Jonathan: The unusually warm weather in April caused the natural shedding of a sheep’s fleece to be triggered several weeks early, and as a result some of our sheep have been looking increasingly scraggy. Yesterday evening, with the help of our neighbour Seonaidh and his dogs Bess and Jack, all our 16 Hebridean sheep were rounded up – the tiresome threesome included for once! – and by 7pm they were all secure in the fank. Then we set to work shearing – with hand shears: what a cussed, wriggly lot those Hebrideans are! I may have been slow compared to Seonaidh, but the finished fleeces looked good enough – almost all of in one piece, cut close to the body, and following the natural break line. But I’m not so sure the sheep were so impressed, with quite a few nicks to their skin to nurse (I sprayed anti-bacterial solution on to the wounds, of course). By the time the light was starting to fade at 1030pm we’d dosed them with the milky looking ‘drench’ that keeps fluke worms at bay, and I’d loaded all the fleeces up into the car to take home. At 7:30am this morning I was back to finish the job – the sheep having spent the night securely in the fold. I checked over their feet: for the first time I was seeing some early indications of footrot, so treated for that; and I dosed them all with SpotOn – against ticks, lice and blowfly. And then I gave them all an individual kiss and a cuddle, told them how much I loved them … no actually I just untied the fold gate and they shot out with great leaps and jumps!
Jonathan: The snow has continued on and off all day – we now have more than 150mm and the roads uncleared. No deliveries, so I have now today run out of feed for the sheep and they can’t get to the grass for the snow. I’ve made a make-shift hay-rack and loaded it with straw, and though there’s precious little nutrition in that it’s at least better than the rough grasses these Hebrideans usually make do with. I had intended during this week to move the sheep to the next field, but engineering work has had to take priority. I need to fix the the electric fencing first, but that won’t be possible in heavy snow; and anyway the sheep won’t get to the grass there either. Milder weather would be a god-send, but right now what I need most is some bags of Sheep Nuts!
Jonathan: Another cold frosty morning! Temperatures are around zero – so nothing dramatic, but the raw north-east wind has a nasty bite!! The Hebridean sheep are hardy enough to stand all this and far worse without any fussing over, but even so the winter grass is not very appetizing and offering them some tasty treats from a bag helps to keep them used to me and easier to handle. One of this year’s lambs – from Catherine MacLennan – ate from my hand this morning! In fact all the ewes from Catherine – both last and this year – are confident, and the biggest of them (she’s the biggest of all the sheep in fact) will try and eat out of the bucket as I’m walking along! In January – when the township rams have done their work for this year – I plan to let my ewes out onto the unfenced upper crofts and train them to keep fairly close to home and used to my voice. Whether, in future years, they will do that when they have lambs, is another matter!