Long Day Of Sheep Stuff


The sheep are out of the orchard today. No more gates to close, no more endless manure.

By 9:00am I had the ewes in the yards ready for Bruce’s man Carl and was ready to help Bruce’s dad, Ian Richardson and dog Spy, get the lambs from the orchard into the Island paddock.

My plan was to have the ewes crutched and given their 5-in-1 vaccine first and bundle them back to their grass cell in the Orchard paddock, out of the way. Then to draft the lambs by sex. Crutch the ewe lambs and put them back in the Island paddock for later grading, then crutch the wether lambs.

So: ewes into yards, tick.

At 9:30am the team arrived, without the shearing truck. Ian Richardson and Spy played footsie with the lambs for a while but eventually we got them all into the Island paddock and from there into the yards, in a pen behind the ewes of course. Then Ian and Carl go off.

At 11:00am I get a call from Bruce. Carl is delayed because Ian dropped him off to collect the truck and then Carl found it had a flat battery. Carl’s personal cell phone had run out of prepay money and his work cell phone he’d accidentally left in Ian’s ‘ute’. Wherever he was, Carl couldn’t ring to say what was happening, nor could he come because the truck was stuck. So, Carl arrives in the truck around 11:30am.

So of course the truck starts skidding and gets stuck the minute it tries to cross the paddock by the cottage and go out to the yards. So we end up towing it backwards with the Fergie and chain.

Now for the setting up. The back of the truck folds down and rests on two metal pipes, forming a pen. The metal pipes carried on into the ground about a foot and were still sinking when we realised and hastily pulled them up again. A wooden plank under each leg solved that.

So where’s the 5-in-1 vaccine that is usually held in the truck – must be empty. Another half hour of searching and negotiation and I am dispatched off towards Stortford Lodge to Elders to buy vaccine and put it on Bruce’s account.

Given all this Carl was actually quite calm and the rest of the crutching went smoothly. Carl yelled out whether each ewe would be early, middling, or late to lamb, based on the condition of the udder. All the ewes were sent back to the Orchard paddock, the separation of ewe and wether lambs was quick and the ewe lambs were soon crutched and back in the Island paddock. The wether lambs were crutched and left, temporarily, in the Middle paddock.

Next Carl graded the ewe lambs, based on size, conformation, wool. He raddled the top third with green, the bottom third with blue. Then, around 3:00pm he packed up and left.

To minimise the wolfing down of good grass by the lambs I planned to keep the ewe lambs in the Island – already well chewed out by the big ewes – and the wethers in the Goose paddock. First I had to move the current occupants out. I put the geese in the Middle paddock and shepherded the ram and Kaz’ old ewe with twins into the cottage garden and out the little gate int the Totara paddock and on into the Front paddock, thereby avoiding the wethers in the Middle paddock. After that the wethers went quite docilely into the Goose paddock and that was it for the night – outside at least.

Quite exhausted and the whole thing having taken hours longer than expected, I spent the evening working out which of the ewe lambs should go, which should stay.

The other incident involved Bramble who, to stop her being a nuisance, I chained up on the front seat of the Landrover where she could watch but not interfere. At some point during the crutching she stopped her usual excited ‘let me play too’ barking for a yelp of surprise. Carl noticed and so we went to investigate. Bramble had fallen head down off the seat and was suspended by the chain (it’s only a little chain) wrapped round BOTH heels. We released her amid yelps of fear and pain whence she immediately changed to barks of indignation and ran off as if nothing had happened. Nothing broken or damaged there then.

About Ian

I am a New Zealand and EC citizen, living and working in Hastings in the North Island of New Zealand. On March 5th in 2004 I retired from exactly 30 years with IBM UK Ltd, working in the Hursley software development lab near Winchester in the south of England. I am now an IBM Distinguished Engineer emeritus, working to my own agenda while retaining access to my colleagues and information inside IBM.
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