Thursday 19 September 2013

Sheep Tracks and Milestones

Growing up in Sussex with regular access to the chalk Downs and being able to watch a bit of sheep farming in action, I was always taken by the fact that sheep will all use very definite regular paths from A to B across a field, not wander willy-nilly. They soon wear definite tracks across the fields which are clearly visible on the short-grazed turf of the steep scarp slopes where they are actually a lot easier to walk on as a human as they are like a leveled out ledge along the hillside. I was amused to note that our 5 are now doing exactly that in our small, one and a half acre sheep field, so that we now have a series of definite worn tracks radiating out from the feeding station and gate area. If they are way away in a corner of the field when you whistle them up for supper, they will canter across to you but in line-astern within one of these tracks (or two, in the case of this picture). Curious things, sheep.

I recently posted on the subject of Liz's recent 'milestone' Birthday. There's a lot of it about at the moment, this mile-stone, significant age thing. Ginny's and Padfoot's baby bunnies hit the 3 month stage on 2nd September. Not a one of them has sold for pets, so I am afraid the freezer beckons for these guys but because they are only 'pet' rabbits, rather than any meat breed, they are still tiny. You'd need one each to make a decent meal, so there are no plans to do anything with them yet except let them keep on mowing the lawn, which they are doing very nicely at present. This did, though, steer us into a definite decision NOT to do any more pet x pet breeding. We may put G and/or P to a meaty buck, as we did in 2012, which gave us very nice carcasses at 3 months in that year, but other than that they will just get to live as pets seeing out their natural, as it were.

La Bresse cross cockerel at 21 weeks
On the 11th, Goldie's remaining babies (2 bucks) hit the 3 month stage and these, being meat breed, are doing a lot better, but regular readers will know that these keep on popping their clogs for no obvious reason, possibly a developmental issue to do with blockages in their urinary tracts. One is albino white, the other a dark wild-rabbit style brown. If either one survives, we may actually keep him as our breeding buck and try crossing him with the pet does but they, too, are currently doing a good job as lawn mowers.

The '8-Ball' chicks, hatched at Easter under Broody Betty, are now (today, 19th Sept) at a very significant milestone. They are 21 weeks old, the date by which even the difficult-to-sex breeds should traditionally make their minds up and either lay an egg or shout cock-a-doodle-do! We were expecting to get to today and have to cull out the roosters from the group because there might start to be fights between William the Conqueror and any young pretenders, or between the boys themselves and the 8-Ball roosters might start to harass the ladies. Certainly we might be going deaf from the amount of crowing. In fact we have only had to 'off' one, a Sussex Ponte 'roo'. Only the La Bresse cross has done any crowing and his is a rather yodeling comic shout. He has tried treading a few hens but he generally gets chased off by one of the Sussex girls. Most of them are now bigger than the Sussex anyway. with only the Mini-Buffs being smaller. 

Deefer at 7 years old.
These boys will probably get a stay of execution all the time they do not cause us problems, until such time as we have no meat in the freezer.

On 17th Sept was Deefer's 7th Birthday, so Happy Birthday Deefer. In this land of no raw pork ribs, where 99% of pig meat seems to get salted into bacon before the public can get anywhere near it, her 'Birthday Cake' came in the form of a pork and leek sausage. Happy Birthday, too, to her brother Archie and sister Ellie-Bez back in Kent. 

The Hubbard chicks at 50 days
The Hubbard chicks, meanwhile, them of the Operation Fowl-Switch of an earlier post, made 50 days today. They are doing well and growing fast but give a definite impression that they will get HUGE, that they need to grow into their legs which seem out of proportion to their bodies. These guys, in any commercial system, are reckoned to be 'ready' at 84 days. I think ours, fully free-range, are possibly going a bit slower than that and may take longer. We will try to weigh them at day 84 (23rd October) just for the sake of getting live weights to compare with Mentor Anne's 8 organic, outdoor-penned birds, but these guys will also not hit the freezer any time soon. 

It's all go.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Have you tried any of the pet shops to sell the rabbits, or failing that Roscommon sale on the 1st Sunday every month.