Friday, 7 January 2011

Sheep Update

Posted by Rosie

Just before Christmas we had a bit of an animal reshuffle and whilst many headed to the freezer others headed off for pastures new, namely our two in-lamb ewes. 2010 was a very difficult year for keeping sheep - a long hard winter followed by a hot, dry summer meant there was virtually no grass and we only managed to keep our mini flock going by selling some lambs, slaughtering one ewe and our castrated lamb and feeding the others in what-ever way we could. Various friends let us cut grass for the sheep to eat whilst another friend let us graze the mums and lambs in his orchard - until that was all eaten and they kept escaping - grass is greener on the other side of the fence and all that.

With so little grass the farmer's hay crop was greatly reduced and he was unable to supply us hay; we found some elsewhere but it turned out not to be very good quality and the sheep wouldn't eat it. Rammy was less fussy and being a bully managed to pinch all the best bits at the expense of the pregnant ewes who quickly began to lose condition. We separated them off to give supplementary food which Rammy was decidedly unhappy about, demonstrated by the fact he bashed the gate to pieces and would have had a go at me had there not been a second gate in the way - Grrrrrrrr.


No grass, ewes who wouldn't eat the hay and a ram who had no friend (we had out him in the freezer earlier in the year) and who was in the mood for bashing gates or me, depending who or what was the closest forced us to make a decision - the sheep would have to go.

Luckily not far though, just a few kms away to the friends who we had been in pig-share scheme with. They decided they didn't want to keep pigs over the winter but had the grazing for sheep so we did a swap - our two sheep for their share of the pigs.

This does not however, mean that we will not have sheep - we still have Rammy and would love to find him a new home and we are trying to find him a castrated ram lamb as a friend. Come the spring we will do a swap with our friends again - piglets for lambs and we may even look out for a bottle-fed lamb - they may cost a bit more to feed but what could be better than offering guests in the gite the chance to bottle feed a lamb. At the moment this method suits us best - we have no need to source hay, no shearing to do and it will give our limited grass stocks a bit of time to recover. It'll also be a bit of a relief not to have to go through lambing which last year I found rather stressful. Now I can have all the fun of the lambs and let my friend have the late nights!

3 comments :

  1. A tough decision, bounds like it all worked out for best.

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  2. sounds like the right decision for you

    I love having my sheep - and enjoy their wool etc, but admit its pretty nice not facing lambing this year. certainly is stressful. And i know the girls can handle their being less grass at the mo - as they are not carrying lambs too.

    We are pondering buying store lambs each year and rearing them for hogget. its still an economy, we still know how the animal had its life and what went into it.

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  3. I "know" it's right at the moment but having seen a new-born lamb locally and heard that one of my ewes is due very soon I do miss them. A ram bashing the fence because I'm not giving him his hay quick enough is not quite the same as a new-born lamb.

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