Last weekend we went down to the river meadow field we rent behind a golf course to clear up for the winter, collect the IBC and troughs and secure the gates and hurdles as the land floods every winter with quite a current. Anything not secured will be washed away. This is the field where it all began for us, it was the first bit of land we rented.
We learnt a harsh lesson in that first year. In 2012 it rained and rained and rained all summer long and then all autumn. We knew our river meadow was likely to flood and we were on the look-out for alternative grazing elsewhere but we didn’t realise quite how quickly the water would rise. It was only a matter of hours going from the sheep happily grazing away with the river a few feet at bay to the field becoming part of the river and the exit for the field becoming impassable by sheep. Luckily, two local farmers rallied together and we were able to borrow a tractor and livestock trailer to get the sheep out. The ramp was missing from the upper deck though and so Rupert had to lift 75 wet ewes on to the top deck (I think he was ready to quit that day!). So as I stood in that same field on November 1st, in a t-shirt basking in the sunshine it gave me a moment to ponder on some of those early experiences and our tough but rewarding journey as we paved the way through our farming journey.
But less of the day dreaming and back to the job in hand. This is my favourite time of year. The madness of weekly weighing lambs, worrying about their weight gain, fly strike, grass growth and of course the price has passed and we are back to our 400 ewes with a handful of lambs for our private sales. The rams are out in force and the raddle marks are showing good progress. We used a teaser on half the flock this year which has made a noticeable difference. Something which will not surprise most but we have not practically been able to use teasers to date easily as we have had ewes in seven plus locations pre-tupping, and we haven’t had the spare cash to spend on that number of teasers. Having seen the difference though, in hindsight they would have been a good investment. A lesson for next year.
We have had a couple of meetings which has involved a cup of tea and a sit down which is always welcome with a 12 weeks old baby! We met with our share farmers to plan our winter and lambing grazing to make sure we are optimising the use of the grass to reduce our reliance on feed pre and post lambing. We were also able to confirm some help this year by the way of three students we have secured though the NSA website. I am excited about the extra pairs of hands but also as to what we can learn with fresh eyes and minds looking at the way we do things. Our second meeting was with our wedding venue to plan the menu. Having looked at the list of beautiful dishes we will get to eat, my excitement for the day has ramped up! The chef will be using our lamb shoulders to create pulled lamb rolls for guests in the evening, I hope all of our preparation on the farming side results in a tasty dish! We are getting married in February, not because of the romance of Valentine’s day, but because it is the time of year we have the fewest amount of sheep secured with electric fencing. Fingers crossed we will not be getting calls about escapee’s on the morning of the big day!