the order of the day.

Draft ewes had their udders and teeth checked, were dosed and sent to respective fields. Store lambs were also dosed and sent into a good grassy field where they ought to improve and freshen up. All this was done and still the wagon hadn't arrived. Flashes of lightening had had me jumping on occasions (I really ought not to have watched a documentary on the TV about lightening strikes!!), once over I concluded it was not wise to be hanging on to the metal chain which Kale was attached to and I wondered if the rubber tyres of the bike would actually save me any - I obviously had too much time on my hands!! I found out at a later date how fortunate we had been, a neighbour just over the hill top had lost two cows which had been struck by lightening. Nature can be harsh at times.

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Finally the wagon appeared over the horizon and it was 'all hands on deck'

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The lambs are run onto the wagon in small numbers, the huntaway dog is a useful addition to help load the wagon. Huntaways bark on command and believe you me if one of those was chasing up my backside barking I too would be running up the ramp into the wagon!

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A four storey articulated wagon was needed to house all the lambs. The lambs are run onto the wagon in small numbers and shut off in compartments within the wagon. This ensures that each lamb has plenty of room around them, plenty of air and there is no fear of them squashing or smothering one another, they have sufficient room to stand or lie down comfortably and find themselves bedded on sawdust so won't have to lie in the slutter that could be made with all the muck and urine that passes through them. A very comfortable journey!

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Finally the wagon is loaded, movement licences are handed over and the lambs are ready to depart. A 2-3 hour journey will see them reach their destination and then they will be history as they say.

Now before you all cringe and ooh and aah, bear in mind that these lambs have had a wonderful existence. Living in a truly beautiful part of the British Isles, they've had a totally stress free life and breathed some of the purest air there is to be found, they have been loaded onto a state of the art wagon and will have a comfortable journey. What more could they possibly ask for?

The beauty of our countryside is due to the livestock which graze it. Head into Scotland and view the unkempt hills to be found in some areas - a stark reminder of what will happen if no sheep are to graze our hills.

Selling sheep for meat is also a necessity , they are what pay the bills, keep the shepherd out bye in a job and myself too. Not only that, but it is some of the tastiest meat you could wish to eat, being naturally fed on heather and herbs it really does bring out the flavour of the area from which they were reared.


Kate and The Irishman said...

Wabbit is inconsolable. He says he knows every one of those lambs by name! He thinks 'everwee wun shud be vegetarweean' and that farmers could still 'gwow wich if they farmed cawotts insted'.

Tarset Shepherd said...

Aah wabbit - if only! Bear in mind little fella that should sheep meat no longer be available wabbit meat could possibly become a decent money making venture for the farmers. Rabbit stew could go down very nicely with chopped carrot of course!

Wabbit said...