Friday, 21 November 2008
Another farming week.
The fields on the farm are very wet. Although we are at 600 feet asl, the land is quite low lying and is cut through by the beck, so it does tend to retain the rainwater. In some places the limestone is quite near the surface and there is a lot of heavy clay. It is in the gateways that the mud builds up; even if the gates are left open for the livestock to roam at will, they still seem to congregate in the gateways. Last week a friend lost her boot in gateway mud and put her socked foot down to keep her balance and then lost the other boot. She walked back to the farm in her stockinged feet as she didn't want to ge the inside of her boots dirty too!
Wet land leads to foot problems in sheep (if there is anything "going round" sheep will catch it - some say sheep are born to die.) Over the last few weeks an increasing number of Swaledale sheep, which we are over-wintering, have begun to limp badly. They are used to rambling about on the rocky tops in Summer and they are not used to this damp land, but the tops get too bleak and snowy in winter, so they have to come down.
On Tuesday the owners came to doctor them all and we had to get them into the barn, then create a passage where they could be caught one-by-one, drenched and given a pedicure and then released back into the field. All went well and we are hoping that the majority of foot problems will soon be cured (it doesn't happen straight away as often there are abcesses which need spraying with antibiotic.)
Most of the sheep are pedigree Swaledales, bred to keep the breed alive and in the hope of producing a prize-winning ram. But there are also some Leicesters (there is one quite prominent in the photograph, along with some texel ewes. The Swaledales have the characteristic black faces and white noses.) There are also some mules (Swaledale crossed with Leicester ram). Twenty of the best mules were side-tracked into another field close to the farm house. They look very settled and happy there and are awaiting the arrival (although they do not know it!) of a Texel Ram. This should produce "fat lambs" for sale at Auction Mart next year. He will be here any day so watch this space for a photo of him in all his glory.
The last of the eatage heifers have gone now, so all the gates have been opened and the sheep are totally free to roam wherever they like on the farm. As they are used to complete freedom they will be happy with this, although no doubt some will still feel the need to get out. Earlier this week our neighbouring farmer spotted two of his sheep in with ours and with a lot of effort managed to separate and catch them. He popped them into one of our little field barns and went to fetch his dog to take them back to their own flock. In the meantime David heard sheep in the barn and opened the door, thinking they had got in by mistake. It was only as they were joyfully legging it out into the freedom of the field again that he noticed a red mark on their backs (ours are all marked blue) - so they will stay with our sheep for the forseeable future.