Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunny Dry Days

What a good week.  The sun has been shining, the sky clear blue and the rain has stayed away. We have therefore been able to get all of the weather dependent jobs done with the sheep.  I think the sheep were happier too.  The teaser who had been showing signs of bloat, has deflated, the fly strike lamb's sore back is healing nicely and we have had no more lame sheep.  The good weather has also brought on the wildflowers and I was pleased to discover, when checking a boundary hedge, some Nettle-leaved Bellflowers...I never realised how hairy they were.

The warmth has also got the butterflies going.  Each year I intend to get to grips with identifying the different Blue butterflies that are so common in this area but I never seem to find the time.  This year is no exception and again I keep seeing different Blues but don't really know what they are.  This is one I saw at Saltbox SSSI the other day.  I think it is an Adonis Blue as there is a lot of Horseshoe vetch there and it was a very bright blue but if I am wrong please let me know:)

Last year I caused some controversy by mentioning that we were pulling Ragwort at Saltbox SSSI as some people thought it shouldn't be done because it is a valuable plant in its own right.  Besides it being listed as an injurious plant under the Weeds Act, the picture below shows another reason why one has to try to control it. This is the same area of Saltbox that we cleared the ragwort from last year but it is there in abundance again. No one would dispute that this attractive yellow plant is valuable to invertebrates but if it isn't controlled it quickly chokes out other valuable plants. Now, because there was not time to gain control of it before flowering and seeding, it will pose a threat to the whole site as well as the neighbouring grazing land and livestock:((

I have enjoyed this week so much more than the previous week where I felt quite stressed with the various ailments of the sheep. That was until the old grazing officer phoned and said, "You seem to be coping, so why are you worrying?"  It was a very good point.  I have never had any doubts that I could cope, one has to when looking after animals.  Also my husband pointed out I am not doing this alone as besides him there is also a very competent trainee, other staff members, plus a great bunch of volunteers who have all had years of experience with livestock.  When I actually stopped to think about it, I felt quite silly, but it shows how quickly things can get out of perspective when one gets tired. Thanks P for the phone call and pleased to hear you, your family and Jack are settling happily into life in Wiltshire

One of the jobs that needed to be done in dry weather was to spray the sheep with a fly repellent.  The first lot we did were the 30 breeding ewes. We also had to dose their 46 lambs with wormer so that meant that all 76 sheep needed to be collected in. We no longer have Jack the sheepdog so, expecting it to be difficult, we asked all our livestock volunteers to come along but ended up with rather too many people. Consequently the first attempt went a little awry and there was a farcical few minutes with people and sheep running everywhere but getting nowhere.  If it hadn't been so hot, I would have found very funny:)) We decided to let everyone, sheep and humans, cool down and calm down. After an early lunch we put out some more netting and had another attempt but with just myself, hubby and our trainee rounding the sheep up while the volunteers hid behind the landrover. Thankfully it was successful.  It was a good opportunity to check over the animals who were all fine and because we needed to weigh some of the lambs to work out the correct dosage for their wormer, we were very happy to see how much weight they had gained in just one month.  Even the younger Jacobs are looking good and robust.

The next group to be sprayed were the replacement ewes who are grazing a small scrubby enclosure up a steep bank.  There is, at the moment, no entrance that is accessible by the landrover so we hauled the hurdles up the bank by rope and handed them over the fence.  All went well and again I was pleased to see a sheep, who a few months previously had suffered a dog bite to her muzzle, was now looking much better and was regaining the weight she had lost.  Another interesting discovery at this site was that of a nude sunbather !!:))) Quite amusing but also a nuisance as we feel that the lone females should not stock-check this secluded little site so my husband and I will have to do their days until the sheep are moved on. You will be pleased to know I don't have a pic of Nudy Man..not a pretty sight!

The last group for spraying were the boys.  Firstly, the ones still at the farm following shearing, had to be transported to a field at Tatsfield, a site pleasantly situated on the side of the North Downs and this time I managed to refrain from telling hubby how to drive :) Four of the sheep were Herdwicks that needed to be reunited with the other Herdwicks who were grazing an adjacent field.  All went well and we were all feeling well pleased when the phone went.  It was Reigate Animal Health who have to do various inspections of animals in their area.  In this case they were wanted to arrange an appointment to inspect our goats where they will need to take blood samples from them all.  When one considers that it took us 10 hours the last time we caught them to trim their hooves and move them to their present site you can imagine we were not too happy.  We have referred it to 'the boss' but meanwhile hubby and I have been working out some tactics.  A few days before we had managed to catch one of the goats by hand to replace a lost ear tag and I know a couple will go into the holding pen for food so I think it will be a matter of using a combination of methods.

They might be difficult to catch but they are still well worth having as they have done an amazing job of controlling the regrowth of scrub at Saltbox SSSI in the areas that have been cleared.  This picture shows how it was last year before the goats.  The whole area was covered in regrowth and a vast number of Aaron's Rod...

Now, after four months of the goats grazing, it is looking a little less like a jungle with an emerging covering of wild Marjoram, Wild Basil, St John's Wort, Birds-foot-trefoil and more:)


Anonymous said...

I've been away for a couple of weeks so have just been catching up on your blog. It seems there is never a dull moment in your life:) Pleased you are not feeling stressed anymore. I looked after a friend's kitten once and it nearly gave me a nervous breakdown:))) Sam

Helen said...

Hi Sam...Hope you have been away to somewhere nice:)I really don't know why I got so worried about it all..just tired I think. I am actually now enjoying the work a lot. Every day is different and interesting. Think I may be sorry when it is over which is only about two weeks away now. Helen