Archive for the ‘livestock’ Category

in all the commotion, and yes there was a fair bit going on, I forgot to tell of new arrivals:

sheep and lambs
New sheep, this ewe (Geraldine) only has one side of her udder working, so no good for breeding from, but we don’t intend to so that’s ok, she comes with her twins – the girl lamb (Gilly) got the good side but the boy (Godfrey) was bottle fed – he’s eating grass now, and will soon catch up in size with his sister. They are all poll Dorset, but clearly not all that pure, as Gilly has black around her eyes, the tips of her ears, hooves and scattered through her wool – as we like naturally coloured wool, we will be interested in seeing how her fleece turns out.
fiesty and chicks
In addition to the ewe and lambs we also have had chicks.. lots and lots of them – too many really… and the latest lot (fourth hatch of the year) were hatched under our new broody – given to me by the lovely Sandra from Bellecross hens – and this hen is mean when broody.. but a good trait in a mother I think, as she is very protective her her charges

It’s all go in other areas too, in the veg garden and house renovations, and getting out and about too. The flower garden has to manage itself – I’m all about the cottage garden
home sweet home

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shearing day

It’s been a funny spring, with a warm April and a cold start to May, making picking the moment to shear hard to choose. But this last week we have had some quite hot days and showers, and so today was the day. Who knew there was a 7am on a Sunday morning?
The shearer did his usual swift and professional job and the sheep were happy to be let back into the field one by one, minus that heavy coat, and sniffed at each other trying to recognise who was who. Apart from Betty obviously, who can’t be like the rest of the flock:
betty looks for her coat
Instead she seemed intent on finding her coat before leaving.

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broody takes no prisoners
Seriously, take a look at that face. You wouldn’t want to get between her and her chicks would you?
Technically not her chicks, well I suppose they are now. These hatched in the incubator over the weekend, and last night we slipped them under this broody hen, removed the fake egg she was nursing and now she is a proud, fierce mother of eight.
She is excellent for these fosterings, as soon as we slip the first one under she is clucking and shuffling her feathers to make room.. and yes pecking the hell out of the hand that delivers the next chick into the warmth of her feathers.

The chicks seem pretty happy with the arrangement too.

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first chicks of 2015

Well that confirms it, with the arrival of chicks, spring is here. Sixteen hatched easily and quickly – which is the way we like it.  And this is good news for Eddie our Rhodie cockerel, as it confirms his position within the flock.  We set 24 eggs, 6 were blank – a fairly high ratio but he is outnumbered by a fairly large number of hens.

I realise we could improve fertility rates by putting him with just 2 or 3 girls, but I’m not keen – a hen can be fairly battered and sometimes injured by being the centre of a cockerel’s attention, and by running him with his usual harem; birds I have put with him on purpose to breed from, the flock is settled, and there is no time wasted waiting for everyone to re-establish the pecking order.  It’s easier and we accept the loss of some blank eggs in the hatch.

Interestingly, fertility rates are also affected by other factors, such as diet, stress, age of the parent birds, and time of year.  You can spend a lot of time worrying about it, or you can be like me and go ‘oh a broody hen! let’s hatch some eggs!’

I like to get a hatch on fairly early, just to ensure we get the birds I want to breed this year.  We gambled that we would have a broody to raise them before the twenty one days were up – but no broody – so I shall have to hand rear them.  The plus side of this is I get chick-cuddles.

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belly slices on the bone

Monday saw us loading the pigs and taking them on their final journey. The reality of their end is masked by some angst at this time. By this stage they are no longer cute piglets, but two hundred weight of young boar. And having boar weaners is a first for us, they matured at an alarming rate and we worried about the possibility of boar taint. So getting them booked in, then the stress of trying to persuade that much pig into the trailer.. then the unloading at the other end all adds up to angst. Actually they loaded easily, came out of the trailer easily, and didn’t miss their appointment….
Only after that do we miss them, and we do. But this is part of the deal.
Today the pigs came home again, as pork, and we spent the day cutting them into edible portions. The meat is free of taint, and not too fatty at all, probably the best pork we have raised to date.

We strayed from the basic cutting plan and cut the middles close to the eye of meat, leaving a bigger belly slab, which himself cut into belly slices, on the bone,for meaty rib eating.  Meanwhile I boned out the loins/racks and cut the meat into many many steaks, and we cut a small joint from the side runners / hock and hands from under the spare ribs, which just seemed too lean and lovely to cut up for mincing. So now we have an abundance of pork steaks, roasting joints, tenderloin, trotters, ribs/belly slices, and mince.

Totally shattering day, but rounded off nicely with a trip into town; we sat outside under the canopy of a riverside bistro, a small group turned up and started playing swing and with pint in hand and the rain teaming down on the canvas,  it gave us that camping/festival feeling.

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ducklings settled in the shade
It has been a long, very hot mixed bag of a day, but a good one.  Himself woke me at a time I thought was only reached by staying up late, this morning – I may have mentioned I am a night owl, these early hours really ought to be banned. Himself is more an early riser, and, during this dry spell,  has taken to watering the garden in the morning (and he doesn’t expect me to – for which I am very grateful!), the theory being that the water doesn’t encourage the slugs out as it would at night.  That and there never seems to be enough time to water in the evening AND do anything vaguely entertaining/social.

So anyway, after the watering moment, and the making me get up at daft o’clock (I did ask him to) off we went to market, where we magically changed some pullets into some ducklings.  It is the rule of smallholders that generally you should leave a livestock auction with more birds than you brought.  Fortunately it was our intention to sell some chickens and buy some ducklings, and I vaguely remember explaining to himself that if we were going to have some, we might as well get a few… and …well my hand went up a few times and we have nine new ducklings.  It was very hot, so I gave them water before we left, and when at home  we settled them in the pen they were delighted at the mini pools and set about playing, washing and generally getting very wet.   I admit we spent a fair bit of time watching them too.  We shall set up the big paddling pool tomorrow, which will delight them no end.
nine ducks nine
The rest of the day was spent on general chores, though very slowly as it was so very hot and humid. Early evening we went out for a short test cycle as finally, after some years, have retrieved our bikes from the barn we had stored them in,given them a service (ohh gears not rusted together? there’s posh!) . It was a relief to discover that yes, it was like riding a bike, and it all came back really quickly, and we are all fired up about cycling again, although maybe on some nice cycle-paths to start with…
Then, finally, we nipped out for an evening swim in the sea, given that sea temperatures are high at the moment, and although there was some shrieking on getting in the water (from himself obviously), it was just lovely.

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new sheep

new sheep
We have way too much grass.  We meant to buy some more sheep at auction, but with the roof and kitchen renovations and general life stuff getting in the way, we sort of missed our moment,  and when we finally got our act together and went to the market, we saw some nice looking  ewes with lambs, only they were still heavy with wool, and ours had been sheared.  It would have been a pain to organise shearing again, and add to the expense.

Whilst I was looking at the lambs a nice lady came over to us and chatted to us.  Turns out they were her sheep.  And furthermore she keeps her sheep on our neighbour’s field.  We exchanged numbers, has a good sheep related chat and now her sheep have been sheared and we have bought a ewe and her lambs.

The ewe is a little unsure, but regards humans coming into the field as a potentially good thing. Hopefully we can win her over.  She has light grey wool, and it will be interesting to see how that grows out.

So we now need to think of some names – F for this year – we are still only beginners, our neighbour is on her second time through the alphabet.

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