A month full of snow and gales but at least the dogs are happy
February has been a month of extremes.
Snowfall in the first week, which the dogs (pictured) absolutely loved, gave us some concerns for the calf in the cold. Thankfully it seemed to pass without incident, and soon gave way to wetter but slightly warmer weather.
Then following a few more cold days, the weather changed completely and gave us several days warm(ish) and dry! This gave us the opportunity to finish the boundary fencing and shift the ewes in. The grass in there had been untouched for several months, so was fresher than everywhere else.
Unfortunately, though, the weather changed again in the last couple of days giving us severe gales with more forecast. Not ideal, but probably no worse than expected at this time of year. If we can just make it through March and the beginning of April, hopefully, we’ll start to see an upturn in the weather, and an improvement on the damp rainy conditions of last year.
It’s a girl
January got the year off to a fairly damp and cold start, and work to keep Pippa (Dexter Cow) comfortable and warm didn’t get any easier! Pippa doesn’t like going into a shed, but she seems quite happy in her field shelter, so several bags of straw later she looked pretty snug.
Due to calf at any time (difficult to predict exactly when) it was extremely important to ensure the survival of the calf with plenty of bedding, and extra hay and cattle cobs were in order – not too many cobs though as we didn’t want the calf to grow too big and make the birth difficult.
Meanwhile, the first half of 25 fence posts were punched in along the far boundary. New fencing is required here to prevent our sheep getting out and either falling in the drainage ditch (see September 2007) or wandering about in our neighbours’ lush grass fields.
Finally, on the last day of January, and in the worst weather we’ve seen so far this year, Pippa’s Calf (Rosie) was born!
Sitting round the fire waiting for Christmas day
As the end of the year approaches, so the evenings continue to get shorter. This makes working outside very difficult but no less necessary, although we have to admit that some tasks just can’t be done in the dark!
Rain, whilst not an everyday affair, continues.
On the plus side, we have chosen our Christmas Tree (soon to be chopped) and are enjoying the warm open fire in the chilly evenings.
The ram goes in with the ewes but the wet weather continues
The Ram (pictured) was moved as planned, but regrettably one of the ewes had to be taken out and separated from the others due to lameness.
She seems to be recovering well, but it will be a while we think before she is returned to the paddock. We want to be sure that whatever is causing the lameness is cured before reintroduction into the flock.
Meanwhile, the sow has been removed from the piglets (easier than the other way round), and they now have access to a new area of fresh ground.
The rain has continued to pour this month, making it very soggy underfoot – for us and the animals.
We increase our breeding stock
Geraldine’s recovery is now complete, and she is as good as new.
We have also just added to our breeding ewes with a purchase of two more from a neighbour of ours (pictured – the ewes, not the neighbour!).
One is pure Suffolk as far as we know, and the other we’re not sure about. Both are a little older than ours, but should give us a few good years of service.
After a couple of weeks with the others, the ram will join the ewes in November. In the meantime, the girls all have access to the main field at night, just to give their current paddock a bit of respite.
Geraldine the ewe goes for an unplanned dip
With slightly drier weather so far, the piglets are doing well. 8 in all. They are coping with the surface mud, and are already tucking into mum’s fodder!
Electric fencing continues slowly too, with a second of the 4 main paddocks getting the treatment.
We also nearly lost one of our ewes last week. Having nipped out of our rear fence, she fell into a drainage ditch and couldn’t get out. She may have been there for nearly 24 hours, and when we found her, she was only just visible with her head and back showing in the muddy water.
She was very cold and obviously tired, and it took 3 people to get her out. Sheep are heavy enough without a fleece full of water!
She rested on her side in the steading for 3 days (pictured), barely moving but warm under a heat lamp, and we called the vet to check her over. After a further day or two, we managed to get her back on her feet.
Keeping her warm
She has recovered well and is now out in the field chewing grass. Albeit with a visible tide mark!
We battle with the weather to get the hay in
August has been hard work!
Despite the weather, we finally decided to cut the grass for hay. After turning it a couple of times with our neighbour’s ‘Wuffler’ (pictured), it decided to rain some more! As a consequence, the hay was on the ground slightly longer but we finally managed to bale it at the end of the month, and managed 250 bales. That should keep us going for winter!
In the meantime, our pig moves were completed just in time for Piggy to have her piglets. One new electric fence required for that.
Another electric fence was needed to move Pippa and Billy (Dexter cows) into a fresh paddock. This was the first time they’d been moved into this area, and Billy was gambolling around with excitement!
And finally, as our ram lambs are starting to mature we needed to move them away from the ewes and ewe lambs. Thankfully this was relatively painless, and just a little chasing was required!
Perhaps we’ll have a rest in September…
We lose our internet and Blitz’s allergy returns
More damp weather this month, but work goes on. As we prepare for more piglets in August, we’ve been moving the remaining few pigs around.
So far, we have separated the two weaner boars from the sow and remaining gilt (so as to avoid any unnecessary accidents), but the next step is slightly more difficult.
We will need to separate the gilt and sow so that the sow can farrow in peace, however, to do this we will need to put up a new fence around an unused ark (the last fence has seen better days).
Let’s hope for better weather next month.
On the plus side, Blitz has started to recover from whichever allergy he was suffering from, and the gammon (pictured) from our boar is proving to be fantastic!
We lose our internet and Blitz’s allergy returns
Weather for the last few weeks has been pretty damp and misty, and finally broke with a spectacular electrical storm and heavy downpour just a week ago.
The storm knocked out our telephones and internet, leaving us with one single outgoing line which we finally rigged up for dialup internet! Difficult, but we managed to keep Training Lines orders rolling out thank goodness.
Outside, the sheep have been sheared leaving them a bit weedy looking, and we’ve just collected some of our boar from the butcher.
As he was approaching 2 years old, we were quite concerned about ‘boar taint’ and overall meat quality but it seems our worries were unfounded. The butcher told us that the pork was extremely lean, and our evening meal was absolutely delicious too!
As the grass gets longer and we prepare for hay, we are at the time of year when Blitz develops some kind of allergic reaction to something. Last year at about this time he had the same thing – his eyes and jowls become swollen, and the skin on his legs goes very pink.
It lasts for about 6 weeks, but looks extremely uncomfortable for him, so we are currently trying some homoeopathic allergy treatments and keeping him out of the long grass (just in case!).
Spring produce – piglets, lambs and rhubarb
The last couple of months have proved to be very busy indeed, which isn’t unusual for Spring!
The piglets were weaned at 11 weeks old, and the sow moved back with the boar.
Following a tragedy with one of our ewes, we were delighted that our remaining 4 ewes gave us 8 lambs – (2 sets of triplets and 2 singles). 2 of the 8 were rejected by their mothers and proved to be quite tricky to rear, but once they got the hang of it things got considerably easier. All 8 lambs are outside and doing well.
The polytunnel is also showing good growth (and not too much damage from rabbits!), and we enjoyed our first of a healthy crop of rhubarb.