Former professional chef, Clodagh Hughes, runs a sheep enterprise on the Monaghan/Louth border near Inniskeen.
Ok, so you will be glad to hear I got my assignments finished and submitted in time. This was not without some unnecessary stress, but all is well that ends well. Note to self, never leave it so late again!
Staying with college, we just about survived our practical day on the farm on Thursday, December 4th. It was fffffreezing brass monkeys.
Obviously, the nature of farming involves a lot of outside, hands-on practical work and learning, but it also means standing around listening to the tutors for a couple of hours.
The college did take pity on our miserable, shivering carcasses and cut the day short…bless them!
The weather of late has been decidedly on the frosty side, to say the least. Although I welcomed it over the rain of recent weeks, it brings its own set of challenges to us all, but none more testing than on the farm.
Firstly, all water drinkers keep freezing over throughout the day and you would not believe how much water sheep will drink in a day. This is especially true in the case of my ewes who are coming into their 3rd month of pregnancy.
Furthermore, my sheep don’t have access to as much good quality grass this time of year they are on hay which, naturally, is low in moisture. Similarly, my lambs are also on hay and meal rations, so their water requirements have increased quite a bit too.
On the plus side, the ground is lovely and hard, making it much easier to navigate the deadly terrain I encounter when the rains are here.
Although, each year I forget where the really slippy spots around the farm are and it’s inevitable that this farmer will end up on her ass…again!
As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m anxious to get my ewes scanned soon to see who’s in-lamb and how many each ewe is carrying.
This will allow me to organise feeding protocols specific to each ewe’s nutritional needs as she progresses in her pregnancy. As they stand, all my girls are in very good condition and could even afford to lose a little bit without any detrimental effects to the growing lambs.
It’s further on in the pregnancy, about 8 weeks before lambing, that the shepherd really needs to watch their body condition and ensure it doesn’t deteriorate. Sheep are scored from No. 1-5 on a universal Body Condition Scoring scale (BCS).
No.1 being an extremely thin animal and 5 being too fat. The optimum score is 2.5-3.5 and I’m very happy with my girls. We’ve managed to sustain good condition despite some trying weather conditions, Covid-19 restrictions and less financial stability.
This was especially significant when introducing the ram a couple of months ago. Sheep can lose weight very quickly but to gain back even one number on the BCS scale can take a number of weeks.
All will be revealed soon…stay tuned!