Monday, 16 April 2012

Weaning Day

The new handling yard at Milkweed is working. All but my grumpy ewe went into the enclosure this morning. I soon changed her mind, by chasing her down with the Land Rover until she relented and joined the rest of the flock.

The lambs and the half breeds have stayed at Milkweed. I moved the ewes to graze some better grass, as part of their pre-natal care regime. A few weeks of ovine binge-eating is supposed to produce a metabolic response in their reproductive system: food is abundant so release extra eggs. I hope the end result will be more twins and even triplets in autumn. This year, after the ram's visit, I'm going to have the ewes scanned so I know - in theory - what I can expect.

Enjoying a break from motherhood

Unfortunately, this year is turning into a sinister crap shoot for all farmers with sheep, goats, or cattle. We've been hit in the UK with a new disease called the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV). It's spread by midges from Europe. Infected animals show almost no clinical signs of infection, and the farmer only knows she's got it when the lambs and calves are born with terrible deformities. As yet, there is no vaccine available. We're all just holding our breath and hoping that our own crops of babies will be spared. Maybe they should have named it the King Herod Virus.

My 4 p.m. pheasant egg collecting job is looming, but after the eggs are all washed and trayed, I'll drive over to Milkweed and check on the now-weaned lambs. It can be a distressing process for mums and offspring, but neither group was complaining, even when they were initially separated into trailer and shed, respectively. The lambs were way past due for weaning. I expect the mothers closed the milk bar weeks ago, when their now sizeable offspring lifted them off the ground while trying to suckle.

If all's well with the sheep and there's still enough daylight, I'll fit in a evening's deer stalking. And I really need one - we have only scraps of venison left in the freezer. In fact, I had to buy stewing beef from the butcher's today, which felt all kinds of wrong. Mind you, when you see how the beef animals are kept -

Outside, in a herd, rotated regularly onto fresh grass, being raised on their own mother's milk for a long period of time - it's hard to feel too badly about buying beef.

This is part of our neighbour's herd of suckler cattle. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him next calving too.

1 comment:

Terry Scoville said...

Wow, sorry to hear about the new disease...from Midges? Crazy, I'll hope for the best for you and your Ewes. Time for a deer stalk indeed!