First things first; It has been FREEZING on the farm. Like, the kind of freezing where I have worried that my fingers may actually drop off! All sense of pride within the fashion stakes have gone out of the window and every morning Andy laughs and asks me ‘Come on then, how many layers have you got on today then?!’ ‘Six…usually the answer is six’.
Traditionally January would be a quieter time for most sheep farmers in the UK (if there is such a thing for farmers!). But for us, taking on Cocking Hill Farm the previous September has meant that we have a lot of ‘setting up’ to do.
As we are converting an old dairy farm to sheep and beef we have had the grand task of upgrading all of the fencing so that it is stock proof for the sheep and lambs (around 25,000 meters to be exact!).
I’ve gone from someone who takes absolutely no notice of fences around animals, to a woman obsessed with all the different types. At the moment we are having to use a mixture of three methods, one being ‘temporary’, this is poly wire that is electrified by batteries, popped up with plastic posts that stick into the field. We’ve been using this out of necessity – just to quickly fence around any fields that don’t have secure fencing. Its quick to put up (rolled out on the quad bike attached to a ‘Rappa’ trailer), BUT some of our savvier and more brazen mobs of sheep have been cheeky, and the moment they discover that part of the fence is down (perhaps a deer has pushed through for example), they’re out in a flash! Not great when you look up onto the Downs and you see hundreds of fluffy white things all wandering along the South Downs Way! The other down side is the constant, having to put up the fences and take them down again – it can get very dull, very quickly!
Feeding out silage to the girlsPicking up posts from the forest
So we are focusing on permanent fences, stock netted with chestnut posts (a tree that is native to Sussex). I cannot tell you how happy I will be when we have finished fencing the whole perimeter of the farm. At the moment we’re on constant alert for a dreaded phone call from one of the locals telling us there are 400 sheep in their garden!
So yes, January means fencing and a lot of it, bit of a boring subject, but has to be mentioned as it takes up most of our time at the moment! January also means thinking ahead to our first year lambing here at Cocking Hill. We put the rams in back in October and have mated around 1,800 of our NZ Romneys which equals a lot of potential lambs come April! Eeek.
We’ll scan all of our mated ewes/ewe lambs at the beginning of February and this will allow us to see how many lambs each sheep is expecting, basically so we can pop them into different groups depending on whether they will have a single, twin or a triplet. Fingers crossed for lots of happy pregnant sheep!