Monday, 17 May 2010

Off with the Winter Woollies!

Mid May and it is time for our sheep to take off their winter coats and get ready for summer. From this winter woolly look:

To this dare to bare summer number:

It is quite a transformation and not surprising that the poor lambs did not recognise their new look mums. It took several minutes for each lamb to be convinced that there hadn’t been a sneaky mum-switch operation in progress!

We have a new shearer this year.

His name is Harry, he lives locally and he arrived with all the requisite shearing equipment – holding pen, super duper shears and, we noted, even specialist footwear...


These sheep shoes are made in New Zealand (of course) out of sheepskin which apparently is less slippy than manmade soles when there is a lot of lanolin around. The ruched fronts help the shearer grip onto the sheep and the flat soles reduce the incredible pressure on your back when you are bent over for hours shearing sheep.

The flock was rounded up into our pen and then brought into the holding pen to wait for their turn. It is always fascinating to watch as it is a highly skilled job. Many shearers, like Harry, do demonstrations at country shows.

Although it is not very warm at the moment, we were delighted to get the sheep shorn as we are increasingly concerned about the incidence of Fly Strike in the area. Indeed the shearer told us that this was the first flock he had visited that had not been affected by this horrible disease (basically, flies lay their eggs in faeces around the sheep’s tail, then the maggots burrow into the animal’s skin resulting in a very nasty infection). It is far less likely that this will occur if there is no matted wool on the sheep.

We have decided to send all our wool to the Wool Marketing Board. We collect it all up in an official “wool sheet” (which is less a “sheet” than a large, smelly white sack) and the WMB collect it. They pay a market rate for all the usable fleeces they receive. However, as cotton and synthetic fibres are now so popular, the price of wool is very low and is it unlikely that we will even recoup the cost of shearing when we finally receive a cheque from the WMB. Indeed our wool is worth even less than average because it is black and has to be dyed white before it can be used in any way.

We also have a lot of off cuts and a bag of white wool that we will store away for our various craft projects. We learnt that the Black Welsh Mountain wool is unusually hard to spin because the sheep are so small and the wool relatively short, the fibres do not bind together easily. We are still pining for a woolly jumper made from our own wool – but as none of us have managed to spin a single piece of yarn yet and there is not a knitter in the household I think that may remain an unfulfilled ambition for a while yet. This year’s wool projects will be: trying to make felt and creating a decent sized woollen rug on the peg loom.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

What a busy week...

Well it's been a very busy week for the Tiny Farmers and we've had all sorts going on and the highs and lows that go with that. The one thing we've not had is time...

It started last Thursday with one of our Highland cows separating itself from the rest of the herd, it had a nasty cough and quite laboured breathing. We called the vet out first thing on Friday morning and tried to catch the cow in the field as we had not had time to build the cattle holding pen yet. The cow certainly wasn't sick enough to allow itself to be caught. The vet said that he had seen cattle in a worse state and thought there would be time to get the mobile cattle pen on Saturday morning and treat it then. He left us with 4 injections for the cow. We set out early Saturday morning to collect the mobile holding pen and load it up. We arrived at our fields with the pen only to find that the cow had died already - a real shame and we only wish we could have done more to save it. The rest of the herd have now all started with a slight cough and we'll be giving them all some medicine to stop the respiratory virus in its tracks. Fingers crossed!

We've also had an orphaned lamb that has been taking up some time. Unfortunately the mum did not want to feed the lamb and we've had to step in and bottle feed it. It needed a jab of medicine on Sunday as it too was not well - luckily it looks like the lamb has now turned the corner and is starting to put on some weight and is running around again. The lamb has started having some creep feed which is great news. We'll wean it off the bottle at 1 month old.

So that's it - never a dull moment... will get some pictures up soon.

Tiny Farmer out