Friday 21 October 2016

Sheep Meds and Rising Sap

Sheep meds - against worms, fluke and Clostridium infection
A text message in the week from Sue and Rob reminds us that this is the time of year to catch up on our annual round of sheep medication. Both farms subscribe to the "nearly organic" school of management (Yes, I know the purists deny the existence of this one; you cannot be "nearly" organic, you either are, or you're not) - we do not do any un-necessary drugging, like the day to day dosing with antibiotics performed by the commercial boys, and we try to only use the vet when we have a known, proven disease.

The smallest bottle of Covexin you can buy - 50 ml.
3 conditions in sheep, though, have us convinced enough to be 'likely', so we allow these (worms, fluke and Clostridium infection) preventative meds in and hang the organic 'ticket'. The worms and fluke are just because it is wet, boggy land, and worse just outside our boundary, so that the little snails which act as secondary host to the fluke could easily get at us. Having said that, every time we slaughter a lamb we get the butchers to slice through the liver enough to confirm that it is 100% free from fluke damage and we have not had a bad one yet. In our defence we also own that the local farm co-ops all stock the fluker and wormer; a sure sign that plenty of farmers locally do this too.

The Clostridium thing is a little more complicated. We were not doing this up till winter 2015/16 and you may recall that in that autumn/winter we borrowed the lovely Suffolk ram 'Rambo' from Sue and Rob for 5 weeks to 'see to' all our ewes. A good job he did too, giving us 3 pairs of twins. All seemed well and we shipped him off back home with everybody happy and healthy. Or so we thought. I don't think I said this in the blog but, unfortunately, 2 weeks later, he suddenly upped and died for no apparent reason. They found him stretched out in the field at morning rounds.

The lovely bright red bark of dogwood.
Dogwood grows round here like weeds
Now, we don't know for sure that it was Clostridium that did for him (nobody spends money on post mortem on run-of-the-mill sheep like ours) but from our research and digging (including talking to our vet, of course) that is pretty much the only thing that causes fast, unexplained death with no prior symptoms and it can lie dormant in the animal and then be triggered by the stress of moving the sheep around. Obviously we also have no idea whether Rambo had it all along, or picked it up at home or at our place but the advice was to get everybody vaccinated.

A local donkey makes it into the '365' album
When you go to buy meds for sheep here you immediately hit a problem well known among smallholders and frequently moaned about. The manufacturers of the meds do not cater for us and the smallest quantity of drug you can buy is designed to meet the needs of normal size flocks.

Coming back into lay after the oddly late moult.
Our advised drug for the Clostridium (Covexin 10) comes down to 50 ml bottles and the dose is 1 ml, so you have to buy 50 doses. It is €37 or so so we have to try to share the 'pain' between a few smallholders. In our case, we bought the Covexin, Sue got the wormer and fluker. In fairness the drug lasts 3 years in the fridge and any new animals get introduced to the treatment via a double dose, 5-6 weeks apart, so between us we will get through about a third of it and only throw away about €25's worth. Ah well.

The 'new' kittens are 5 months old now.
So, over I went to do the first of the paired jabs  on 2 of Sue's new ewes and the new ram, Silas, replacement for the late Rambo (May the Lord have mercy etc). It was my first chance to clap eyes on him properly and weigh up his prospects of doing a good job for our ewes and I must admit to being a bit taken a-back by how tiny he seems compared to my mountainous Mummas. Apparently he is "all there" and has been making muddy foot prints on the flanks of Sue's ladies but he's only 6 months old and might not be 'man' enough. He is, though, our only option currently and we are going to raddle him up and give him the benefit of the doubt. In fairness we are not that pushed about getting a gazillion lambs off our 4 ewes so if he 'misses' or manages only singletons we will not be upset. We will look forward to using him again in 2017 when he is a big, strong 18 month old shearling. Good luck Silas.

Domesticity goes on for ever.
A little amusing aside on the meat-stock. Over the few years I have been here I have had a few happy chats with a neighbour about producing our own pork, lamb, chicken, etc. He is a life long beef farmer but amazed me by never having eaten any of his own meat - his animals go off to the big factories locally and into the supermarket food chain.

I was never intending to get that deep into Twitter. I seem to have
racked up 3000 'tweets' mainly chatting to the smallholder crew.
He tells me wryly that he is sure it is gorgeous (young, healthy, tender, almost organic (that one again!)) but that if the family wants beef on the table then herself has to trot off to the supermarket and buy anonymous meat in cling film packaging like "everyone" else. I joke with him that he is mad and surely just a little bit curious to sample his own product. Well he told me this week that he has decided to try it so a heifer has been chosen, taken off to local man Webb's (who does our pigs) and is currently hanging in the cold store there before being butchered up, and "herself" was sent off to town with a wad of money to buy a BIG freezer. Thought that'd amuse you.

This pic is a bit of a fake. The apples are
from our cider tree, variety Dabinette but
the cider is by the guy down the lane who
gave our pigs the pomace after squeezing
his normal dessert apples.
Meanwhile here today, everybody seems to be through their feather moult and feeling the sap rising. I have seen the Araucana cock dusting up with a Marans or two. Through the kitchen window I saw our #2 Buff Orp rooster set about the biggest male turkey poult and promptly get beaten up by all three poults acting together. One we think is a female, but maybe turkeys do this as a pack. Later I saw the big male turkey poult get hold of the smaller female by the scruff looking for all the world like he was about to mount. Child snatcher! On my afternoon rounds I inadvertently walked by that #2 rooster and felt the flap and strike of a kick-out. He'd had a little pop at me, the silly lad. He doesn't want to start that malarkey. We don't entertain human-aggressive roosters here. Then at lock up I had lost the turkeys. They were in the kitchen garden with the male in full display mode, tail erect and fanned, strutting his stuff like a pro. I had to shepherd them to bed. In his defence, as soon as he saw me his tail went down and he allowed himself to be shepherded.

Finally a fun pic taken by one of our archers, Yulia, who (with hubby 'Colly', of course) has recently brought lovely little Feliz Sophia into the world and now brings the baby along to our sessions to watch us 'arch' from her buggy-cot. I had offered to cuddle her (the baby, not Yulia!) during our coffee break to give Mum a chance to drink her tea, and she caught this cute pic of me doing bottle feeding duties. Ahhhhhhh.

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