The Owl and The Pussy Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful 'red and white'(!) boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar, 'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are!What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Edward Lear

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sixth day

Tuesday started fairly normally. Farmers wife walked across the yard towards me holding a lamb and gave me instructions to turn out all the Suffolks into the 'lower side the lane'. I knew where she meant, but I don't always. All the fields have names, and with several people working on a farm and sheep being separated into different groups it's easy to see why fields develop names. It can get tiresome saying the second field along the track on the left, and is much easier to say big field/two acres/three corners or whatever the field name is. Because I only work on the farm for a few weeks a year I don't always remember the names of the fields, so sometimes they do have to tediously explain which field they mean.
I turned out about 10 ewes. Only two followed well, the rest had do be driven along the track with a lamb tottering along behind, but none were as difficult as Mondays ewe thank goodness. One of the reasons these ewes are more difficult is that they are relatively young ewes. I think this is only their second or third lambing, so being in small pens and in such close proximity to people is still quite stressful for them. In a few more years they will relax into it and be a bit easier. Mind you they are a LOT easier now than in the first year they lamb. The first year is utter chaos with many of them doing standing jumps out of pens with sides up to 3 or 4 feet high. There is no chance of them following lambs so they all have to either be loaded into trailers or driven as a group (more about that later!) of ewes and lambs together.
Below is one of the young ewes. I have been calling them Suffolks, but actually they are Mule/Suffolk crosses.  This one has a few white patches on her face which she got from the mule. A pure Suffolk would have a jet black face and a more prominent roman nose.
The farmer bred these himself a few years ago, and if you look closely you can see she has a notch out of the bottom edge of her right ear (left side as you look at her). I can remember the farmer notching the ears of all the nice strong ewe lambs that were twins. I can also remember helping him put ear tags in them when they were old enough to be separated from their mothers and brought into the flock as replacements. I like this feeling of continuity I get when I notice things like this. The yellow tag on the right (her left ear) is one of the new electronic ear tags.

I then got on with doing the pens which is easier when some are empty, but was called away half way through to help the farm lad (who only left school last year) separate the singles out. As I said before the singles are left out in the field. But when there are enough of them, usually a trailer load, they are separated out. This is possible because ewes with small lambs will stay by their lambs, and ewes without lambs will run away to the other side of the field. Obviously it's not quite that simple, and some with big lambs will run with the crowd, and some without lambs will insist on breaking away. So, with much running about and shouting and waving arms at sheep and shouting at the dog we finally separated them.
When herded sheep will normally just stick together in one neat bunch and run at high speed away from people, dogs etc. It doesn't work quite like that with ewes with small lambs. Someone once commented that it's like herding cats. A lot of ewes are intent on simply staying with their lambs rather than running. The lambs are mainly intent on staying next to anything that looks like a sheep and can't differentiate between one ewe and another, or a human. Also, if the badly behaved dog insists on trying to round them up then  ewes will simply stand to face the dog, guarding their lamb and stamping their feet.
After some time we got a dozen ewes and lambs across the field and down the track. The farm lad was rather fed up with sheep by the end!
And I've had enough of typing now. I looked out for the dead lambs/prolapsed ewe but I'm afraid she was lying next to the other dead one in the yard, so obviously didn't last long.

1 comment:

  1. Love all the details - about the farm, the behaviour of the sheep, your thoughts and feelings.