Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 7, 2011

Mouthing and Bagging

aka feeling up sheep boobies!

The day after weaning, we brought back the big conglomerated mob of ewes (1800 the first time and 1500 the next time) in order to check each one.  We bring them through the racewell – just like we did when crutching the rams – and when they’re jammed in so they can’t wriggle away, we can easily access them.

Blake was at the front end checking each ewe’s teeth.  As lambs, sheep have lots of baby teeth, but when they reach one year old they lose these baby teeth and instead grow two adult teeth.  Each additional year brings a further 2 teeth, until the sheep gets old and starts losing teeth!  When checking teeth, the idea is to make sure they aren’t worn down or wobbly which means the sheep can no longer eat.  Here you can see Blake wrestling with our current patient…

Meanwhile, I was at the back feeling sheeps’ udders!

Given the position of my arm, I often got wee-ed on, dodged a few thunderous farts as the ewe is squished in the clamp, and battled with knobbly, kicking hind legs.  My job was to feel the state of the boobs and teats – make sure that both sides have milk and that the ewe is not a ‘wet/dry’ ie. has been pregnancy scanned as having a lamb but now has no milk in udder so must have lost the lamb somehow.  If this is the case, the ewe gets a yellow tag put in her ear, and if she is ever a wet/dry again she does to the works.  Bye bye girlie.

Here is a lovely healthy udder full of milk.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 4, 2011


January is a busy month.  There are about 3800 ewes that have lambs – lots of them twins – and all of the lambs have to be separated from their mothers.  We do it in about 3 sessions, one a week.  The first day is mustering, gathering up the mobs of ewes and lambs and bringing them closer to the yards.  Then after a 4.30am start we bring the sheep into the yards and start drafting.  Dad stands at the drafting gate (damn I meant to take a video of this but totally forgot) and splits the sheep into 4 mobs – ewes, big ewe lambs, wether lambs and runty ewe lambs, and finally prime lambs plus stragglers.  As the sheep are bucketing down the race Dad looks at the ear mark to tell what sex it is (or if it’s a straggler) and then judges each lamb to put it in the ‘keeper’ ewe lamb mob, the fat prime lamb mob, or the mob of lambs that will end up going to the works but need to get fatter first.

Here are some sheep in the yards in the morning sun.  This wasn’t when we were weaning but I was so busy I took no photos.  What a nong.

Once the drafting is done, we take the prime lamb group and put them through the weighing scales in the racewell.  The machine auto-drafts – that is we key in weights and gates automatically open or close depending on the weight of each lamb.  Anything over 33kg goes directly to the freezing works and the ones that don’t quite make it (but are still fatter than the general wether mob) go to a paddock with lots of grass and they’ll get sent off in the next round.

So the truck usually comes just after lunch to take the lambies away.  Here I am standing behind some over-exposed lambs, with more in the background waiting to go onto the truck (this photo is from almost the same time last year – can’t believe I’ve done a year…).

Once the lambs have gone we take the lambs back to paddocks for their first nights by themselves.   Shifting newly weaned lambs is quite difficult, they’re all flustered cos they’re looking for Mum, they turn in different directions and sprint madly off straight towards you or a dog.  Luckily we’ve got good lanes so can take them without too much hassle.  The ewes get put out in a paddock right near by as they’ll be coming back the next day for ‘mouthing and bagging’.  (More about that in my next post!)

Finally, here we are having a hard earned morning tea (this photo is a genuine shot, taken on the day!).  By the time we start at 4.30 and finish by about 8pm, it makes for a very big day – muffins at 10am are greatly appreciated…

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 1, 2011

The Grain Auger

In April last year (ooh look how I’m trying desperately to get all my posts done before I finish my year…) we ran out of grain in the silo.  Remember how I fed out grain to the deer? In order to fill the big green silo there needs to be a grain auger that carries the grain up and into the hole at the top.  Well here it is;

Far out what a beautiful day.  Just as an aside, I can tell you that I’m going to miss the weather when I move back to Wellington in a week’s time…

So anyway, the grain is doing its thing – the tractor power take off shaft is whizzing round and powering the auger.  They’re kind of dangerous those things, can rip yer arm off apparently.

Here’s the back of the tractor.  The take off shaft thingy is obscured by the T attachment that we use to pull the silage wagon. At the top you can see round kind of cover flap things – that’s where you plug your hydraulic hoses into.

There are so many mechanic things to learn being on the farm.  Some of them I’ve mastered, others I kind of got the hang of, but now that it’s 6 months since I last did it, I’ve forgotten.  Some take more strength than I’ve got.  Most get me really frustrated and wound up.  I really should do another year just to make the most of all the skills I’ve struggled to learn!

Posted by: 347bennetrd | January 30, 2011

Counting Sheep (but not while trying to sleep)

Here I am, deep in concentration, trying to count about 900 ewe lambs as they go past me. One hand is kind of clenched nervously while the other is unconsciously doing the two-by-two thing.

As you can imagine, there’s quite an art to counting sheep (one I am a long way from mastering).  Luckily this mob had already been counted, it was just Dad giving me some much-needed practice.  There are a number of different ways of counting – Dad counts in twos and cos he does, then so do I.   Another friend counts in 3s – for every 3 sheep that go by he counts 1 and when he gets to 33 he knows he’s got 99 sheep.  Or some count in 5s.

Anyhoo, you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to count to 100 in 2s as you’re keeping an eye for sneaky sheepies scooting past.  I’ll go up through the 20s – 22, 24, 26, 28 and as I get to 30 all of a sudden my mind becomes a blank and I can’t remember if I’m at 30 or was it 20?!  After a year I actually haven’t improved all that much, but I’m much better at counting cows than I used to be.

Their heads and shoulders seem to merge together and you can’t figure out if there are 1 or 2…  Far fewer numbers though so its not the problem of counting to 900 without losing it.  I never have been very good at maths.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | December 18, 2010

Crutching the Rams

Big dirty woolly bottoms.

So we got the rams into the racewell (a pneumatic machine that closes when the sheep stand on it to hold them there) and Blake got going with the shearing handpiece to tidy them up while I pushed them up the race.

Still on the subject of rams, they’re surprisingly big creatures actually.  It means they’re really easy to muster – they don’t run madly anywhere; a steady plod is their default speed followed by a determined trot when pushed.   Here I tried to take a photo of one’s head next to my hand so you could get a sense of perspective.

I’m not sure what those crusty scabby things on its head are.  It might be where they knock heads and fight.  I shall have to ask Dad.  And they smell quite strongly too…

Posted by: 347bennetrd | December 12, 2010

Sowing Kale

So if you remember a few months ago, we started the cultivation by maxi-tilling the eaten swedes.  Well, now its time to sow next year’s crops.   Dad had set up the Duncan drill (I’m still not entirely sure why its called a drill, but there you go) so the two of us went down to Swamp paddock to make a start.  Dad made two trips – one to bring the drill down and the other to bring the trailer with seed and super on it.

Here is the drill. It’s a good old girl – I’m not sure how old it is, or how many hectares it has sown, but each year Dad carries out repairs to fix various worn out bits.  There is a small set of chain harrows behind the drill which ensures that there is good soil distribution around the seeds.

You’ll notice there are three boxes – a white one at the front and two orange ones with white lids at the back.  The front one is for the seed;

And the back two are for the super;

There are hoses that go down from the seeds and from the super bins and pop out just behind a metal point.  As the tractor drives forward, the metal tynes dig a furrow in the ground the the seed and superphosphate drop down.  Ingenious!  Here is a video I took while perched precariously on the back step.

I took a few more photos of Dad zipping round and then left him to it 🙂


Posted by: 347bennetrd | December 8, 2010

It’s Tailing Time

So about this time of the year (well actually early November, but I’ve been slack and haven’t written a post about it) is tailing time.  It’s one of the big jobs on the annual farming calendar.  I remember the old days when we’d gather up everyone on the farm (even Mum would have to come and give a hand) but nowadays, its the era of the contractor.  Woohoo!

They are crazy fast though – while we’re mustering up the mob, they’re putting up the portable yards.  We  bring the mob up and gather them into a large pen from where they draft the sheep and separate the ewes from lambs.   Bedlam!!  Mums and babies are baa-ing frantically, and the tailing gang are already sending lambs down the shute.

I was too nervous to take any photos during our main tailing (I didn’t want to be the one to hold things up) but later on, Dad, Blake and I took our old set of Prattley yards up the hill to tail a mob of late ones.   Here we are setting up the yards;

Then, we run the sheep through the drafting race, letting the ewes run straight out and keeping the lambs in the pen.  This is where the decibel level drastically increases.

You can see the blue shute that the lambs go down in the middle.   There are a number of actions that need to happen to each lamb – here we were doing a couple each, but when the tailing gang does it, there’s one person for each job and the pressure is on to go as quickly as possible!

First there are usually two people picking up the lambs and inserting them into the shute.  Then each lamb needs to be given a selenium drench, earmarked – right ear for girls and left ear for boys, boys get a rubber ring round their balls (involuntary indrawn breath from male readers, I know), a scabby mouth scratch to innoculate them against this, and finally a rubber ring round the tail.

Here you can see a lamb about to be earmarked, and another one about the be ‘ringed’.








And the final photo is of the last lamb who was the cutest.  The wee lambs usually manage to hide until the very end.  On a big version of this photo you can see the little blue scratch in his back leg “armpit”.

You might think I was doing nothing except take photos, but actually I was drenching and doing the scratchies.  My worst job is definitely doing the earmarking.  You get a sore hand from doing it all day and I had a few problems where I didn’t do it very well and ended up ripping the whole tip of the ear off instead of making a neat nick.  Booo…  It was only the presence of the tailing gang that stopped me from crying when I did that.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | December 4, 2010

The Bull

Hehe, I was driving up the lane the other day and one of Uncle Eoin’s bulls was standing up at the gate.

Ooh, I thought, you’re an impressive beast.  So I got off my bike and walked towards him cooing in my most annoying high-pitched voice for babies and cute animals.  He didn’t like it.

Here he is pawing the ground and snorting.  He is only about 3 metres away from me with one deer gate between us.  I stop cooing and retreat.

Still on The Bull theme, we’ve got a funny old Charolais bull.  Far out he’s huge – I should go and take a photo of him, though its hard to get a sense of perspective.  He’s been banished to a paddock with deer fencing because the sight (or smell, I’m not sure) of a mob of cows going past excited him so much he knocked one metal gate off its hinges and jumped over another wooden gate to join them, breaking the top railings in the process.

Males.  Sheesh….

Posted by: 347bennetrd | November 21, 2010

Velvetting the Stags

Dad no longer has 200 or so velvetting stags – he only has 12 breeding stags, and they have to be velvetted at about this time of the year.  Velvet is the name for the antlers when they are still soft and full of blood.  As the cycle progresses, the antlers gradually harden and the soft outer covering gets stripped away by fighting and scratching, leaving the white, pointy, calcified antlers we usually see on wild stags.

Here we’ve brought the stags into the deer yards and have put two of them into the crush so Dad can easily reach them to administer a general anaesthetic.

It’s hard to convey the impressive size of these animals with a photo, but they can be so intimidating – especially the wapiti stags.  You can see Dad at the back, he’s preparing to inject them through the gap.  (I’m not in the pen with them!  I’m looking through a similar gap…).  You can also see they’re moulting, losing their winter coat.

So, once they finished grinding their teeth to show their aggression, and lolling their tongues out the side of their mouths (also to show aggression) they gradually became more and more drowsy until they awkwardly sank to the ground and were asleep.  We applied a tourniquet around the base of the antlers, injected a local anaesthetic and away we went removing the antlers.  Then, we remove the tourniquet, give them a reversal injection to wake them up and Bob’s your uncle!!

Posted by: 347bennetrd | November 14, 2010

Curious George

Cows are such funny creatures.   The other day I went over to check the steers and see if they had enough grass to keep them fattening up nicely (they did) and they were so happy to see me!

First, they galloped over to meet us;

It’s hard to catch on camera, but they kick their heels out to the side, and throw their heads about – they look so funny!  I drove around to look at the grass and they followed us and gathered around to gaze moonily at us.

Blue and Bronc were bemused to see them steathily approach the 4-wheeler, one even inspecting the bike box;

Yay for happy animals!

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