Monday, November 11, 2013

The boys have come out from their ewe groups this weekend. I'm very excited at the prospects of some of the pairings we've made and really have my fingers crossed for some lovely lambs. We have vaccinated the ewes against Schmallenberg and hope to avoid the disease which is now well established in England and within our county. It was a difficult decision as the vaccine cost approx. £3.50 per ewe and can seem rather expensive, it's definitely a cost I could live without! Having seen some other farmers and smallholders struggle with the effects of Schmallenberg last year I decided I would worry if I didn't vaccinate the ewes. They all had their vaccine 3 weeks before the tups went in and now all we can do is hope for a successful lambing period in early March.

Montgomery Jack all prepped and ready to meet his ewes


The Rams have been with the ewes for two cycles now and for the most part it's gone very well. Only one shearling ewe required a repeat service, the others all seem to have held at first attempt. The rams obviously turned on some serious charm and wooed the ewes in record time this year. We had the majority of the girls served within 10 days; great for planning our lambing times and resources. Based on the raddle marks we will be lambing for a period of approximately 3 weeks with the bulk of the ewes being in the first 10 days. Must remember to get well stocked up on the coffee for then! As you guys know we have a Coloured Ryeland flock and also a Ryeland flock. They are split at tupping time into small groups each with their respective rams. as per my last blog we have introduced some new bloodlines this year with some beautiful new rams joining our breeding group. The fun of having new rams is pairing the ewes to them, looking at their bloodlines and conformation trying to decide who would be best with who. It's a bit like an introduction agency trying to find the best match.

Malt Kiln Sabre takes a break from romancing the ewes 

This year we had quite a few shearlings (ewes which have only been shorn once approximately 18 months of age) joining the breeding group. It's not common for Ryelands or Coloured Ryelands to be bred from in their first year so normally they are shearlings before they go to the ram and two year olds when they actually lamb themselves. This allows them to be fully developed before having the additional burden of supporting a growing lamb. It's best to put these young ewes with rams who have a bit of experience and vice a versa a young inexperience ram would often be put to more experienced ewes just to help every thing along! Luckily all the rams we've used this year have been proven and are relatively experienced which meant this did not need to influence our decision on pairings.

During the whole of this hormone fuelled party the ewe lambs and ram lambs, which we have retained or bought in, are separated and given their own paddocks out of harms way. The ewe lambs have had a marvellous time mooching on a paddock with a  great variety of herbage which they have explored and munched on well. They are now back with the ewes on a lovely pasture full of green goodies to keep them happy. The ewes will remain with them until lambing when we'll walk them down the road to the yard and stables.

The ram lambs had a rather fantastic holiday with our neighbours who have looked after them wonderfully. Truth be told I think they've been a little spoilt! They are now back with us and enjoying their new paddock and plenty of mix to keep them growing over winter.

We have some visiting ewes who are still with the rams and will be until late December. They seem to have seem to have settled well and made themselves at home. They all used to live here and have been sold but have returned to have a romantic break with our rams.

Over the next few months the ewes will be monitored and will be due for scanning in late December. Then we'll really know how well our pairings have gone!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nearly time to start again

Well it has been a busy few weeks with shows, sales and purchases galore.

We were lucky enough to go to Burwarton Show this year and help Sue & Any McVicar (Montgomery flock) show one of their sheep. It was a great day and so many Ryelands and Coloured Ryelands were there. We learnt so much and were very grateful for the opportunity to help them.

Following on from this we took some of our sheep to a local show and entered them in "Any other breed classes" as they don't have Ryeland classes. We were delighted to get two third rosettes and had such a fantastic day out. I think both Stephen and I learnt a lot and will be better prepared for our next showing occasion in 2014. We're hoping to do a few shows next year to really get into the swing of things and get the sheep out and about.

We have made some purchases this summer too. It started with a beautifully dark ewe lamb from Janet Shaw (Malt Kiln flock). This was then followed by two lovely Ryeland ewe lambs from Sue & Andy McVicar (Blackwell flock) and a Coloured Ryeland ram lamb out of white parents to be brought on for 2015. We then took ourselves off to the Ludlow Show and Sale and purchased a Coloured Ryeland ewe lamb (Glenbryn flock), 2 x Coloured Shearling ewes (Welsh flock & Lower Hayton flock) and 2 x Ryeland shearling ewes (Mansel flock & Arberth flock). We also decided to increase the bloodlines available to our ewes and purchased a senior ram from Catherton flock. It was a busy but thoroughly enjoyable day.

Glenbryn ewe lamb 

Malt kiln ewe lamb

Catherton Playboy

The next few weeks will see us getting ready for tupping with ewes being separated into Ryelands and Coloured Ryelands, worming feet and vaccinations will also be done. The ewe lambs will not enter the breeding flock this year but will grow on for 2014. We also have two ram lambs who will be growing on over the winter and then will enter the breeding cycle next autumn, these are by Mansel and Montgomery flocks and should hopefully add something quite special when their time arrives... just have to wait a bit boys!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

summer is well underway

Time for a quick monthly update....

 The ewes have all now been dried up and the lambs weaned. All the ewe lambs have left for their new homes and some additional ewe lambs have joined us from Malt Kiln and Blackwell flocks. We have also purchased a ram lamb and a Coloured Shearling ewe from the Montgomery flock. Two other coloured ewes will be coming to us from Brecon. The ewe lambs will over winter with us and join the breeding flock next autumn with the shearling going to the ram for the first time this year. Hopefully the ram lamb will be mature enough to cover a couple of ewes also. Our Coloured ram is related to our new girls so they will be served by a ram in the Montgomery flock. No need to worry though our stock ram will have plenty of girls to keep him occupied as some of our old stock are coming back in the autumn to be tupped. Of course there will also be the Ludlow Show and Sale to attend in August; I'm sure a few ewes will end up being purchased there too!
A malt Kiln ewe lamb we have purchased

one of the Blackwell ewe lambs who has joined us


We attended a sheep skills workshop last week and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. The course was fantastically delivered by Shropshire Farm vets and allowed us to look at maximising lambing rates and reducing worm burdens within the flocks. Now all we need to do is put it all into practice!

We are just about to start training our sheep who we are taking to our local show on the 17th August. Luckily some of ours have been shown before so are very happy with the halters. The lambs on the other hand may take some persuading. Will post some photos in our next update

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer is here (sort of)

It's been a while since we've posted an update on all the activities going on with the Fairfax sheep so whilst it's raining it seemed an appropriate time to catch up with you all.

The sheep have had the most amazing grazing over the last month and have been moved around several paddocks to keep the grass under control. The lambs have thrived on the spring/summer grass and all look really well. Not long now before the first group will be weaned. Not something I look forward to as the noise is so loud for the first few days as they settle into life without their mum's reassurance. We seemed to have had a mock run of this when the ewes were sheared; confusion reigned and non of the lambs were sure  of who belonged to who! I spent ages trying to identify sheep that looked completely different with their new hairdos... chaos as per usual. The ewes are all looking rather tubby and some will definitely need to join weight watchers before returning to the tup in September.

All our lambs have now been sold to great breeding homes and will be off to their new lives in July. We have gained more grazing so now I can also increase the size of the flock, oh how I love sheep shopping. Most likely to buy at the Ryeland Show and Sale in August; such a great day out.

We have also registered our Coloured Ryeland Flock too. You will see we have two flock names now, Fairfax and Moat. Our first Moat Coloured Ryelands have had their registrations come through and hopefully their certificates will be with us shortly.

Will leave you with a photo of one of our Fairfax Ryeland ram lambs from this year

Friday, May 10, 2013

busy times

Busy times here. All the lambs have been weighed, wormed and vaccinated. The lambs are all growing well, with heaviest weighing 27.8kg. They have also been moved with their ewes to fresh green grass so their winter paddocks can be rested. The first group of ewes and lambs were remarkably good and walked down the lane quietly and calmly to their new pasture. I wish the same could be said of the second group; two escapees who refused to follow the bucket and just opt to eat the grassy verges decided to take a slight detour into the neighbour's garden and a trip towards the village. My lack of Usain Bolt type skills was definitely uncovered as I tried to round them up. A halter and bucket of nuts later and all were back in the correct paddocks. The new paddock has proved popular with the ewes and lambs who descended on it like a swarm of locusts and have barely looked up from the lush grass once.

The other paddocks are growing well and green grass can be seen sprouting everywhere. I'm just waiting on my delivery of grass seed to do a little repair to the areas which were poach during the winter. Fingers crossed it will be here later this afternoon. We have also sent a soil sample off for analysis so we can tailor our fertilisation plan for the autumn growth. We sent off twenty samples of our paddocks for analysis so hopefully the report will give us a clear indication of any issues we should address.

Several of the lambs have been reserved already and we are so happy with their new homes. They should add some excellent breeding lines to their new flocks. Ryelands ewes aren't generally bred from in their first year so they will spend the next 16 - 18 months getting used to their new homes. By this time they will have reached their adult size and be ready to be mothers themselves. Well grown ram lambs can be used of a few ewes in their first year. Dougie, our Ryeland ram, was used on a few last year just to check he had all the credentials to be retained. He did an excellent job and produced some lovely offspring. This year he will be used on all our white ewes. We are also thinking of buying in a coloured ram lamb to use along side our coloured ram so we will be able to retain some of his daughters in the future.

Monday, April 29, 2013

New additions to the flock

It's been very busy here this weekend with the delivery of some new sheep with their lambs at foot. We have been lucky enough to buy some lovely breeding ewes and their lambs; two Coloured Ryelands and four Ryelands have joined our flock. We're very much hoping they will improve our breeding stock for next year and therefore our 2014 lambs.

We have already been very busy with enquiries for 2013 lambs so it looks like the demand for these gorgeous sheep is still strong. They really are a great sheep for all smallholdings, not to forget they also produce wonderful meat.

A couple of the lambs have been slightly scouring over the last few days, probably due to the new green grass that has suddenly appeared. One who was rather messy has been stabled along with his mum and twin; he's been receiving electrolytes via syringe and being the helpful chap he is stands and waits for his fluids. His tummy seems far more settled now and as he's remained bright and breezy will return with the rest of his family to the flock tomorrow.

All the lambs will be wormed this weekend which was supposed to be done last week but time just flew by and unfortunately that job got over looked. The lambs will all be weighed prior to drenching so it will be fascinating to see how they've grown. They are all stocky youngsters but it's funny to watch their growth; one week they're all legs and growing upwards then next they fill out and they seem to be going outwards!

The rams are getting into all sorts of mischief this week, it would appear they are feeling left out. Today I removed our coloured ram from the hen run, where he was determined he would fit into the coop. Our young white ram also decided to go on his adventures and sneak into the ewe's paddock. Luckily none of them were feeling amorous so he just decided to have a snooze instead and soak up some sun.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

spring time

It's all been very busy here over the last few days. The lambs are growing rapidly and we are looking at them every day deciding which ones should be registered. As well as having excellent conformation the white Ryelands should have dark noses, eyes and inner ears. The Coloured Ryelands must have white tear drop markings from their eyes. Generally they are all good lambs but some obviously standout as being a little more special.

The ewes are doing their lambs well but we are still giving them a little help by feeding sheep nuts to help ensure their milk production. The lambs have also enjoyed a nibble of the lamb nuts which they get at feed time too. At feed time we like to do a quick check of all the lambs and ewes just to ensure everything is ok. It's great fun to see the lambs playing in the evening after everyone has been fed. The leaping, bouncing and lamb races are mesmerising and a complete time waster. The sense of well being when you see the lambs charging round and the muffled bleats of their mothers as they 'talk' and graze at the same time makes the harsh winter work and lambing worries so worthwhile

We have also been busy harrowing, rolling the paddocks and doing some over seeding. Remarkably the fields have stood up to the bad weather remarkably well but are very dry on the surface and grass growth has been slow to get going this year. Hopefully there will be a flush of activity soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A bit of warmer weather

The lambs are all outside now enjoying the warmer weather. The ewes have done well to keep them fed over the cold spell which hit us in April. We are still lacking the usual grass growth we would expect at this time of year but  things are looking a bit better. The lambs are rapidly growing and having great fun  gambolling around the paddocks. Nothing better to see the youngsters enjoying a stretch of the legs and lamb games with each other. The ewes look rather pleased they can get some serious grazing done while they are occupying themselves.

Generally we are pleased with this years crop of lambs with some excellent stocky offspring being produced. The ram's quality has really shone through and hopefully we can keep some of them, improving our breeding flock.

Simon the sheep has been rehomed today and we are very pleased with his new career. He will be a therapy sheep for adults with learning/additional needs at a centre in Lancashire. He will enjoy the pampering and attention he'll get so we were more than happy to donate him to such a worthy cause.

Hopefully we will be basking in warm weather soon and the grass will start to grow with gusto.