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September: otters, shearing and vets

What a wet September it has been. “Inclement”, Londoners might say.

Pouring rain kept us inside for days. It’s one thing trying to motivate yourself to work outdoors in such weather, it’s another trying to get livestock to do anything. So we wait and catch opportunities when we can, trying to keep level heads.

Down by the river, life continues unabashed. Katherine was lucky enough to see both an otter and a kingfisher, an unexpected flash of bright blue just above the surface of the water.

Finn celebrated his six month birthday with a trip to the vet, accompanied by Scout who was due her own check-up. It is safe to say they didn’t see him coming. He burst through the front doors with greetings for everyone, owner and pet alike. A few minutes passed whilst he wrapped himself around every chair in the waiting room until he was finally ushered in for his examination by the nurse.

A sigh of relief as the first part of the party was over and he waved goodbye to his attending friends. But the respite didn’t last long. He promptly pulled the nurse’s stethoscope off from around her neck, snogged her and gobbled up his treat biscuit and Scout’s before any inspections has started. Meanwhile Scout sat under a chair for the whole visit, refusing to move.

We managed to complete some good scheduled sheep days. The first was a visit from Kath, our vet from Ripon. It was her thankless job to perform a ram MOTs, checking the fertility of each of the boys that we’re going to put in with the ewes. She unpacked all of her equipment, including a fold-out desk and microscope before we inspected each tup in turn. This involves measuring their scrotal circumference, feeling for anything unusual where there shouldn’t be, checking teeth, feet, brisket (chest) and overall condition.

We also take a semen sample to look at under the microscope, to check the quality of each ram’s sperm. Only one ram failed the test, Pando, who we already had our suspicions about. We will keep him anyway as a ‘teaser’ ram, the warm-up act to the main event. He will go in one month before we put the fertile rams in, to get the ewes’ hormones flowing and starting their ovulation cycles.

We also had a day shearing the lambs. Richard is a young lad of mid-twenties with Maori tattoo sleeves marking the formative years he’s spent as part of a shearing gang in New Zealand. He has some tales to tell; they certainly have a different outlook over there.

But when it comes to our lambs, he’s steady and takes him time to do a good job. He knows I like to see a job well done. We’re shearing the ewe-lambs which we will keep back for breeding in the main flock. They’re pure-bred Romneys with lots of wool which will just keep growing over the winter. By clipping them now they will keep cleaner and happier, but will still have time to grow enough fleece back to keep them warm as the weather closes in during the winter.


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