Clodagh Hughes runs a sheep enterprise on the Monaghan/Louth border near Inniskeen; she is That’s Farming’s newest contributor and will provide an insight into her farm on a weekly basis.
This past week on the farm has been relatively quiet as all my woollies have settled into a nice routine.
With a slight burst in grass growth recently, I was able to move my flock onto better pasture, as lambs are really starting to compete with their mothers for grass and the last thing I need is to have to supplement them with meal at this time of year.
This would completely undermine any chance of a profit margin which I would hope to achieve this year!
I did have a couple of issues to keep me on my toes though and, as you may already be aware, there are no 2 days the same in farming!
I’m lucky I farm a lowland flock on ground beside my house – so it makes it easier for me to do regular checks and perhaps pick up on things I might otherwise miss.
I was out checking my sheep a bit later than some mornings, I can’t even remember why I was late, and after doing a headcount (3 times because sheep keep moving) I realise I’m missing one sheep.
I do a quick scan of the hedges and the electric divider fence as these are prime spots for our woolly friends to get caught up in but no sheep. I walk further down the field over a small hill and there she is… legs akimbo, stuck on her back and going nowhere fast.
I make a beeline for her and thankfully she’s not been there long because she’s bright, alert and paddling the air. Only for this situation is so serious it would be comical to see.
Anyway, back to the task in hand – I slowly and calmly roll her onto her side and allow her to get her bearings, as they can be a bit disorientated, and after a minute she lets out a funny wee bleat and trots off to join the flock, not even a lousy thank ‘ewe’.
This is called getting cast over and is of particular concern at this time of year because sheep are carrying heavy fleeces and if they become cast over it can prove fatal if they can’t right themselves.
A cast sheep can very quickly fill up with gas in their abdomen and consequently suffocate to death within a few hours. Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant you are you’re almost destined to lose some of your sheep this way.
Some losses in farming are expected and you must be able to deal with them or you will never carry on. Losses such as these are so frustrating and demoralising and I’m happy to know farmers working with animals all their lives who still get upset by the loss of an animal, me included.
I’m gearing up for shearing on Wednesday next and it can’t happen soon enough as the risk of cast over sheep will only increase from now on.
Till next week folks, be good.