I am happy to share that last week was a very good week for not only is lambing all-but-over but, we have had rain! I think there was a magician who used a catch phrase, “you are going to like this, but not a lot.” Well we haven’t had a lot of rain, but enough to prompt the grass into active growth. Water, sunlight and warmth are just what the doctor ordered.
Looking at our lambing statistics we look to have achieved a lambing ratio of 1:1.8, a loss rate in the first week of birth of under 5% and, no ‘orphans’ – the first year that we have not had to use the ‘shepherdesses’. It is worth perhaps remarking in this age of contempt for homeopathy our experience of its use remains very positive.
I cannot resist the opportunity to comment on something heard on the radio. Crows were being extolled as beautiful intelligent creatures which we should respect. From our viewpoint, crows are less attractive as, nature is not cuddly and kind. Should a crow find an ewe giving birth, or a weakly lamb, the results are not for the squeamish. We seem in this country to too easily accept a temptation to drop into anthropomorphism. Of course, nature writers have considerable responsibility for this – started perhaps by Anna Sewell. Orwell provides a useful counter-balance.
So, lambing has been much better than last year! Now the task is to minimise lamb losses over the coming weeks. Our ewes had very much better milk this year having gone into lambing in good condition – it seems that the use of an approved mineral drench has made a very real difference.
Though we did have a number of prolapses, no ewe has died, and to-date, the incidence of mastitis has been very low. Apart from the threat of parasites and clostridial diseases to the lambs we now have to watch out for Orf and flystrike.
The lambing area in the barn is now strangely empty and quiet, only the smell of sheep evidences the work of the last four weeks. Antje and Katja gave us 10 days of very valuable support for which we are very grateful. On Monday Thibaut joins us for a couple of weeks – competition across the farm for his time and energy will be fierce!
Some time ago I reported that external ‘word on the street’ was that the supply of would be woofers is dwindling. I am glad to be able to say that this is certainly not our experience; indeed, over the course of the last few days I have to send regrets to five individuals and hopefully, usefully, made clear applications need to come in much earlier in the year if we are not to disappoint. We are limited in the number of volunteers we can take, both by the actual number of beds in the accommodation and, in order to ensure we can give them a good experience of the farm, and of ourselves. If the lunch table becomes too full, we can stretch to two sittings, but three would perhaps be pushing our energy levels too far!
Next week, last year’s lambs will be weighed again and, hopefully a goodly number will be ready for market. We are also in discussion with Fordhall Farm over the sale of some steers. The suckler herd was moved on Saturday and behaved impeccably, despite the movement not being straightforward, while the young stock will be moved in the coming week. So far there is no evidence of the imminent arrival of the fourteen calves we are expecting from the scanning earlier in the year.
With the arrival of some rain, while not so much as to soften the pastures too much, Chris was able to complete the first spraying of 500 over the entire farm. Dates have been pencilled in later in the month for spraying 501 on those fields not yet sprayed. Other tasks identified, aside from repairing fencing, include the spreading of compost on last year’s reseeded pasture now it is empty of stock.
Also in this last week, on behalf of the Stockwood Co-operative, we attended the Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes awards and were very happy to be there to receive an award for the Regional Large Scale Project of the Year! The SCBS shares the award with Earth Source Energy, PJ Hirons and Viessmann. It is good to know that such endeavors are acknowledged in the ‘wider world’.
I must admit that my late-night ventures to the barn to ‘support’ the lambing team have rather cut into my time to contemplate, and indeed any serious reading, though it is hard to value too highly the experience of being out late at night under a sky full of stars with the only sounds being the baaing of sheep and lambs.
However, listening to tracks by The Kingston Trio, while having rhubarb and custard rather late at night/very early in the morning, led me the next day to rummage in my racks of LP’s to see what I might have from that period. Finding an EP of Hoffnung at the Oxford Union which featured some of his best-known stories was a real treat and still caused belly laughs.
Ignoring albums by Buddy Holly, Simon and Garfunkel and Presley, nostalgia really set in when I found some country and western LP’s bought when we lived in Canada. A final treat was to turn up an Eclipse album featuring Campoli playing the violin concertos of Mendelssohn and Bruce. Great music, great playing and the immediate memory recall of hearing the great man ‘in the flesh’ playing in Leamington Spa all too many years ago.