Making way for the ewes and lambing pens

AN air of anticipation permeates the big shed opposite the house. All the farm vehicles have been cleared out, along with assorted bikes, benches, hen coops, dog beds and kennels.

The guinea fowl are completely disorientated because their normal perch on a coop has gone and they are teetering on the bars of the bull pen grumbling away to themselves.

Don’t know who looks more discomfited, the bulls or the guinea fowl.

Why all the upset? To make way for the ewes and lambing pens. All the shed floor is now strawed out and the area secured with a ‘fence’ of big square bales.

The dogs think it is great to race round the top of the bales in a mad scurry. John will start bringing the ewes in at night in a few days time and in the meanwhile keep a vigilant eye on the flock.

There are always a couple of ewes who will try to beat the system and lamb earlier than expected.

The news that the ban on itinerant sheep shearers from New Zealand and Australia coming into the UK has been lifted is therefore quite a topical breakfast chat subject.

John was taught to shear by a Falklander shepherd and was a member of a sheep clipping gang himself for many years.

“You’ve got to be strong in the back but not in the head,” was his usual comment on the vital necessities of a shearer.

We don’t have so many of the Aussie gangs round here and John still shears our own flock and that of friends’ sheep himself.

But the huge flocks of sheep on Dartmoor, in Wales and Cumbria for example, would be in dire need of shearers if the ban had stuck.

I believe it may still be up for review next year but surely must be considered as a matter of animal welfare. If the sheep were not clipped they would suffer dreadfully from maggots in the summer.

There is little value in a fleece, it has not paid the cost of the clip for years, but remains a key part of sheep management.

We are still getting the occasional calf born although there are only a few cows left to calve now.

The yards are very full and this is the time when you hope that all the attention paid to vaccinating the calves and their Mums against disease will pay off. That and yard maintenance to make sure the herd is always bedded up on clean straw.

But even the prospect of lambing cannot excite John as much as the job he is on at the moment.

Even though he has been on it all day and is now working in the dark he still wants to keep going.

I can see the lights on the tractor as he goes up and down the field drilling spring barley. He’s been on with it since just after breakfast. Yes the word is spring.

It’s spring. It’s sprung.