Life on the Farm column with Frances Graham

Some of the sheep were stubborn as we gathered them up.
Some of the sheep were stubborn as we gathered them up.

September is the month that everything seems to be happening in with stock, it is when most of the breeding sales are held which we sell in and sometime buy the odd tup. However, this week has been very hectic as we gathered the moor for spaining.

We spained the mule and texel lambs in August as the mules are sold in September and the texel lambs are sold fat whenever they reach the right size and weight.

All the lambs that are on the moor are Dalesbreds which we don’t normally spain until the end of August or the first week of September. This is because they are born later than the mules and texels and also aren’t sold until later on in the year.

Normally we keep most of the gimmers for breeding and run the weathers on until after Christmas when they are worth more.

Well, hopefully – it doesn’t always work like that.

This year we are going to sell some of the Dalesbred gimmers due to losing some land. This seems wrong, selling hefted gimmers. Now the heft will be lost on that piece of land, which you cannot get back in a week or so. It is years of work to create a heft on a moor.

Last Wednesday was the day we went gathering to High West and Lodge moor (approximately 3,000 acres). This was the only day we could go for over a week due to grouse shooting, as we can’t go on the moor two days before they shoot.

When they are shooting at the beginning of the week and end there isn’t many days we could go, so we were pleading it wasn’t going to be foggy as we didn’t know when we could go again.

Thankfully it was fine, it just tried to rain slightly half way round but nothing to stop us gathering. Because they had been shooting on High West all the sheep were on Lodge, so we had a lot of sheep to gather up and push over the top.

They were very stubborn and took some getting over but we managed to get them all gathered up.

We had more sheep than normal at High West and the pens were overflowing due to the sheep been on Lodge (there weren’t many in low moor pens).

Everyone helps each other sort the sheep out, normally they run though the right gate to their pen but every sheep seemed to have to be dragged, so it was a hard day.

The day still wasn’t over. We had to walk them home which took us two and a half hours. They were slow but they all made it home. By the end of the day all the dogs were worn out, they had a long day with a few more long days still to come.

We didn’t spain the sheep until the next day. We just ran them through the shedder putting the lambs in one pen and the ewes in another.

We also drafted the ewes, these are the ewes which are four shears (four years old) which are three crop (having lambed three times). We will then sell these ewes as drafts at the end of the month.

These ewes are put inside to dry off and then will be put onto some better going to flesh up for the sale, they are sold as correct mouths and udders. Sometimes they aren’t so the ones with goofy mouths are kept or sold as cast ewes. All the other ewes were dipped and remarked with our two Hs on each side and then walked back to the moor on the Friday night.

All the lambs were put into a field and then will be treated for everything once the rest of the Dalesbred lambs have been spained, which my brother and I have just managed to do.

We are feeling a bit more relieved now!