A slower start today. There are lots of ewes and lambs with numbers on this morning so it's a mixture of pen bedding/haying/watering and turning out. Turning out, in it's easiest form, consists of picking up the two lambs by their front feet, one in each hand, so their back feet are dangling on the ground, walking out of the shed across the yard and into the appropriate paddock. The ewe follows closely behind, often muttering 'oh my babies, oh my babies'. A particularly devoted mother will skip about and run round me in circles, barging into me and sometimes almost knocking me over. As I said before these are BIG sheep.
Aside from being almost knocked over the other problem is that the ewes won't always follow. I had about 8 to turn out today, and there were a few difficult ewes this morning who just stood there in the pen saying 'my babies, my babies, where are they? They were here a minute ago'. So I had to take the lambs back into the pen and lower them to the floor so that they looked more like lambs so the ewe would then recognise them. I then had to walk slowly out of the pen again, bleating like a lamb, and the ewe would then, slowly, a few steps at a time follow me. One followed as long as I walked slowly and bleated a lot, one dashed back to the pen saying 'my babies, my babies, where are they,they were here a minute ago'. So then I had to resort to a different technique. This time I put one of the lambs down and tried and drive the ewe and lamb together in front of me. It doesn't always work brilliantly because very young lambs (these may only be 2 or 3 days old remember) have little fear and aren't much inclined to run, particularly not in a straight line. Fortunately today the ewe was a keen runner and it was just a case of keeping close enough to catch the lamb once they were near the field gate (one handed, remember as I still had the other lamb in one hand), and steer it into the field, reunite all three and off they go. I did manage to sneak a few pictures today. Here is 23 in her pen
'Doing pens' is easier when they are empty, but carrying lots of lambs about makes my shoulders ache, so I interspersed the two jobs. When I'd finished that lot I bedded the main lambing pens with straw, then went into the farmhouse for coffee.
Our next job was to go 'fencing kale'. During the winter the farmer grows kale to fatten the autumn lambs and any lambs leftover from the summer. They are strip grazed behind electric fencing so that they eat every scrap off each patch and don't waste any which they would if left to roam about over the whole field. So one of the winter jobs is to move the electric fence every 2 or 3 days. This is not a popular job. The kale is quite tall and often wet, so waterproof leggings are necessary. The sheep are usually hungry so you have to move fast to keep ahead of them. The wire gets tangled, catches on the kale tops and comes detached from the posts. Apart from that I quite like the job as it's satisfying when it's done, it usually involves a relaxing ride and chat in the landrover, and it's a nice change of scenery from being in the main farmyard all day.
This is the view over Exeter from a gateway near the kale field. Not a bad view from work eh?
spell check didn't like leapt either Belinda, but you knew what I meant so I'll give up!