The Mart

We pay a visit to the mart

In all the years we have been selling our lambs at the mart, we have not once gone along to see them sold.  A haulier collects them and they are sorted out at the other end by the stock men.

In the past we have had some amazing luck on sale day, many times we have had the highest prices but we know that this is not due to any skill on our part.

This year we tried to get a bit more scientific about the whole process.  We kept accurate records of births and noted in detail any problems we encountered.  We do tend to get a lot of lambs with entropian (inward turning eyelids) and although there is a quick fix for this, it would be nice to eradicate it altogether from the flock.

As we said last month, we had the best lambs ever this year and so after weighing them, deicided to place some of them in the premium sale.

We also decided that on sale day we would go along to see how the whole process worked and try to learn from it.

At around the same time, we discovered that you can in fact watch all the sale days online.  One of us went along, whilst the other stayed home and viewed the experience at the kitchen table!

We did learn something, our fat lambs were not quite fat enough!

At least we now know what to aim for next year.

Weight watching

We round up the lambs for a health check

Last year’s tup, Harry, was an absolute beast.  We are always careful with the rams, especially when they are in with the girls as they can be quite confrontational if approached.  However, Harry was something else.  He was a huge brute with a large head, supposedly a cross between a Suffolk and a Dorper.  He hadn’t been sheered (and we can understand why) so his big fluffy fleece made him look even bigger.

We could not walk in the field with him unarmed.  It was essential to carry a crook and a bag of straw which could be used to lessen the blow when he ran at you.  And he did, frequently!  Head down and charge was his motto.  Sometimes we were stuck in the field with him for ages, couldn’t risk turning our back on him and every time we retreated backwards, he would come forwards.  We would have to stride towards him to show him we weren’t intimidated, he would reverse, and so the dance continued.

It was a relief when he’d done his job and we could let him go.

Nevertheless, despite all the grief he gave us, he did give us the best lambs we’ve ever had.  They are lovely big chunky animals, far superior to previous years when we’ve put them all in the Store Lamb sale (lambs that need fattening before slaughter) at the end of the year.

We rounded them all up at the weekend sorted out their feet, checked them over and weighed them.  All but three are well over weight for the Store sale so will be going to the Fat sale.

Of course we are delighted but not enough to risk keeping him on and going through that again!

Our pets have the Munchies

Archie, Daisy, and Jack road test our new Pet Munchies range

With three dogs in our household we can get through quite a few dog treats, so it’s great that we can choose something healthy to give them.

Thankfully Pet Munchies premium gourmet treats are 100% natural and use good quality human grade meat and fish, so we don’t need to worry about what our dogs are eating.

We tested some, and they certainly went down a storm.  You can see the results in the video below!  Daisy, Archie, and Jack love the taste, and the choice of flavours too!

Chicken, liver, venison, lamb, fish, duck, all slow roasted in their own juices to make them extra tasty.  Surely even the most fussy dog would find something there to enjoy!

We find these particularly effective in training.  The Chicken, Chicken and Liver, and Sushi Dog Training Treats are already an ideal size, but to add in some variety, we chop some of the meaty strips into pieces and mix them all in.  What an effect that variety of reward has!

Cats needn’t miss out either, with three tasty varieties of Pet Munchies Gourmet Cat Treats!

See our full range of Pet Munchies.

Baled out!

We finally make hay but not in the sunshine…

What a difficult month it has been with regard to haymaking!  We started out with high hopes for August, thinking it would be filled with long sunny days.  How wrong can you be?

There wasn’t a day went by at the beginning of the month when it didn’t rain.  Sometimes not a lot, but just enough to dampen our plans.

As the month wore on, we were getting desparate and in the end settled for baling on an overcast day, so the hay wasn’t as dry as we had hoped, but not sopping wet.

We couldn’t risk storing it in the barn so stacked it outside and covered it with tarpaulins, which is not that easy in the strong winds.  Each morning it had to be uncovered so the sun and air could get to it.  Every so often we were caught out by showers, some so heavy we were soaked through trying to get the tarps back on!

Thank goodness it’s all done now and we have winter fodder for the hungry beasts.  The goats have sampled it and declared it edible so we should be OK with the sheep.

The dogs are delighted too as they have their field back and see where they’re going when they chase the swallows.  The babies have fledged the nest so there is plenty to keep them occupied.

We are also busy sorting the ewes ready to receive the tup and preparing the lambs for the mart.  This years lambs are our best ever and we are expecting top prices.  Let’s hope the buyers agree!

Rain stops hay!

We are rained off

It’s always a stressful time when haymaking comes around.  We are glued to the weather forecast, looking frantically for that small window of sunshine when we will be able to cut the grass.

This year has been appalling, every single day, except one, the heavens have opened and the field has been drenched.

For the last few weeks we have all been weaving our way through the long grass on our morning walks.  We can’t play with the Pullers as they would quickly be lost.  In fact, we have lost the dogs on more than one occasion.

The shame of it is, that this year the grass looks fantastic and would make lovely hay, if only we had the opportunity.

Even with a day of sunshine, it’s not going to dry the ground enough to drive the tractor over.

We are trying to hold our nerve and wait until August to see if the weather improves but if it doesn’t we may have to ask our neighbour to make large round bales of haylage.  These will be wrapped in black plastic, therefore not needing to be dried.  We are really hoping we don’t have to go down this route as the large bales are difficult to handle and have a short shelf life once opened.

However, it would be better to have haylage that no winter food at all for our beasts!

Muzzled!

We are worried when Jack falls ill

Jack has always been a bit of a chewer and a scavenger.  He likes to pick things up and before you can tell him to “leave it”, it will disappear down his throat.  Back in August last year, he swallowed a piece of rubber ball and had to have surgery to remove it from his gut.  Not long after that he was poorly again and we rushed him straight to the vet for an x-ray.

We realised that we couldn’t keep this up so decided that the only way to prevent him “snacking” on his walks, was to put a muzzle on him.

He wasn’t keen at first but he quickly got used to it, and after a while he developed a technique that turned it into a useful scoop to get things into his mouth – like snow or sheep poo!  He was also very adept at using it as a weapon on the other two, Daisy and Archie.  We called it his “warhead”!

After several months without incident we thought we would try him without it, as we really didn’t enjoy making him wear it, even if ultimately for his own good.

A couple of weeks of freedom later and he had severe diarrhoea.

We starved him for 24 hours then fed him cooked chicken and rice for a couple of days, but it made no difference and we were off to see the vet.

His temperature was on the high side of normal so the vet gave him something to get his gut working, a wormer, and suggested we carried on with the bland diet.

Over the weekend he didn’t improve at all so we took him back on Monday morning where he got a steroid injection and had blood tests.  We also had to provide a faecal sample.

Still no improvement, we were heading towards another x-ray but decided to wait for the test results.  In the meantime he had a course of steroid tablets to make him more comfortable and we were cooking him fish, chicken and rice every day.

All the test results were negative, we couldn’t find the cause of his ailment, so the vet put it down to colitis.

Just as we were at the end of our tether, he finally began to improve and is now back to his normal self, but with the muzzle reinstated!

 

The Keystone kids

The kids prove to be very agile

When the sun finally fought its way out from behind the clouds and the rain stopped, we took the dogwalk out into the field for the dogs to do some training.

Daisy was the star, showing the other two how it should be done, before they all raced off for a well deserved game.

For a bit of fun we put it in the field where the kids were enjoying some fresh air with their mothers and it was an instant hit!  We couldn’t keep them off it.

You can see their antics in the video below.

Jack seems distracted…

Jack seems distracted in a clicker training session

During an impromptu clicker training session with Jack in the field, teaching him to go around a pole in the ground, we noticed that he seemed to be a little bit distracted and kept wandering off unexpectedly.

Whilst it is true that he does have quite a short attention span, we were near a livestock pen at the time and at first we assumed that he was more interested in the livestock than us. In fact, the real reason was completely different.

This is what happens:

Please excuse the poor sound quality.

Jack likes working for treats but he really responds to praise and attention too, so we try to use a combination of both to keep him interested.

We noticed that he would only wander off after we verbally praised him and gave him a rub. At some point in the past, we have inadvertantly taught him that the praise and belly rub marks the end of the session. Rather than being distracted, he is simply heading home because he thinks it’s all over.

We may need to fade that behaviour if we intend work with him for more than 30 seconds at a time…

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Daisy and Archie with the Puller

Daisy and Archie play with the Puller exercise toy

Here we have Daisy and Archie playing with the Puller Exercise Toy for Dogs.

The Puller has been designed with exercise and stimulation in mind, and just 3 simple exercises – running, jumping, and pulling – over 20 minutes will provide a workout for all of your dog’s muscle groups, and is the equivalent of 5km of intensive running. Perfect if you like to keep your dogs in tip top condition.

This video shows the Standard size, which should be suitable for most dogs, but Mini and Maxi sizes are also available.

Today though, we are taking advantage of another feature of the Puller – it is great fun to use!

Daisy and Archie certainly love them!

Kidding about

We relax into kidding

After the stress, lack of sleep and vets visits that accompanied this year’s lambing, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of fuss over kidding.

Firstly, we knew the exact date that the goats had visited the billy so the due date wasn’t guess work, and secondly they usually get on with it on their own.

Even so, we were taken somewhat by surprise when Lulu kidded 3 days early.  She wasn’t interested in her food in the morning so we knew something was up.  By 11.00am she was laying down pushing and making a hell of a racket (sheep rarely make much noise at all).  Not long after that, she popped out two kids, one of each and was soon cleaning them up.  She had plenty of milk and was happy to let them feed.

A few days later, Betsy started, again a day or two earlier than planned but she followed a very similar pattern, giving birth to another boy and girl and requiring no assistance from us.

When the kids were just a few days old we took them to the vets for disbudding so they won’t be sporting horns like their mothers.  All four recovered quickly from their ordeal and are growing rapidly into cheeky little minxes that you have to keep your eyes on as they are constantly on the lookout for trouble!

Our other goat, Lily, also visited the billy but some time after the first two, so she missed out on being scanned.  If she is pregnant, she will be due in early June so we are looking forward to that and after the recent successful experiences, very relaxed about it.