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September/October 2017

Preparing to strain Northern Boundary fence.

Our new property at Dereel has been taking up a considerable amount of time, with a fair amount of fencing needing to be done.  Our new partners, Chris and Helena, have been thrown in the deep end and are willingly learning the ropes (or should I say ‘strands’?) of fencing.

…and these little piggies didn’t make it home.

Unlike our property at Rowsley, we have feral pigs calling Dereel home so our fence needs to be pig-proof.  We have also decided to exclude kangaroos so the 1.8m high, feral-proof fencing is new for us too.  We have found it to be much slower to erect this fence, with a few small issues along the way: we have to stand on ladders to bash in the star pickets, straining fabricated fencing really does need two strainers, and travelling 45mins-1hr before and after work makes for a very long day!

The kids have all been brilliant, as usual, with putting up with their crazy parents who bite off too much all the time.  They explore the new ‘playground’ and help with the fencing when we need an army to help out on some jobs.  They also put up with late nights and early mornings.

I now have a new term in my vocabulary and on my shopping list – Dereel dinners.  This is used when we know it’s going to be a long day and we take dinner (tea) to eat.  On the shopping list, it means buying tinned veges, fish or lentils, which are super-easy to chuck in the car fridge and use with pre-cooked pasta or rice to whip up a quick, hearty meal for the end of the day.  Maybe one day I’ll share some of my Dereel dinner recipes with you all.

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August: Lamb – 1, Fox – 0

This month we have a guest blogger (read: I strong-armed Child No. 3 into writing a paragraph for me). Round of applause, please.

“We were checking the sheep since they had begun lambing and happened to see three pairs of eyes in the back paddock.  Two pairs were the ewe’s and her lamb’s eyes, and across from them in the Brisbane Ranges were another pair of eyes.  They were the fox’s.  He crept through the fence towards the ewe and her lamb.  The ewe ran at the fox and attempted to headbutt it.  The fox quickly ran back through the fence and stopped to watch the ewe.  Dad then fired the gun and killed the fox.  The ewe only jumped slightly at the sound of the gun.  She walked back to her lamb still keeping an eye on the dead fox.  We walked over to the fox and she continued to watch it.  We walked away and she must have known the fox was dead because she stopped watching it.  Later we saw that the other sheep had ran away at the sound of the gun but surprisingly that ewe hadn’t.”

Thanks, Chloe!

This story shows the fantastic mothering ability of Wiltshire Horn sheep.  They are extremely protective mothers who are willing to go after a fox if they have to.

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June 2017

We have some exciting news for June!  Linners Lamb is expanding!! And no, I’m not just talking about our lambs growing up and getting bigger.  We have taken on new partners and have bought more land.  This will enable the business to produce more lamb for more customers.  We are very excited!

Our new partners are Justin’s brother, Chris and his family – Helena, Charlotte and Bethany.  Chris and Helena both currently work in the environmental field.  We are looking forward to sharing the highs and lows of farming life with them.

Our new property is at Dereel, which is south of Ballarat.  It is slightly bigger than Rowsley at 220 acres.  It is very picturesque with big old trees scattered around the undulating hills.  Our first priority is to make sure all fences are stock-proof so we can cart some sheep over there to fatten up.

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April 2017

April has been a busy month with school holidays and Easter to fit in also.

School holidays are always good as I (Katie) can get lots of work done around the place.  With the kids, I pulled down an old fence which was a bit of a hazard for both man and beast.  We also chipped out Bathurst Burr on our flat, while Justin sprayed out the thistle rosettes.  No. 2 Child grumbled to me, “They’re called holidays for a reason.”

We also bought a new feeder from Advantage Feeders.  This one is a trailing unit and we will use it to follow the ewes around. For the time being, we have put Grower pellets in it and separated out the bullied lambs from the big bullies.  Shy-feeders are an industry-wide problem and we are testing a prototype reader (brown wooden panel in pic) which will log the animals’ EID ear tags.  This will show us which animals are eating from the feeder and which aren’t.  Splitting the animals up does help, but we find that we just create another paddock with bullies and bullied.  We are still trying to work out the answer to this question – along with the entire meat industry.

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March 2017

Here we are, pretty much back where we started with the blog posts – the rams have been put in with the ewes to produce more lambs.  Last year’s lambs are fattening up nicely with half of our wethers already gone.  With the extra demand (see below), it looks like it’ll be a short season this year.

Our biggest news for this month is that we have found a butcher who will take most of our meat.  This takes a lot of stress out of direct-marketing for us, as he will take the bulk of the lamb.  The butcher is Meatsmith, situated in Fitzroy, Melbourne.  He is a specialty butcher specializing in exotic meats, hence his interest in our Wiltshire Horn meat.

Linners Lamb is now on Facebook!  Check out our very basic page (at the moment while I get my head around it) here.  We would love it if you could ‘like’ us or even leave a review for us.  Apparently that bumps us up on people’s newsfeeds or something like that…still not up to speed on the Facebook lingo.  Share some photos or recipes of how you’ve enjoyed Linners Lamb!  (By the way, we’re planning on getting some cooked meat photos, but it disappears so fast with our hungry horde that the only shot we get is the empty plate! :-))

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It’s just too hot, man…

Summer is the time of year where we retreat to the shade and wait out the hot weather. Come to think of it, that’s what our sheep do too.

We have spent February doing our jobs either early in the day or late after tea.  The lack of rainfall means that the feed on offer is getting dry and low.  We have kept the lambs and the ewes supplemented with both hay and pellets so they don’t lose condition.  Joining time is coming up again so we don’t want our ewes to lose condition.  The health of the ewe is directly related to how many lambs she’ll produce, which is fairly common-sense when you think of it.  Since we want to produce lots of lambs each year (that is how we make our money after all), then we try to ensure our ewes are in top condition at joining time.

Our ewes and rams recovered nicely from their Scabby Mouth.  The lambs got it mildly, but most were unmarked.  They did go off their feed for a week or so, and drank more water than usual, but are now back to their sheepy selves.

PS The sheep in the photo was perfectly fine.  She was just tired from being chased around and finally caught.  We decided to have a bit of fun with sunglasses to get revenge for exhausting us!

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January – Outbreak!

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.

Fly-struck ewe with Scabby Mouth. We had to watch for fly-strike and then yard and treat any sheep struck.

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… 😉

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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.

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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.

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Katie proudly showing off her bale.

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!

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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.

This spring-fed waterhole was all the water we had left on the farm last autumn. From this to…
THIS! The same waterhole is on the right side of this photo.