Monday 12 December 2011

Tups a wandering

The boys are out, doing what boys do best and that ain't talking about football neither or swigging pints, these fellas mean business, they only get a chance once a year so they intend to make the most of it.

Funny old year tho', seems some tups ain't too keen on staying where they're put. Now tups will often wander at second time over because basically most of the ewes will have been covered and the boys start feeling frustrated and looking elsewhere which may also take them elsewhere. First time over you would hope they'd stay where they're put, rake through their ewes and find something worth stopping for.

'Twas the day I found out my leggings were no longer waterproof and I had to look some tups for someone when I found one in a field he was not meant to be in. I was fortunate as I don't ken (recognise) these tups and as it was known that I would have to do odd days they all got marked with the corresponding keel mark of the ewes they would be running with which is a great help to Shep.

So, upon entering a field of 100 + sheep and finding three tups when there ought only have been two I could easily work out which fella had strayed. He had red keel on him instead of blue!

Out on the hill you would shed the fella off with a ewe or two and drive him back to his cut, the ewe or two would eventually head back onto their own home ground and all would be well, I had another field full of sheep to cross before returning him to where he belonged and was busy working out what my best options were. There was a lambing time net not too far away which could be useful, or failing that I could head to the steading and the sheep pens but that was a fair distance. I thought the net was the best plan of campaign and set about shedding him off with bike and Moss.

We got him off the main bunch with about a score (20) of ewes, now that is too many, so we whittled away at them until we were down to just a handful when the opportunity arose to single the fella off. Single off we did.

All credit to Moss, he put in many twists and turns blocking the fellas every move whilst I and quad bike made doughnuts in the field. Moss can be shy to face up to tups, an unfortunate position to be in, he ought to really have the strength of eye but doesn't believe in himself and as a youngster he got hammered in the sheep pens by a swale ewe (of all things), his confidence was crushed and the yellow streak does show every now and again, but in all fairness, he managed the task in hand and eventually I made a pounce off the quad and caught my prey. Far flung from the dog and stick days it has to be said. Moss then flew in and nipped the fellas heels, feeling brave now he was captured! Leaving me to struggle to hang on to the beast!

For a fleeting moment I felt quite proud of our abilities, we'd well and truly got the fella. Champion!

Except...... Now what do I do? It is not unheard of to lift a sheep onto the back rack of a bike and tie her on there, usually something which is poorly or lies down whilst gathering. A ewe is probably about 60kgs and there are times of the year when I struggle to lift them onto the rack (a height of 3') but this was a tup, they're a darn sight heavier than ewes. Oh!

Piddling down with rain, tup and I stood looking at one another, he wanting freedom, me determined I wasn't letting him go. Now I could tie his legs, leave him in a heap and head back to the steading for a trailer. Umm....

There was a rope attached to the rack of the bike and I had a brain wave - tether him to the bike and learn him to lead!
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He didn't seem too impressed with the idea but we persevered, driving along very slowly he was equally as slowly learning to be 'halter' broken
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I don't believe he really appreciated the situation he had found himself in and I'm equally convinced that he never did end up being 'halter' broken but the ploy did work and reunited with his respective ewes he was
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He never once looked back! Fancy that. He took off like the devil himself was on his heels, straight back to the ewes he was meant to be serving.
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I caught up with him again a few days later, relieved to find he hadn't taken any hurt. How do I know this is him? after all he was sharing all these ewes with some other tups which also had a red keel mark on them. Well, you may notice a tuft of white wool on his rump. I had tied a flag to him before letting him off so I could easily recognise him again. A flag? I hear you ask. Pull some wool out of his fleece and tie the end to the end of his fleece, the wool which was nearest the skin is then exposed and is whiter than the rest of the fleece and it sticks up like a flag - a trick I was shown years ago and one I use frequently, especially at lambing time.

That day was eventful to say the least, eventually I headed home with a soggy backside due to non waterproof waterproofs and came upon this sight
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That's one thing about country roads, you just never know what you'll meet around each bend. This isn't a donkey, definitely a sheep, a black leicester tup and he was trotting along the road with a purpose
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He really did look hell bent on going somewhere and as we were nearing the farmyard I hoped he would turn in, leicesters can be notorious for not enjoying inclement weather and I presumed he was heading for a nice warm shed somewhere, but no, he just kept jogging along the road.

Shep found there was no one obviously about the farm yard so commandeered a bike and shot off down the road after the fella, he'd travelled a fair distance by this time and wasn't for letting up. Eventually he was turned and encouraged to return in the direction from whence he had come.
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Once in the farmyard he got his eye on these fellas in a shed, now it was no good putting him in there as a huge scrap would have resulted with the probability that the leicester would have lost so he was housed elsewhere and a note was left explaining my actions.

I found out later that this tup was also still within the 17 day period so really ought to have been kept busy with his ewes. Some who are tupping on the hill are saying they are having a hell of a job keeping their tups at home and blame the strong winds we have been experiencing. Whatever the reasons. Tups are definitely a wandering.