Friday, 6 November 2009
On the farm in November.
The breeding season on the farm has begun again, with the start of Autumn comes the start of tupping (mating) time, which means the tups (rams - male sheep) are let off with the ewes (female sheep), which will hopefully result in lots of lambs come next spring.
The first step (a bit like making a cake if you will!), is to buy any stock needed to replace elder members of the flock. September and early October hosts breeding sales at local markets, or marts as they are known to farmers, where tups and breeding ewes of varying ages are offered for sale.
In November the Swaledale ewes (see top picture) on the home flock from previous years are then examined for their suitability for breeding. This is done by checking their teeth because this gives a good indication of the animal's age, little or no teeth means no more babies for them.
The general condition of the ewe is also taken into account, whether they are physically robust enough to maintain their position in the breeding flock. If not they are taken out of the flock and sold.
Now it's time for the tups.
We put ours out with the ewes on November 4. This means they will begin to lamb on or around the April 1, 2010. The outcome of running Swaledales with Bluefaced Leicesters is a hybrid animal/lamb called a Mule.
The photos above show the horned ewe, three Leicester tups, which have mainly white faces, and a number of Mule lambs about 5 months old.
Once out in the fields together over the winter, they are checked daily with supplementary feed given to them to keep their energy high and help them through any bad weather. The farmer is also looking for any signs of lameness in the sheep which would delay or prevent the tupping.
Here's hoping for good weather next April!