Just when you start congratulating yourself on how well you’ve got your life together, something jumps in to remind you that it’s not all beer and skittles. Does that happen to you or is it just us?
In our case, it was Scabby Mouth. We have never had this virus before and were quite alarmed when we noticed our ewes getting puffy faces. Black puffy lips and bleeding from the sores made our cute-faced sheep look very ugly indeed. We called the vet who came and checked a portion of the flock. He found they were running a temperature (they weren’t at all happy with the cold-thermometer-up-the-backside treatment) and left us with some antibiotics to give them in case of pneumonia. While we did inject the antibiotics into some of the worst affected, we found that it was generally useless. We did lose 7 breeding ewes and, interestingly, it seemed to hit the best animals worst. Of the 7 ewes lost, at least 2 were some of our best.
The ewes and rams have fully recovered now, but it is now going through our lambs from last year. So if you are waiting with great anticipation for the announcement of a new season of lamb packs, you’ll have to anticipate a little longer – we’re waiting until all signs of the virus are gone before we sell any animals. It is frustrating as some are ready to go, but we do not want to send sick animals out. Hopefully in a few more weeks, all this will just be a memory. And we’ll be congratulating ourselves once again… 😉
Summer started off well this year, thanks to the fantastic spring rains. We went into December with plenty of grass and fat, contented sheep grazing the hill sides.
In the first week we got an early Christmas surprise with the arrival of two lambs! What happened there?! One of the mothers was one of last year’s lambs so she would’ve cycled later (being her first season). The other mother is a naughty red-tag (2014 drop) who had gotten out of the paddock when we put the rams in. Of course, when we moved the rams away from the ewes at the end of joining, we happened to put them in the same paddock that this particular ewe had escaped to. So she didn’t get away with her antics entirely. Both are good mothers and we will see how they go as summer progresses.
We weaned the rest of the lambs from their mothers and started training them onto the pellet feeding. This involved putting them in a 1Ha containment paddock with the feeder. We mixed blue dye through the feed so that we could see which ones ended up with bright blue noses, showing that they’re the ones eating the pellets. Every few days we drafted out the blue-nosed ones to another paddock with another feeder allowing the shy feeders to have a try of the pellets. We have found this job much easier this year as most of the ewes have taught their lambs that the feeder is a yummy (and desirable) place. As always though, some will be stubborn and will need to be force-fed to show them how nice the pellets are.
Due to the fantastic rain throughout September and October, our river flats recovered enough from lambing to be able to bale the predominantly rye-grass pasture.
Some years ago we baled with an old B47 IH square baler which is a lot of manual work with picking up and stacking the small squares afterwards. Aside from the manual labour, the square baler is temperamental at the best of times. So as to reduce stress associated with the consistent break downs, we decided to buy a round baler. We have been searching online over the last few months, but crunch time had arrived. We contacted a helpful farmer called Justin (of course he is totally awesome with a name like that!) who was selling his Case 527 round baler. A long drive down to Stradbroke and a handshake later we were the new owners of a round baler.
This was fortunate because the spanner in the works for November was Justin’s engineering work requiring him to go to Latvia! For 2 meetings! Right in the middle of baling season!!
Never fear, Katie is here!
So after getting the baler attached thanks to a muscular father-in-law, reading the baler manual fifty times, ringing the previous owner on a Sunday afternoon (told you he was awesome!), and trundling the tractor and baler around the paddock, I finally got a bale. I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning, and my jubilant jumping around confirmed it for my kids.
When Justin returned from Latvia, he finished off the rest of the flats getting 59 more bales off 5.5 hectares. Our Linners Lamb lambs are all set for fattening up now!
Spring has sprung! And it has done it with gusto this year! After the absolute failures of the last two springs, we are very excited to see rain falling and green, lush grass growing everywhere. Of course, the problem now is that we don’t have enough sheep to eat it all! Our lambs are growing superbly on this beautiful feed and we have postponed weaning as the ewes are maintaining condition nicely too.
Justin & I have been participating in a Farm Planning Course over this month. It is good to step back from our farm business and work out where we are heading, both with short-term plans and long-term dreams. It is also important to look at our current practices and see whether they fit in with our goals.
On another note, everyone’s got hay fever around here. Well, in our district, it’s a fever for making hay and we’re not immune to it. I think that after the last two years, everyone is scared of running out of hay again and having to pay a premium price to get some. We have allowed our river flats to grow after lambing on them and now they’re ready to cut.
Our first lamb arrived on 29th of July, a lovely wedding anniversary gift from our sheep! 🙂 The rest arrived without any intervention from us and we have just marked 97 lambs for 2016. While we did have some losses, we took a very hands-off role during this lambing season and are happy with the numbers we achieved.
We spent a great deal of time and effort prior to lambing ensuring that the lambing paddocks had plenty of feed so that the ewes could remain close to their lamb during the hours after birth. A ewe that has to walk away from her lamb to find enough grass to eat leaves the lamb vulnerable to predators. Thanks to the fantastic rain we’ve been having the grass has been keeping up with the ewes’ requirements.
We have also been continuing our fencing along the creek. This fencing is happening thanks to a grant from Melbourne Water who is trying to get landowners to keep stock out of waterways. Since our little Spring Creek is part of the catchment, keeping our creek healthy and clean means healthy and clean water for Melbourne. I am planning a future post with some tips and techniques for keeping fences tight and straight in hilly terrain – the only terrain we know how to fence. 🙂
Only a couple of months in and I’m already getting slack about keeping up the blog posts!
June and July have traditionally been our fencing months. Each year when normal, sane people head off to the fire with a good book, we traipse around the hills carrying star-pickets and wire. It makes sense, of course, to fence when the ground is soft after rain and the cooler weather makes vigorous exercise more pleasant. We have done fencing during summer and I can assure you that it is not at all comfortable. Yes, fencing in winter is sensible, but sensible is not the same as comfortable. Of course, this year Justin dived off a shed wall, spent 3 days in hospital and has been rehabilitating ever since. We are now starting to think about doing our fencing for the year – just as lambing is about to start.
Yes, five months has gone quickly and the ewes are due to drop lambs any day now. Each morning we pull out the binoculars and scan the paddocks looking for little white lumps on the ground, but so far, no lambs. We’ll let you know when it does happen. It is always very exciting and very nerve-racking; new additions arriving daily and predators prowling at night. The ewes are generally very protective of their lambs, but they struggle to protect triplets so unfortunately one triplet will often not survive – unless we take it and bottle-feed it. As always, we are hoping that our preparations for this year’s lambing will make it a trouble-free period.
Our big event for May was burning off the native Silver Tussock in one of our paddocks. We began by walking the fences with a brush cutter and cutting out the tussocks growing close to the fence. This was to create a fire-break so our fences wouldn’t be damaged. The tussock was super-easy to light and scary to watch the fire leap from plant to plant. However we managed to contain it to the areas we wanted burnt, although it did get through the fence in one spot. The amazing thing about the Silver Tussock is how it takes off again. Within 3 weeks of burning we were able to put the ewes back onto the green shoots coming up.
On a more personal note, a nasty accident has left Justin with a broken leg. He was climbing around the farm shed in the dark and fell onto concrete breaking his hip. Now he’s hobbling around on crutches and feeling completely useless – he’s not, of course; he’s just not used to sitting still or ‘taking it easy’ which he has to do for the next 6 to 8 weeks. The doctors say he should fully recover within 3 months or so. We are just grateful that he didn’t fall on his head!
April has been a quieter month on the farm. The rams were put in with the ewes at the start of March for six weeks, so mid-April was when we chased them out.
The rains have not come for us so we continue to supplement feed both the ewes and last year’s lambs.
We have spent our time doing odd jobs, maintenance and starting this website!
Thanks for everyone who has ordered our lamb packs over the years. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, we have decided to stop selling direct to customers for the foreseeable future. June 2022. Dismiss