Shearing day! The older sheep and rams are fairly calm while they are being shorn - they have done this before. For the lambs, it is a new experience. First, they are separated from their mums, then they are tagged (right for girls, left for boys), then they have to find their way home and look for mum - who is (at first) unrecognisable in her new hairdo. But all went well in the end, and everyone was paired up again within the hour after re-joining each other in the paddock.
I was a bit nostalgic for the lambs this morning. They haven’t sold yet, but I'm going to miss them when/if they get sold on GumTree (Alan put the price down to $85).
Lovely fat lamb for sale.
A sad day- though I know it is a part of farm life. The baby lambs and their mums are off to market. Well, they have been put on Gum Tree. Whether or not we sell them is another thing. I think it is a slow year - they have been online for over 24 hours, and still no enquiries. We've had to drop the price to $100 each.
A group of lambs pose together amongst the flock.
Some of the dam ewes (the mums) are for sale as well
These are the quietest and calmest flock we've had. It will be sad to see them go.
After a few weeks of rain, the dams are finally filling up. During a small break in the rains, we managed to pull ourselved away from the warmth of the fire to go and look at how well the dams are looking. During Summer and Autumn they dry up in the heat, and one can not imagine how they will ever fill up again.
In the Winter, rains come and the dams fill up. As they fill, the birdlife seem to return to the area, makeing the farm feel as though it is a retreat.
The cows greeted Alan and I excitedly, as we approached the gate this morning. They knew that they had been in their paddock a day longer than they'd anticipated and were very ready to move on to the next paddock. They mooed and moaned while I paused at the gate to take this photo - not at all impressed with staying in an old paddock for a moment longer than they had to. When Alan finally opened up the gate, there was the usual stampede to the fresh grass - but the younger calves were so happy to be in a new environment that they did several laps around the paddock - making as may ruts and holes in the soft, muddy earth, before settling down next to their mothers to eat.
Unlike the cows, the sheep are quite content where they are. The young lambs grow bigger and stronger everyday, and are now behaving like teenagers - prefering to hang out with their peers during the day, and seeking the omfort and safety of their mum at night.
While cleaning Walnut Cottage today, I was greeted by a New Holland Honey Eater. To my delight, not only has she made her nest right by the front door of Walnut Cottage, she now has two baby chicks!
Alan got the steers ready to go to market today. He has spent the past few days "training" them to go into the cattle yards. He places hay inside the cattle yards, and pretends that the cows are in the way when they rush for it. "Garn, out the way!" he'll say to them, brushing them aside.
He eventually pretends to give in, gives them all a scratch and tells them how clever they are. The cows have come to find this a very pleasant place to find food.
So, it's no wonder that Alan was able to get the cows into the yards, and sort out the ones he wants to sell before lunch.
An older ewe leads the younger lambs towards the next paddock.
Alan move the stock today. In the movies, and I suppose on other farms too, this involves multiple farmers on motorbikes or horses, with dogs to round up stock and tell them where to go.
Not so at Forest Gate Farm.
For a start, we don't have enough stock to go to the effort of horses or bikes or dogs.
But also, they learn from a very early age the rotation of the paddocks. Quite honestly, Alan just has to walk in the direction of the next gate and the older ones will lead the rest of the flock into the next paddock.
Lambs hanging near the gate as Alan approaches.
Surprisingly, every calf in this generation is a boy! Generally, we don't keep the boys, but sell them off. We keep the girls for breeding for later years. It's weird, because I have already named them all - but I know that this years steers wont be here for long.
We now have six young, healthy calves. Knuckles is walking so well that you would never know that he walked on his front knees for the first few weeks of life - in fact he is bigger and stronger than his cousins. I imagine that may be because he built up so much muscle in his shoulders during those weeks, but I really don't know.
The lambs are growing stronger and enjoying the paddocks. It's still nearly impossible to get video footage of them running around the together.
Would you believe that these lambs were running moments before I took this shot?
Some sheep just want to hog the lime-light and come right in to have their photo taken.
A young lamb watches Alan as he take photos of ewes and lambs.
These two young lambs follow each other around the paddock all day long.
We woke up this morning to find two more calves. Only one more left to come!
We now have 5 little calves running around ... well actually I suppose it is 4.5 calves, because Knuckles is still not very good at walking. Though he is much better than he was. There is only one cow left to have her calf - and that should be somewhere in the next week.
The calves that we have at the moment are boys - which means there wont be a next generation of cows on the farm for long (we don't keep mature bulls, and will send them to market when they are old enough, rather than keep them for breeding). Lets hope that the last calf to come is a female.
A3B (named after the tag on her ear), stays by her her own calf and Knuckles, who is resting on the ground.
This is one of the new-borns this morning. He stood up and poked his head out from behind mum just in time for this picture.
Poly (the brown cow at the front) investigates one of the older calves, while her new-born sleeps behind her.
Alan greets one of the older calves walking through the paddock.
The lambs in this YouTube clip were running around the paddock, enjoying a good game of chase. Just as I hit record, they all stopped and looked around - almost as though they suddenly realised that they did not know where their mothers are. The small one bleats at the end, in an attempt to find mum.
Two young lambs following their mother through the bottom paddock.
The lambs notice me following them with a camera. While one is brave, and comes up to me to find out who / what I am, the other hides behind mum.
A mother ewe gently investigates one of her new-born lambs while the other sleeps at her feet.
A single lamb pauses to pose for a photo as they walk through the paddock.
This young lamb was running across the paddock towards it's mother (who had run up to greet Alan as he came through the gate).
There is a glorious phase that young lambs go through, where they realise that there are more things to the world than just them and their mother's teat. They become aware of each other's existence and spend their days running around together.
The group in these photos are only just moving into this phase, and are often seen running around exploring the paddock. For now, I call them "The Gang", but sooner or later all the lambs will be like this, and it will be hard to tell who was an original Gang member.
It's hard to get good footage of The Gang. Somehow, they seem to know when I have my camera out - and they scatter as soon as they see it. I suppose they have inherited another trait from their father (other than the black spots) - they are camera shy. I can only get photo's of The Gang if I sneak up on them.
The ewe's are in their 3rd week of lambing, and have been moved to the Old Orchard Paddock.
To give you an idea of how many lambs there are, the YouTube link here is of on quarter of the paddock.
The black headed Ram in the foreground is Albert (who usually hides from the camera). He has sired most of the lambs that we have had this year (because they are all spotty). So perhaps Peter (our Alpha ram) is not Alpha anymore???
Albert the ram.
Some of the ewe's in the old orchard paddock
Lambs skipping through the orchard paddock looking for their mother.
A new lamb stays close to its mother (her twin is just out of shot).
A single lamb takes one of their first drinks. Her mother is one of the oldest ewe's (hense the blue stripe), and we didn't expect her to lamb at all.
These twins are only just born. Mum is yet to clean them.
Another old ewe, who gave birth to twins. They are both strong and doing well.
What an amazing day! In the space of two hours, we had 9 lambs born - four twins and one single.
Two sets of twins were moved to the lambing sheds.
The mother in the front pen is a little weak. Alan is keeping her here just to make sure she is OK. During the day, he opens up the gate so that she can have fresh grass, but she also eats pellets and hay while in her bay.
The mother at the back has two very small lambs. She is in here just to make sure that the foxes don't get them.
Earlier this year, we learned that sheep quiet like to eat agapanthus. During the renovations that we did in January, we dumped 20 (unusable) fully grown agapanthus plants around one of the dams. We thought that they would break down over time, providing habitat for small animals etc. But they didn't last long. The sheep ate them overnight!
I think one of the new mother ewes must have remembered this. Whilst the other mothers were calmly grazing grass with their lambs 'parked' nearby, I caught one ewe at the back fence - longingly looking in on the agapanthus. She settled for yellow cucumber from the garden before trotting off to join the others.
This morning on our walk around the farm, Alan spotted one of the cows 'investigating' something small behind a log.
On closer inspection, he found that she had given birth to our second calf of the year, and 'parked' him there for safety.
It is a wonderfully safe spot - hidden behind the log where no one can see him, and under a thick canopy so he is protected from any rain. What a good mum she is!
Knuckles is doing well, and also got a pat from Alan.
Alan found a mum with new-born twins this morning. I am yet to name them.
The sheep are still lambing - we expect the to be doing so for the next few weeks.
We also have a few cows who were due to start having calves in the second week of April - and guess what? The first calf was born today!
Coco rests while her new-born calf, "Knuckles", is inspected by Alan.
The new calf's name is "Knuckles" because he is still walking a little wonky on his front legs. He will be OK, he just needs to get a little stronger.
Alan took a video of him with his mother, Cocoa, and was also lucky enough to get footage of one of the other cows, Bandit, coming to meet the newest member of the herd.
More lambs were born today! One is clearly another son from Albert (the black headed ram), who we found peacefully sitting with mum late this afternoon.
We came across a mother giving birth to a newborn. We were hoping it would be twins - but unfortunately not.
Either way, we still got to witness the birth, and got to witness bub's first suckle (while mum cleans her)
The first lamb is here!!!
The baby lambs were due to be born in April... and just like clockwork, on 1st April, our very first lamb arrived.
He is a health, strong, young ram. His dad (Albert) is the black headed Ram (pretty easy to tell how we know that...), who sired our first 'spotty' lamb last year. So this little fellow has been named "Spotty 2.0".
Meanwhile, the cows grazed in the old orchard paddock, completely unaware of the excitement in the sheet paddock. Despite being given a large round of hay - some of the cows thought that the new Autumn growth on the fruit trees made a much better lunch!
The old fruit orchard looks lovely this afternoon.
The mulberry tree, which is 125 years old, still had a few mulberries on it last week.
Yesterday, Alan came to the door with pears from the century old Pear trees. But I have no such luck this afternoon. I have come back from my walk with lovely photos, but no fruit.
Today, we gave 2 rams, 3 wethers and 60 lambs booster immunisations and Q-drench (to treat worms).
The rams were treated first. In the photo, Peter (the alpha ram) is happily chewing grass in the front of the yards. There are three wethers behind him, also eating grass. Albert (the black-headed, secondary ram) has always been a bit shy, and is currently hiding behind the panels at the back.
The rams were very easy to do, as Peter has done this 1000 times before, and the others simply follow him. Together, they calmly walked to the sheep yards first, settled, received their treatments, and were home back in their paddock again within 45 minutes.
Once the rams were done, the ewes walked through four paddocks to the yards, given 20 min to settle down, and then treated in the race five at a time. They were beautifully calm, and quickly forgave Alan for the immunisation injection. They were home again before lunch.
The new hay bale rings have been delivered. Today, Alan put them out in the cow paddocks.
The new tractor is here, and ready for work around the farm.
Treeline windbreaks provide shelter and shade for animals, and also provide homes for native birds and wildlife.
Preparing the sheds for lambing in April.