Moving sheep around

We needed to move the Borerays out of the thin field and in to the big field.  This is because we’re about to dig the trenches for a ground source heat pump.  This magic device will use the heat in the ground to give us hot water and a warm house all through the winter (hopefully) but requires us to dig 700m of trench about 1.2m deep.  Now I’m sure the Borerays are clever enough to avoid trenches, but then I wouldn’t want to risk it, especially if they were spooked, and they certainly wont enjoy having a digger in their field.

The problem is that the big field had Muga in it, as well as the adult ewes.  We need to make sure Muga and Haan are kept separate as they will fight, especially at this time of the year, and with their horns it could have a very bad outcome.  Also in that field are Wrath and Avarice, and we needed to keep them in that field to avoid them deciding to camp out near our house to moo loudly for dinner.  While it wouldn’t bother us too much, it’s not great for our immediate neighbours.  Surprisingly, keeping them in the larger field seems to result in less mooing, possibly because they can’t see us as much.  So I had to persuade the sheep through, without being so persuasive that the cows followed.

A bucket of ruminant mix was the ticket.  I shook it and they call came through!  Hurrah thought I, but just as I was about to close the gate Lafite ran back through.  I don’t know why!  I couldn’t chase her back through, and she didn’t seem willing to come even when I backed away.  I’d also run out of feed for them.  I trudged back to the animal restaurant, loaded up with a new bucket load, and headed back out.  I was not going to be beaten by a recalcitrant Soay!

Shaking the bucket resulted in virtually all the sheep mobbing me, which was good, as it included Lafite.  In fact the only exceptions were the Suffolks who were still enjoying the remains of the first bucket I’d spread out.  Muga took the opportunity to show he loved me, by putting his head on one side and wiggling his tongue at me!  It seems to work when he does that to the ewes, but I had to explain how we just weren’t the right match, I mean there’s a species barrier and everything.  Anyway, after that heart to heart, I had to quickly jog across to close the gate, and part one was complete!  I’d left the cows in the field, and also the Soay OAPs – I figure they would rather stay where they are, and I’m sure they’ll be mutually ignored by the Borerays.

Now I just needed to get the Borerays in.  I took a bucket and they followed me the whole length of the field.  Unfortunately they weren’t quite ready to come through the gate, and were further put off when the cows decided that enough was enough and they wanted part of the feed action.  Still, I think I might get the Borerays through next time…

Update – Fencing

One of the things we decided to finally do properly was get some of our weakest fencing sorted.  This meant paying someone to come in and do it professionally.  And he did a truly fabulous job.

One of the things he did differently was in using a slightly different type of mesh.  Most meshes we use have continuous horizontal strands, and then individual vertical strands (though it’s the other way round in this photo!):

What this means is that the vertical strands can be pushed about quite a bit, and it isn’t as robust as it could be.  Our new fencing man uses mesh with complete lines both vertically and horizontally to provide extra strength:

He’s done some great work.  We now have electric stand-offs on both sides, and an electric wire on the top.  This should both stop the cows form leaning against it, and the more athletic sheep from attempting to leap it!  It’s also nice and straight…

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:

Update – Cows – and 200th Post!

This is my 200th post.  It seems only right to use it to mention the cows.

Actually there isn’t much to say.  They’ve been pretty relaxed over the last few months.  As far as I can tell they’re quite happy.  They have an odd relationship with Muga.  When they’re in the same field the three of them hang out together most of the day.  And yet when food arrives and Muga gets a bit uppity, Avarice especially backs away from him and becomes very skittish.  Hours later they’ll be placidly grazing in the same area.

I think we’ve got to a reasonable position with them where they’ll happily come to food, but not if we’re doing anything which might seem out of the ordinary, such as something which might mean catching them.  So we still don’t have a plan to TB test them.  We’ll just need to think upon it more…

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!

Fencing – will we never learn!

This morning we were awoken by a phone call.  It was to tell us that some of our sheep had gone awandering.  Again.  Now this shouldn’t be a huge surprise as they have been getting out recently, but I thought I’d actually found their main egress route, and blocked it.  Sadly I was wrong.

Usually the escapees are the cross-bred boys, with the occasional pure bred Soay.  None of the OAPs wander, I think they’re quite happy where they are thank-you-very-much. This morning the usual suspects had been joined by all the other non-OAPs, for a total of twelve wandering sheep.

We quickly jumped into the car and drove round to where they’d been spotted.  We found them quickly, and I started towards them with my trusty bucket.  Usually they would run towards me, but not today.  They were rather spooked.  I suspect that they’d met a few people out walking their dogs and this had put them in rather a fluster.  Instead we did the human sheep dog thing, and soon had them heading in the right direction.  They’d clearly had enough of an adventure, and were happy to be heading home.  I stayed on after them, both to make sure they didn’t change their minds, and also to see where they’d got out, and within a few minutes they were all safely back in their field.

Recently their method of escape has been to jump over the fence, so I was expecting them to jump back in.  Instead they seemed to walk back in without any real problems.  When I got to that part of the fence I found that a whole section had come loose, and they could just walk in and out.  I was rather lucky the cows hadn’t decided they needed to wander as well!

We got out the fencing supplies and went to work to fix up the fence, and we also took another look at all the other fencing to see what other weaknesses they might be exploiting.  I have to admit that recently I’ve only been looking at where they have been jumping, so have been a bit lax at checking the bottom of the mesh.  It looks like they’ve taken advantage of this and pushed it up in several places, and indeed that’s how they’d freed up the loose section.  An hour or so later, with some judicious use of wooden beams, some random branches and a reasonable number of fencing staples, and I was relatively confident that the fencing would hold our escape committee for at least a few days.

However, I also decided that wasn’t going to be enough.  Clearly those boys would continue challenging the fence, so I needed to do something about it.  They’re actually due to go on holiday fairly soon, so maybe it was time to move them in with the Borerays, who happen to be occupying the pre-holiday field at the moment.  So next job is going to be to move them!

Also, obviously, at some point I’m going to need to get the whole fence on the bottom field redone.  Something else to look forward to.

Muga wipe out

I have recently started a little ritual when I’m feeding the animals, I run towards the area with the cows.  Basically I feed the goats, alpacas and Muga and his ewes, and then run away from them, carrying a bucket of ruminant mix, a bucket of pig feed, and a chunk of hay.  This generally stops them from chasing me and making me pour out more mix for them.  The two worst are Howard and Muga, but both can be delayed with a reasonable pile of ruminant mix.

This morning I poured a load out on the goat tables, and then started my run.  I was halfway to the next field, with just Mouton in front of me when I saw Muga’s shadow creeping up on me.  He then started running alongside me, and started to cut in.  I foolishly thought I could get a few more feet into the field.  Instead he cut across me and I flew to the ground, buckets half emptied around me.

Muga obviously was delighted and started tucking into the ruminant mix, and the Soay ewes joined him.  I was uninjured, apart from my pride.  So I started to scoop up the pig feed, which I duly did, and I managed to get most of it back in.  I also scraped up most of the ruminant mix and put it back in the bucket, though I had to pick out a couple of sheep poos which had got mixed up in the kerfuffle.  I then trudged on my way.  Surprisingly Muga didn’t follow me, but that’s probably because there was still a load of mix on the ground.  The rest of the feed went without incident.

I’m going to have to work out a new strategy to avoid being mobbed.

Alpacas and lambs

The main reason we acquired the Alpacas was to provide protection for our new born lambs.  Alpacas have a reputation for being fox killers, or at least fox scarers, as indeed do llamas.  As far as we know this has worked out well.  We don’t believe we’ve ever lost a lamb to foxes, though one did just disappear a couple of years ago, so that might have been a fox.  Still, the alpacas seem to do their job well.

Often when the first lambs are born the alpacas will go and sit near the mother, and look like they’re keeping an eye out for her.  Sometimes this freaks the ewes out and a little chasing occurs until everyone agrees what appropriate distances are.  All seems well.

We had to leave the house very early this morning, so hadn’t fed the animals at their normal time.  This usually results in much bleating, quacking, clucking and very loud mooing when we return, which is often sustained until we get out there and feed them.  This morning there was a little of that, but also the sound of a happy alpaca.  It’s hard to describe really, sort of like a high pitched squeaky fast bleating sound.  I looked up to see that Algy had managed to mount one of the Suffolk ewes.  It soon became clear that it was in fact the mummy Suffolk, as her lamb was wandering around next to her bleating in confusion.  I did shout at Algy, I mean really, she has enough problems without him adding to them!  I dumped my stuff inside and went back out to do the actual feeding time, by which point the ewe had managed to shake Algy off, and they both came to food without any problems.  Perhaps all was forgiven, or maybe I’d misunderstood the whole situation…

Hungry hungry cows

We’ve put our cows on a little diet due to Wrath’s woes ( ).  This has meant an increase in mooing, and some fussing when we deliver the hay.  At least that was the case until a couple of days ago.

I took the food out in the morning and instead of waiting for me by the fence they were right down the bottom of the field.  Even when they saw me they didn’t gallop over, they were rather more stately in their approach.  I didn’t think much about it at the time.

Later that day I looked over and realised that there was an extra fence between where I was standing and the cows.  This was because they’d broken into the end area with the south facing slope.  They were now gorging themselves on the grass and weeds in that area.  This was a positive in that it keeps the weeds under some control, but negative because it meant the fence had at least one hole in it, and they wouldn’t be losing weight.  On closer inspection it was clear they’d pushed at the fence until it had shredded.

Yesterday we repaired the fence, and put some extra electric fencing in front of it.  The cows have always been cautious around electric fencing so I have some hopes this will keep them out.  On the downside they may well start testing some other parts of the our fencing.

This morning they were back to being attentive when I was delivering the food, if not actually aggressively mooing at me: