sheep

ShetlandxRyeland fleeces, FF07

Welcome to the Flock! 

Our initial eleven sheep (ten ShetlandxRyeland ewes, in glorious technicolour, & a handsome, sweet-natured Greyface Dartmoor ram) arrived in September 2006, to act as unofficial lawnmowers & to precede the ‘Fat Four‘ ponies in whatever fields they were scheduled to graze.  Further, it was anticipated that said sheepies (& their lambs) should provide an additional, delicious supplement to our reasonably self-sufficient diet.  

They were turned out straight away onto fresh, good n’green grass, in preparation for tupping; which commenced around the end of October as the weather turned noticeably colder. 

Subsequently, our very first ‘new arrival’ on the Ffarm was a robust little ewe lamb, dubbed BeeOrchid (short for ‘BBC’) as she was born on 22nd Febrauary 2007 whilst the ‘Beeb’ were here to film an episode of ‘Escape to the Country’ with our new-found friends, Sue & Allan (although sadly it seems our ovine antics ended up on the cutting room floor, as the resultant footage has never actually been aired).  

The weather that day was atrocious; & we were just about to start shooting some wittily elegant dialogue in front of a roaring fire in the parlour, when the telephone rang – Janet, offering congratulations on the birth of our very first lamb!  I immediately rejected the notion as from what we could deduce, no squalling balls of woolly fluff should be due for at least another fortnight; however her husband John had been out walking the dog & had happened past our fields; thus spotting a shivering little bundle which was huddled against the ravages of the frigid, driving rain with one very surprised ewe standing close by not to mention the rest of the shocked flock at a suitably safe distance!

Tony & I abruptly requested a ‘commercial break’ & hurried out to the barn to gather armfuls of straw,with which to hastily furnish our recumbent lambing shed. 

Delighted camera crew in tow, we then made rapid, slippery, stumbling haste up the hill to Parc Dan Fordd – one of our highest pastures – where we found said lamb just attempting her first shaky steps. Ironically we had been intending to bring the sheep down to the security & warmth of the lambing shed, the following day; but evidently BeeOrchid had decided she fancied being a TV star!

Meanwhile ‘poor’ Tony seemed intent on gaining a rapid female fan club; alas (hee hee) if only they’d seen him in action on TV – one minute the manly but tender shepherd, gently gathering said shivering little lamb into his muscular biceps & carrying her down the inclement hill & into the cosy warmth of the barn, dutifully followed by the rest of his flock faithfully in tow; & the next, with smiling ruddy cheeks shining in the glow of firelight & with the honest exertion of working the land, pulling a perfect loaf of wholemeal home-baked Welsh bread (mine!!) out of the Rayburn’s oven, fresh for the cameras.  Hrrrumph.

Anyway, having placed ‘mum & baby’ in a quiet corner pen on their own under the newborn lamb matriarch’s watchful, beady eye, I vigorously rubbed the soaking, scared little bundle until she was warm, fluffy & dry after which I carefully ensured she’d enjoyed a good hungry suckle of colostrum from her mother’s udder, then – after submitting to her mum’s thorough cleanly attentions, I judiciously sprayed the little one’s navel with iodine to protect her against any threat of infection. 

I’m delighted to report the little lamb was none the worse for her stormy entrance into the world; & indeed, as predicted, no further lambs were born for a full fortnight – giving BeeOrchid a lonely, play-starved two weeks – although she & Tony had great fun playing ‘chase’ until even more woolly Welsh friends arrived for her amusement!

Surprisingly – & somewhat fortuitously – the sheep thereafter had only single lambs rather than the twins we’d anticipated; bringing the total flock tally by mid-Spring to ten ewes, a ram & eleven lambs.  We inevitably had to deal with a couple of cases of entropion (where the lamb’s lower eyelid turns inwards which causes discomfort & distress to the unfortunate little creature as the lashes continually scratch the eyeball); but after a careful lesson from the vet on the delicate art of injecting into the sac of fluid beneath the eye – thus pushing the lashes back into position – I was deemed capable to deal with any other cases, myself; thus I successfully saved some scratched lenses, as a result.  (Although admittedly it is one of the most tricky & nerve-wracking procedures I’ve ever been trusted to carry out; I could never be a vet & therefore hugely admire our fabulous local practice!).  But a few months on & you’d never even realise those lambs would ever have had any problem whatsoever.

To our amazement, MacDougal the Ram has firmly asserted his gene stamp on each & every lamb born to the flock: we were expecting multicoloured, all shapes-&-sizes lambs; instead, we have a variety of ‘mini-me’ clones sporting lustrous coats the same as their Dad, who has some of the best wool ‘clip’ we’ve ever seen; over which the local shepherds waxed much lyrical (so if any lambs have to be culled this year, we’ll get the most magnificent fleecy skins; having long, warm, curly coats – perfect for burying your toes into, when clambering out of bed on a brisk winter’s morn)!

We had a few ‘interesting’ lambings from the maiden ewes – but by & large it was an uncomplicated affair with little intervention required.  Tony witnessed one rather laboured – err, labour whilst I was hurrying home from doing the monthly shopping; the same occurred for me too, leaving me alone & worried at the bottom of a fox-ridden field when the ewe just decided she was ‘too posh to push’!  However all was completely well & the resultant lamb – ‘Bogbean’ – is such a fine little chap that he may yet take his place in our wee hierarchy as a working ram. 

And we have one memorable birth captured on film by our friends Neil & Michelle, with me grasping the ewe’s front end & Tony grimly hauling away on the ‘bundle of joy’ at the back – an absolutely enormous lamb who positively thrived & is almost bigger than Dad, already!  I think however the miracle of new life was lost a bit on little Lucas, who can be heard throughout said documentary complaining that his welly is coming off.  As we who have goats all-too-frequently find ourselves uttering these days, “Kids, eh?!”

Incidentally for any up-&-coming smallholders who are interested in ‘cutting their teeth’ with an established flock of rare-breed-cross, easy-care, colourful sheep; we’ve come to the painful & difficult decision that in order to make a success of our core business – goats – we really will have to downsize, in other areas. 

Subsequently, our foundation flock of ten young ShetlandxRyeland ewes plus our ‘honey’ of a Greyface Dartmoor ram, is regrettably for sale.  We really are reluctant to sell – therefore we absolutely insist they move only to a good, personally-vetted home: because these dear animal compadres have taught us so very much about good animal husbandry.  

And don’t you believe what they say about ‘stupid’ sheep: every one of our ewes has her own individual personality – & the lovely MacDougal is unfailingly, an absolute sweetheart (‘cariad’) of a ram who stamps exceptional fleece & a really meaty carcase, on his thriving progeny.  Our flock is trained to the bucket so a schooled sheepdog would not be required (let’s face it, poor Nanuk would addle her brain even in the attempt right now!) – but prospective caretakers must simply foster love for a rather eclectic bunch of eccentrics who have given us much pleasure & fun but who now need the opportunity to encourage new owners to ‘take the plunge’ & learn the stress-free art of keeping sheep with an easy, relaxed & established flock. 

Anyway, if you’re interested in our fabulous flock please do email us at ffarmfach@tiscali.co.uk for more details.

 

4 Responses to sheep

  1. Nancy Hope says:

    Hi Guys! My husband and I live in upstate N.Y. with
    similar size flock of sheep that you had. Ours is a
    pretty blend of hair and wool types. I just went to
    check in on the lambs and see one of our sets of
    twins has entropion. I believe my husband once injected lower lid with fluid that worked. Would like
    to try something else, any suggestions???
    Do you too have your seed packets out today to
    start your seedlings, you must have a son of a short
    growing season! Thank you, Nancy
    p.s.love your site

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hiya Nancy,

    thanks for stopping by & glad you’re enjoying your visit to our ‘Ffarm’!

    In answer to your question about entropion, we inject an Engemycin 10% solution into the inside of the affected lower eyelid; I presume you could also use Alamycin as it’s pretty much the same stuff although always, check with your vet of course.

    I know some smallholders do just apply a thick line of eye ointment such as Opticlox inside the lower lid, as an alternative, less invasive treatment; however our vet does not approve of this as it can be a bit hit-&-miss, potentially causing unneccessary suffering to the lamb & possibly even blindness if the condition isn’t treated swiftly, efficiently & urgently.

    Our vet also advised that as it is an hereditary condition, lambs with entropion shouldn’t be bred from – & the ewes should also be culled, as it’s likely their future offspring will also either have or carry the problem, themselves. If you’re keeping a ‘closed’ flock & see it only as a minor inconvenience however – especially if your ewes are kept as pets & you’re not intending to sell the lambs to other breeders – there’s no reason to carry on with what you’ve got I suppose. Good luck, & let us know how you get on – a problem shared is a problem halved & I’m sure other sheep keepers would find it fascinating & helpful, after all. Sounds like you’ve got a lovely flock over there – do you do anything with the wool?

    Ooerr, today WAS going to be the day I tackled the Chaos-that-is-the-Greenhouse, & finally get my seed planting done; but with two more sets of kids, our first lambs & a lot of treating of mastitis, hand-milking half-a-dozen goats & lots of other hard labour, I haven’t had a chance *feels guilty* – not even setting my yummy Pink Fir Apple spuds to chit yet, either.

    The growing season actually isn’t too bad here; although the weather is pretty mild & these days, all too wet; but our main problem is dealing with the maurading army of slugs & snails which love to feast upon pretty much everything we grow here (except the weeds, of course!). Last year proved pretty muh a losing battle – & I’m determined this year will be different…..wish us luck!

  3. Janet Milner says:

    Hello, how do I buy a fleece (if you still have some available?) Thank you Janet

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      Hi Janet,

      I’ll be publishing details of the fleeces in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out ready for Christmas!

      Best wishes,

      Jo.

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