Misbehaving sheep make lots of work

Writers Posted 29/07/19
Misbehaving sheep ‘might go!’ they make lots of work and precious little money.

Farm work waits for no one – it’s always there requiring attention, especially at this time of year.

However, on a day when there’s a Grand Prix at Silverstone, and the men’s Wimbledon final clashing with the Cricket World Cup final – on this farm, work got put on hold! Wow what a sporting feast, an emotional roller coaster. Culminating in a Grand Prix win for Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic winning the tennis in a first ever fifth set tie-break, and a nail biting Super Over win for England in the Cricket. This short interlude was like a breath of fresh air, sport has a feel good factor whether it’s taking part or supporting.

We’ve been busy hay making and silage wrapping and there’s still more to be done. Other half announced “there won’t be much wrapping to be done this year, so didn’t buy the usual pallet of plastic wrap”. Consequently I’m getting phone calls, “I’m running short, can you go and collect just a few more rolls.” I’m rapidly building up my muscles, which I’m told is good for warding off osteoporosis! Last time I delivered to a remote field, I was rewarded by the sight of a pair of red kites gliding overhead. They make the buzzards look clumsy in comparison.

I’ve recently had a few days living in London, helping to get our grandson settled into nursery, while legal beagle daughter gets back to work. I was shocked by the number of cheap fast food outlets. I feel sad that their customers probably don’t realise what a raw deal they’re getting, in terms of good wholesome nutritious food. London air quality also concerns me. City life is not for me. Mind you, next day while shovelling corn in the grain-store, I contemplated corn dust versus pollution, I guess all lifestyles have their drawbacks.

Summer duties include feeding milled corn to our finishing cattle out in the field. If I’m quick I can get food in the troughs before the cattle arrive on scene. But they have good hearing and usually escort me, so I just have to be nimble. One day I made the mistake of grumbling at them and Brie thought her assistance was needed. She barked out, the cattle panicked, pushing and shoving, I nearly got squished and gained some colourful bruises. Naturally I’ve done a risk assessment which includes ‘no input from dogs’ this has now been explained to my ‘helpers’.

While lookering I found water flowing over the side of the trough. Usually caused by cattle managing to dislodge the trough or breaking the box lid, but all was in place. When I lifted the lid I uncovered a drowned crow lying on top of the ballcock, keeping the water flowing. Crows are annoying at the best of times, it’s a mystery how it got there. On the same day a ewe got herself wedged between some tree roots while seeking shade on the bank. Her lambs, who were unable to access her milk complained bitterly. Getting her free wasn’t easy, but resulted in happy lambs.

On my rounds I’m frequently retrieving helium balloons which end up littering the countryside. I don’t wish to be a killjoy but the act of releasing these in celebration can literally cause the death of livestock and wildlife. Animals are curious, the consequences of eating these are not good. Spread the word: ‘Safe disposal saves lives’.

While cattle are usually well mannered, sheep have no manners at all. Food causes mayhem, as there’s always greedy sheep desperate to catch the food coming out of the bag. We keep feeding to a minimum. Shearing was hard work, because none of the ewes wanted to go up the ramp onto the shearing trailer. A sheep conveyor belt, seems like a good option. I’m coming round to Hazel’s way of thinking. Misbehaving sheep ‘might go!’ they make lots of work and precious little money.

The returns from cattle sold to the processors have been disappointing this year. Nigel and Hannah are successfully selling boxes of beef and lamb. Direct sales requires organisation and effort but getting fairer prices and positive feedback makes it worthwhile.

Corn crops are ripening fast. We decided not to replace our combine harvester which was fire damaged beyond repair last summer. We bought a digger instead, which is proving useful. It’s strange not gearing up for harvesting. This year our nephew Jack Akehurst will be cutting our crops. Initially our corn will go into temporary accommodation as the grain-store is being turned into a wedding party venue for early September, celebrating Hazel’s marriage to Martin. I’m making biodegradable confetti, collecting up flower petals and drying them. Twenty odd years ago a local shepherd/shearer realised that gardening work was more profitable. He gave me some discarded rose roots. I dumped them in water and then plonked them in flower beds surrounding our house. We’ve been enjoying their roses ever since.

Hazel and Martin’s cheese making rooms are being constructed. When the foundations were dug, I wondered if they were looking for a shortcut to Australia! They were following structural engineers instructions. Strange then, that the 400 year old farmhouse where I was born, was built straight onto clay, is still standing. (Admittedly the cellar flooded in winter and it was a touch draughty). Anyway the new dairy is taking shape and looks incredibly smart. We’ve been inundated with tradesmen and our sock lambs are convinced this activity is solely for their entertainment.

There’s a Charity Clay Shoot being held on 1 September, 9.30am-1pm at Stumbletts Gun Club, Furnace Lane, Horam, East Sussex. An opportunity to have some fun while raising money for ‘we raise you up.’ Why not give it a go, you might turn out to be a ‘hot shot’.


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