Further sheep reductions…

We continue to make progress on getting our flock down to reasonable proportions!  Today we managed to sell three more Soay ewes.

I’d put an advert in a couple of months ago when I was selling the large portion, and one of the people who answered after I’d sold all I’d planned to said that I should contact her if I ever wanted to sell any more Soays.  I was looking at the OAPs and their ewe daughters, and I thought it best to sell the daughters on, as I wasn’t planning on breeding them, and they were too pretty to take on holiday.  So I emailed the nice lady, and arranged for her to come and pick them up today.

Once again I persuaded all of the sheep into one of our fenced off areas.  Unfortunately the cows came in as well, and as we were trying to close down the area Wrath especially started running around and kicking up.  With some deft maneuvering I managed to get Wrath out of the area.  At which point Avarice decided that she really wanted to help us… so she herded the OAPs and their daughters into the area of the hurdles.  With some quick work with the hurdles the sheep were caught, and I managed to persuade Avarice out before she decided to kick up again.

A quick retagging of one of the ewes, an exchange of money and paperwork, and they were on their way, and our flock was another step smaller.  A good day’s work!

The sheep are the ones with stars next to them in this picture:

Sheep Planning

So every year we get to this time of the year and think that we need to separate out the lambs, and move the ewes and Muga around and really get things ready for him to start covering them.  And every year we continue to think about it until around October time, when it’s a little late to do anything about it.

To be fair last year we also had the added excitement of a partially castrated lamb covering the few ewes I did manage to separate out (and I have every hope that this wont recur this year!).

This year, for the first time, not only did we think about it, but we actually did it!  First we caught all the sheep together.  Now as many previous posts have asserted, this isn’t always an entirely easy thing to do.  However we have a new technique.  First of all we get the lambs used to coming into the two fenced areas next to the animal restaurant over a couple of days. Then on the day we need to catch them we close the gates on them while they’re all eating away, and shepherd them into one of the two areas.

This is where we’ve added a new technique to our arsenal.  We get a while bunch of sheep hurdles and create a line across the area, and make sure they;re all on one side.  And then we walk the line of hurdles until we have them in a nice tight area.  It takes a while, but it works brilliantly, and keeps them fairly calm while we’re doing it.

The other challenge with separating the ewes from the lambs, is that the ewes will follow us, and the feed bucket, without trouble.  The lambs however are a lot less excited about it.  So today when we separated them out, we left all the lambs (and the OAPs) in the area surrounded by the hurdles, and separated out the ewes and Muga.  We then led them into the other field by simply carrying a bucket of feed in front of them.  It was then easy to close the gate, and the separation was complete!

Muga is now in with three Mules, four Suffolks, three Soays, and Luke’s sister.

All of the lambs, both last years, and this years, and the OAPs are now in the home field, with the cows and the Alpacas.  This means I should be able to catch them when it’s time for them to go on holiday, or if I manage to sell some more.  Which is great!

Lafite’s Horn

A couple of months ago I saw Lafite coming to food, but holding back from the other sheep.  It was while we were trying to round up the Mules and Suffolks for their maintenance, so I wasn’t too bothered until I got a bit closer and realised that there was blood on her head.  I tried to get closer but she was even flightier than usual.  The blood was coming down from the base of her right horn.

I kept an eye out for her over the next few days, and while she wouldn’t let me get close to her, and wouldn’t come for food, she seemed OK, and there was no repeat of the blood.  I assumed all was fine, until a week later.  She turned up with just a single horn.  No blood, and she was absolutely fine, if anything she was less flighty and I managed to get within a couple of feet of her.  I think the horn had just been held on by the scab or something.

Still she’s oblivious to her loss, and doesn’t seem to being treated any differently by the rest of the flock.

Update – Sheep

The sheep numbers have been particularly on the increase in the last year, peaking at around eighty this year.  For us to be successful in reducing our animal numbers we’d need to do two things:

1) Get last years lambs off on holiday.

2) Reduce the number of ewes we have.

The first was relatively challenging.  With the numbers as they were the sheep were far less biddable than in previous years.  A bucket or two of feed wasn’t getting to all of them, and the most flighty lambs were never getting addicted to the sweet sweet nectar of ruminant mix.  After some effort I did manage to catch ten of them, get them into the horse box and off to the holiday home.  (They were very tasty).  We still have some left which need to be dealt with, but that requires some maneuvering and acclimatisation.

Getting rid of the ewes was in some ways a little trickier, as we needed to find someone who wanted to buy them.  In the end however that bit wasn’t too bad.  The Soays are popular and a lot of people want to buy them, even if they aren’t registered.  I managed to sell two of the older Soay ewes fairly easily, and then found a buyer for the remaining ewes I wanted to sell, and also many of the lambs.  This was great, I was going to be able to offload twenty odd sheep in one go.

The plan was to round the sheep up in the channel between the pigs, and then load them up in the trailer and deliver them.  The morning came round, bright and cheerful, and Alex and Sue were ready to help me load them up.  I enticed all but five of the sheep into the channel.

And then I got greedy.

Instead of booking that as a win and closing the gate, I tried to persuade the others in.  Disastrous idea as the rest then decided it was fishy and ran out.  We then spent about an hour and a half running around trying to persuade them back in.  Eventually we managed to get eight into the channel, three ewes and their lambs.  And that’s what we took.  I was completely knackered.  But we agreed we’d aim to take the rest about a week later.

For round two I decided two things, a) I was not going to be greedy, b) I was going to acclimatise them a bit more.

Then something happened, the old Soay OAP ram died.  The last of the rams.  It was sad to see him go as he’d been a friendly old boy, and while he’d been looking a little doddery for a while, he was still going strong.  Then one day he didnt come for feed, and I went to find him and he was dead.  I think he’d woken up that morning, and decided it was a good day to go, and then just slipped away.

What this meant was we could now mix the flocks, as Muga wouldn’t have someone he’d have to fight.  This also meant I could use the proper sheep catching area by the animal restaurant.

The day of the second delivery cam, and I managed to entice all but the hard-core OAPs into the areas.  I then closed them down (not being greedy this time), and sorted out the sheep.  Some crutching was required, and a few replacement tags, but it wasn’t too much hassle.  A mere hour after starting I had fourteen or so ewes and lambs loaded up to take for the second delivery, and off we went.

We still have three ewes I want to sell (the OAPs progeny from last year), and quite a few which need to go on holiday, but we’re back below fifty sheep like creatures, which is definite progress!

OAPs (plus interloper):

Mules (White face on left):

Who’s the Daddy?

Our OAP field was not supposed to produce any lambs this year.  So far we’ve had six.  I’ve been blaming them all on the one ram lamb who I failed to fully castrate last year.  However, I think I may have assumed a little too much.

One of the lambs born last week was this one:

The lamb looks awfully similar to this old character:

Docking Soays – Not Needed

Since we had our first set of lambs we’ve endeavoured to castrate the males and dock tails.  The castration is to reduce aggression in the flock, and allow us to keep the flock together longer without the risk of unplanned pregnancies.  If we didn’t castrate we’d be taking the boys at about eight months, which certainly for our Soays would be far too young.

We’ve also always docked, which is to reduce the risk of fly strike.  We’ve lost a few sheep to fly strike over the year nonetheless, and it’s horrible.  reducing the likelihood of a fly strike is a definite priority (and to that end I’ll be spraying the flock shortly).

When we got the Soays we just added them into the same routine.  I wait for a day before catching them, docking the girls and docking and castrating the boys.  Their tales tend to be shorter, so I’ve only ever been taking off a centimeter or two, but thought it was probably helping.  I’ve recently been told this isn’t necessary, and some investigation on the internet seems to confirm that they are considered short-tailed and don’t need to be docked.  So I will stop docking them!

Lambs, Some Bad and Quite a Lot of Good

Over the last few days we’ve had some ups and downs with the sheep.  As mentioned earlier Duchess unfortunately left us.  We also lost another lamb, the Suffolk/Soay cross born last week.  He was fine for a couple of days, and then one morning I found him dead.  His mother was sitting with him, but he was gone.

On a more positive note we’ve had three more Soay pure breeds born, one singleton, and earlier today a pair of twins.  Here are the twins, their mother having, as is often the case with the Soays, taken herself away into the bushes to have them.  She was not at all interested in letting me get any closer.

So our stats for the year are:  16 living lambs, 8 girls, 6 boys, 2 to be determined.

Heavy Soays

I managed to get a couple of good snaps of one of our Soay ewes.  Given how slender they normally are, you can see two definite bulges, one on either side.  It doesn’t mean she’s carrying twins, but I think it does mean she’ll drop soon.  I also noticed that the ewe Mule in with the Borerays has now got a full milk bag, which means she’ll probably drop in the next few days as well.  Second wave of lambs are a-coming!

RIP Soay OAP Ram

Another one of our OAP Soay Rams died yesterday.  He’d been looking particularly doddery for the last week or so, and had clearly lost quite a bit of condition.  He was getting pushed around quite a lot during feeding, and he even fell over a couple of times.  However, he was still getting in there, and chomping away quite happily on the food when he got it.  He also wasn’t particularly scared of me, unlike the others, so if I hovered near the food he’d be the only one getting any!

That leaves only one of the OAP Soay Rams left, though he still looks relatively sprightly at the moment.

I’ve arranged with the hunt to come and pick him up.  They’re usually very good and should pick him up before the end of the day.  This means that I’ll have a certificate showing that I’ve properly disposed of the poor old ram, something the nice people at Defra/Animal Health insist on.