Condition scoring, finding sheep in the snow and shortbread...

The second of my seminars was this weekend. First we visited Daylesford in Gloucestershire, a wonderfully large operation with a very fancy shop which I felt somewhat out of place in my muddy wellies. Later it was on to Abbey Home Farm where our seminars were to take place, those of us staying over were to sleep in the green room, with its lovely roaring fire, in a somewhat school-trip themed pile on the floor. The next morning it was rotations and fertility building for us first years followed by a grand vegetarian feast and liberal sampling of a local organic beer. Day two saw the first of the specific Agricultural units for the now huge group who have decided on this path, the three of us did ‘Sheep’. About half way through the morning out esteemed tutor decided we had had enough words for a bit and we should go handle some sheep. Thus we spent a happy half hour catching lambs in one of the pens and condition scoring them. I would have been sorely disappointed if a unit on sheep hadn’t included some sheep handling! The afternoon also brought a treat in the form of faecal egg counts, those lambs were getting pretty fed up of us by then. A long journey home through increasingly erratic and horrible weather left me in a particularly sleepy state. A good weekend though.
The first of the snow has arrived. I’ve to take some silage to the ewes and the cattle on the hill at Willowford but have some trouble with the quad so decide to skip to job two on my list. Magnus the Gotland, who was working so hard at tupping his ladies, has had an accident. The vet has been out and confirmed it, he has slipped a disk. He is looking pretty sorry for himself in one of the barns so I’ve to go get him some company while he hopefully recuperates. There are two ewes on the hill who are unfortunately to go out as mutton, they are old and past their best so they have been separated out. Now I have to go get them to keep Magnus company. Now the cattle are quite happy to see me despite the fact that I don’t have a trailer full of silage for them and follow me around the field in hope ill produce some from somewhere, nothing if not optimistic. It isn’t the easiest task finding sheep on the hill at the best of times, it’s lumpy and has quite a lot of reeds that the sheep love to hide in, but in the snow it’s even harder, white on a white background. Eventually the cattle stop following and trying to lick me and I locate the two ewes. A good jiggle of the bucket I’ve got soon gets them on their feet and we are heading to the barn. At least Magnus will have someone to baa to/snuggle up to in this cold weather. The cattle got their silage a bit later when we got the tractor started, jump leads are essential on the farm.
Friday brought something of a change for me. Ayliffe who does the education on the farm needs a hand with Rowan class who are coming to bake Christmas treats. So I find myself somewhat bewildered wearing an apron in front of red group who are making shortbread. Makes a change from wearing mud surrounded by cattle. Soon we are enthusiastically weighing and rolling and arguing if it’s mixed enough. Stars, trees, hearts, a donut and a snowman head are all produced and the aroma of cooking biscuits fills the Tyler room. After a Christmas quiz the wares are examined and tasted before packing up in cellophane to take home as presents. I’m eying up the mince pies made by another group but they are all hovered up. Feeling fully festive now we leave the kids to collect this week’s meat order from the butchery. Perhaps I should make mince pies at the weekend…

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