Sunday 30 September 2007

Animal Movements and Birthday Celebrations

Early this week it was announced that animals in a Low Risk area, that's us, could start to do a farm to farm movements, but again with very tight bio security, a 20 day standstill etc. So we are in the process of arranging the delivery of our 3 alpaca girls for next Saturday. Denise has managed to negotiate the Defra help line and web site to download the new movement licence but still has to speak to the local animal health department in Leeds. She will need a strong coffee before tackling that phone call!!!!

On Thursday it was Denise's birthday and the celebrations went on for 2 days. Thursday night was a meal out in the local pub, Friday was a day of chocolates, followed by an office night out at a Mexican (the office is now on a diet), a farm sale on Saturday morning, (a galvanised trough was purchased for fleece washing) and a trip to Masham Sheep Fair on Sunday. No sheep but lots of gossip and fleeces and fibre to see, not one of Tim's favourite of fairs.

The rain this week has proved that the ditch Tim dug is working really well. It's weired watching the water running out of the top layer of soil at the "Y" start of the ditch. The part of the fence line that was previously wet, appears to be dry. This winter will test it more, but it's good to see the water running down the newly dug ditch.

The problem with being able to move sheep is that we are 1 Wiltshire Horn ewe short, but if we pick her up we are then on a 20 day stand still, apart from sending sheep to slaughter, and on Saturday we heard that sheep markets are back on, so we are hoping that the York Rare Breeds Sale will be back on soon. Gossip is that the prices paid for sheep is very low, so we're undecided what to do. It will cost us to keep the lambs through the winter but to get just £5.00 a lamb is an insult. We will take this year's lambs, but we were going to take a couple of ewes from last years lambs. but we are now thinking about keeping them and putting them to Hector, our Shetland Ram.
Speaking of the rams, they are looking well and getting ready for tupping, we will start to put in pre tupping licks for both the rams and the ewes. Two of our "old girls" will not be going to the tup this year, Lucy and Lotti our Hebridean X's, they are both looking thin. One of our friends is looking for a couple of "grass cutters" to keep her paddocks down, so they may go there for a few months. We will see what happens.
Next week see us getting the alpaca girls used to the trailer they will be travelling in to their new home. Will post as to how it all went.

Monday 24 September 2007

Autumn arrives and Hedge Laying

Autumn arrived well and truly on Monday, it's been quite cool and wet for most of the week, but thankfully it cleared up for the weekend.

On Saturday we decided to have a day out and went to a Countryman Show at Sledmere House, near Driffield. It was a great day with plenty of demonstrations, from sheepdogs rounding up ducks and geese, horses used for deer stalking and logging, working ferrets and lurchers. Lots to see and do. Sitting down to watch the ferreting demonstration we sat next to an old neighbour of ours, so we had a good chat to catch up on our news. She likes the newsletter we send her at Christmas, which is great to hear.

Sunday the Hedge laying Marshall's arrived, they had to make that awful decision all pet owners hate, having them put to sleep. So Holly and Deefa got especially big hugs as they miss their dog so much.

At the start of the hedge laying we thought that all we were going to do was cut down willow trees, but after creating a gap of 15 foot, the next part of the hedge was in line and so with a lot of pulling and careful placing, the gap was filled. In some ways we were not hedge laying as such more tree laying, but it's worked. It's surprising how pliable a large willow tree is. There is still a lot of hedge to go at and another hedge laying day is arranged for the 3rd November. Hopefully by then Holly and Deefa will have caught up on their sleep. Deefa spent all day just walking back and forth checking up on everyone, Holly checked the fence to see if there were any gaps to get under. Much to her disappointment, there are non. So we know it's sheep proof.

It's been an up and down week with the Foot and Mouth outbreak with more cases again this week, but for us the more worrying outbreak is Blue Tongue, we know it is a very serious problem in Europe and everyone has been asked to be vigilant. But then today, reading the Defra website, we are now in a low risk area and between farm movements will be allowed from tomorrow, but with heightened bio security. What that means we are unsure, but no doubt we will find out over the coming days.

Finally - the experiment with the fleece in the washer. I ended up with a large piece of clean fleece that was in matted clumps. Speaking to other spinners, looks like my machine temp is too hot, a problem with older washing machines. So it's back to hand washing them in the bath!!!!

More next week unless something major happens in the week..........

Sunday 16 September 2007

Foot and Mouth again.......

This week has not been particularly a good one. It started on Tuesday when Tim went to book the truck in for it's MOT only to find that the earliest it could be done is Tuesday of the following week. Normally that is not a problem, but we had arranged to deliver Elli, Bella and Eloise to their new owners on Sunday. So this was arranged for the following Saturday, the 22nd.
Then on Wednesday the news broke of another Foot and Mouth outbreak in Surrey, so the delivery on the 22nd is now postponed until we are allowed to move animals again. At the auction mart in Whitby, anyone who had not moved their animals from the mart when the news broke of Foot and Mouth, could not move their animals until they had been inspected by a vet.
We were hoping to go to a farm sale on Saturday, but this too has been cancelled, along with all the other farm sales. This includes the Rare Breeds Sale on the 5th October, where we were hoping to send 15 ewe lambs. We have plenty of grass at present, but the knock on effect of these lambs staying on our land past October will only be known come Jan/Feb next year when we are struggling for grass.
A useless piece of information - this latest outbreak of Foot and Mouth is nearer to France than it is to us!!!!!
As you know we've purchased 5 Wiltshire Horn ewe lambs, well on Tuesday Tim was doing the morning feed when he noticed on of the ewes was "weeing from the middle!!!". A check that evening confirmed that the ewe was a weather, so rang Sue and after a bit of a giggle about Sue's eyesight and needing new glasses etc, it's been agreed we will keep him and she's found the missing ewe lamb, and again once the movement restrictions are lifted we will go and collect her!!!
On the plus side Tim has finished digging the ditch on the common land and despite the dry weather we have been having, the ditch is filling with water.
Denise spent Saturday, spot spraying the nettles, docks and thistles, despite what the instructions say on the bottles, of spraying in spring, we have found that the best results occur when they are sprayed at this time of the year, the plants must take the chemical down into their roots and because they are dying back anyway, it kills them more quickly.
Today we sprayed all the ewe lambs that have Orf, Denise had been putting a homeopathic spray in their water, which looking at the lambs today has certainly helped to dry up the ulcers around their mouths and noses.
Whilst we were doing this Lucy/Lotty came to the gate to watch us, she is still thin so we decided to move her into the handling area, she can see all the other sheep and alpacas, so we can give her some extra feed, as in hay, sheep nuts and sheep lick. I don't think we will be putting her to a ram this year.
As we are not delivering the alpacas in the near future we have moved them back into their own paddock for the time being. The trailer will be moved back to where it normally lives and once we are able to move animals again, we will put the girls and the trailer back into the race for the girls to once again get used to the trailer.
So what of next week, well it's "batten down the hatches" yet again thanks to Foot and Mouth. The weather is predicted to be unsettled so I'm not sure what will get done on the land, but on Sunday it's the first of our hedge laying days, with the hedge laying Marshalls. Really looking forward to it, but this signals the end of the summer, though we still have some swallows flying around, so summer isn't fully over, but once they go that is the sign that summer is over!!
More next week

Sunday 9 September 2007

Orf and "Anything you can do, I can do better!"

It would appear that we are not the only ones to get a tractor stuck. Our friends from the farm that sounds like is should be asleep, were cutting a hedge with the hedge trimmer on the back of their Nuffield tractor, when it decided it wanted to lay down against the hedge for a nap!!! Seriously though a dip in the field made the tractor tip ever so slowly. Thankfully no one was injured. But we all had a good laugh at their expense.
The truck went in for it's MOT on Monday and it failed on brake pipes and brake discs. The garage wanted a £1000.00 to do the work. Needless to say Tim is doing the work, to date the brake lines have been done and we await the arrival of the brake disc. They have tested the detective skills of the motor factors to find them!!! Hopefully they arrive on Monday.
On Saturday morning Denise was doing the feeding up of the alpacas and sheep, when she notices that Cassie had some nasty looking scabs on the sides of her mouth. It's Orf or thistle prick and not something from the Lord of the Rings, they are Orks. It's infectious but easily treatable and all sheep get it at some point and then have a good resistance to it. The problem is to ensure that we do not get the infection as it is easily transferable, hygiene is of the up most importance.
The good news is that Defra have lifted the 20 day standstill and so Richard and Steph, fellow smallholders, who we owe 2 sheep to for the selling of Dan the young male alpaca, came to visit today to choose their 2 lambs. They are not bothered about the Orf and we have medication, so no problems. The chose 2 lovely Corridale ewes lambs, one a lovely brown and one with mottled markings, we know they are going to good homes. Steph liked Amy's daughter, but she is so small, that if they mated her to their tup, who is a Teeswater, it would cause problems for her. One thing Richard and Steph were able to advise us on is the quality of our grass, we have very little clover and herbage within our grass, so the suggestion is that we have some of their hay, which contains seed heads from their meadow hay and once the sheep start to eat it will spread the seed via their poo and what they spill from the hay rack. If this works we will look at green hay next year.
Tim managed to get some more of the ditch dug out today, he's put the extension on the digger so he can stand the tractor on firm land and reach further into the bog to dig the ditch without getting stuck, so far it's working.
The alpaca girls that get delivered next weekend are getting used to the trailer, Tim has been moving their feed trough into the trailer bit by bit, so it is not strange to them when we deliver them next weekend.
Next weekend there is also a farm sale that we are keen to go to, they've got lots of sheep equipment for sale, how much and if any we buy will depend on price and what it looks like. But we'll never know unless we go and see. Will post more after we have been next week.
The Wiltshire Horn ewe lambs we got lest year are settling in and looking well.
So what does next week hold for us, well we will have to give all the ewe lambs tablets for Orf and keep a watch on all the other sheep, though tonight Dougal lamb has scabs on the corners of his mouth, so it looks like we will have to treat the ewes as well. But we will keep watching them. You can only treat for Orf if you have got it, you can't carry out a preventative programme, as the treatment is to use the Orf vaccine itself, which will give the sheep Orf. Denise will also ring our homeopathic practitioner to get a spray to put in the drinking water of the ewes and lambs. More news next week on our progress on dealing with Orf.
Paperwork as always is something that needs dealing with on a regular basis and with the problems of foot and mouth, we have not had our yearly inspection by the National Scrapie Programme, but as they are only testing ram lambs this year, there will be no visit. One less thing to worry about at the moment.
More next week

Sunday 2 September 2007

A stuck tractor, moving sheep and new arrivals

On Wednesday whilst doing some ditching work up on the common land, Tim was slowly moving the tractor on when it decided to slide slowly sideways and get stuck in the soft marshy soil. He rushed to get the Zetor, but by the time he got back, the tractor and digger had sunk to it's axles. With Tim on the Zetor pulling and me trying to drive the International (the stuck tractor) we attempted to get it out, but to no avail. We rang Colin to help, but he was still on his holidays, so Gerald brought a tractor across, but before Gerald arrived Brian and Kathleen from the next farm had seen the tractor slip and arrived with a very big tractor to pull us out. It took Brian no time at all and the International was released from the marsh. So now Tim can still do the ditching but with the International at a very different angle and on very hard ground. It will take longer this way, but at least we shouldn't get stuck again.
But the other problem with the International was that the starter motor finally packed up so one had to be found pronto. It's amazing what you can find on e-bay.
We had a couple come to look at our 3 remaining female alpacas, and after looking at Ghilli's offspring they decided to buy the girls. We will be delivering them to their new home in a couple of weeks time.
Now that the restrictions for Foot and Mouth have changed, we can move sheep on to our farm but incur a 20 day standstill, so with us taking some lambs to the Rare Breeds Sale at the beginning of October, we have a very small window of opportunity to bring our Wiltshire Horn Ewe lambs onto our holding.
So in readiness of the lambs arriving on Saturday we had a mass move round of our livestock. Something we thougth would not take long so we could go to Kildale Show.
First we moved the female Alpacas to the top field next to the common land, we then moved the breeding ewes to the top paddock that was fenced earlier this year, shedding off the gimmers that are to go to the rare breeds sale. Next to be moved were the lambs in the back field, into the barn to be sorted into females and tups. We then moved the alpaca males, into the back field, they moved reasonable well, but they have not been in this paddock before and were a little nervous, we played "chase the alpacas around the tractor" a few times before they got the idea of going into the field, where they spent their time hugging the fence line to watch the females. But this was nothing compared to what was to come.
We first shed off the 5 lambs that were to stay into with the breeding ewes, we had to use Deefa's help as they thought it was a "good game" to chase up and down the field rather than through the gate, they finally went. Next to move were the lambs that are going to the sale. They have never been moved on their own with a dog before and typical of Shetlands they do not flock. Deefa has learnt to "tack" down a field with them and to ensure they don't turn back on him. He's good at that. After a good half an hour they finally decided to go through the gate and up the race into their new paddock, but Deefa was all for grabbing them and chucking them over the fence and to hell with what Defra say about the correct way to handle sheep, no grabbing of horns or wool. They obviously don't handle our sheep the little horrors or words to that effect.
We then moved the alpaca girls into the race along with the trailer ready for them to be moved, so they will get use to the trailer, the ram lambs into the field the alpaca girls were in and finally the alpaca males into a field near the common land with fencing capable of dealing with them.
Today we picked up the Wiltshire Horn girls, we were originally to have 7 but 1 died and a 2nd got fly strike very badly. The 5 remaining lambs loaded easily into the trailer and when we got them home we gave them a shot of Heptovac and Selco, they are now in isolation for the next 3 weeks, and they certainly have some meat on them.
So what does next week hold for us, well we are both back at work, Tim at the cafe, Denise for the railway but the weekend is hedge laying, subject to the one of hedge laying Holland's ribs mending, but that's another tale or as he put it a "Bugs Bunny moment" running whilst a ladder is falling does not stop you getting hurt.