Keeping sheep

Very early in 1979 I became a sheep keeper. Almost by chance we had bought a house with a field and something needed to be done with it. A neighbour, who worked in farming, suggested we could keep sheep together. He provided the knowhow. I provided land and we shared the costs.

His recommended cheap route in was to go to market and by an elderly ewe with a lamb at foot. And he did just that. So on a cold day, with snow still on the ground, we became sheep keepers. And here is that very first ewe and lamb.

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Over the next few weeks the flock grew and we became a bit more skilled in the things that had to be done. We learned how to trim hooves, how to get drench medicine down the throats of animals, how to inject them and then how to shear them.

It really was quite a steep learning curve which stayed useful for the twenty plus years I was a sheep keeper.

In those days dipping sheep was a requirement and that was hard without proper facilities. Sometimes we manually hoiked the animals in and out of a big old water tank filled with chemicals. At other times we took them to a neighbouring real farm which had a dip – so much easier.

We soon came across the horror which was ‘strike’. The green bottle fly lays eggs in the wool of a sheep and when maggots hatch they start sucking and eating the sheep. We learned to watch out for any signs and to rapidly treat the animal. We never lost any to strike.

We acquired a ram so the following spring we faced lambing but had no particular problems. We learned to love getting up to check the sheep at three in the morning. The prospect was awful but the reality of being alone, out in the world at that time was really wonderful.

Over the years we faced the problems that sheep farmers face – difficult lambings and animals not surviving.  But doing the paper work was probably the worst problem. Movements books and medicine books all needed keeping and they were checked.

But I am glad to have been a sheep keeper. It provides happy memories.

 

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