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Farmer John’s February ’14 Blog

Farmer John’s February ’14 Blog

1 Feb 2014

Spring is round the corner, and calving is under way.

A regular activity in our shepherding year is to scan the ewes mid-pregnancy in early January. This is definitely ‘counting your chickens before they are hatched’ as ’there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’. But it means we can sort the ewes and feed according to the number of lambs they are having. We were one of the first farms to use this technique. Originally we had to catch the ewe, shear her belly, apply gel and scan, and it was not easy to distinguish between singles, twins and triplets. Today it is a slick affair. The ewes go through a race, are trapped in a small crush, and scanned at about 200/hour. Luke from ‘MacAttack’, our operator, sits in an ex-Volvo car seat, staring at the scanner, marks the ewes blue for singles, red for triplets, green for any barren, and records his total. He covers himself with a tent for the wet part of the job (the ewes in the Park at Englefield) and usually listens to the Test Match, though this year I noticed it was Radio 2.

With an average of two lambs apiece expected from 800 ewes the challenge for us is to successfully bring them to birth, and then keep them alive. Columella wrote in the first century A.D. “The delivery of a pregnant ewe needs as much care as that given by a midwife. This animal produces its young in the same way as a woman, and its labour is often more painful, because it is devoid of all reasoning capacity.” He was right! Things haven’t changed much in the sheep world, and so we are all set for the marathon of shepherding the sheep, and the large number of children and parents who have booked in to come and join us over lambing.

Not content with the perseverance needed for the task of looking after all our visitors, our Education Officer, Cliff Marriott, is running in the London Marathon in April in aid of the John Simonds Trust and 5-a-Day Market Garden at Englefield, and would really appreciate your sponsorship through his Virgin Money Giving page.