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In your field: Marie Prebble - 'I intend to go to New Zealand next year but it is still a big ’If’'

Autumn is always busy for a sheep farm and with the onset of some very heavy rain and strong winds the season has definitely arrived in a hurry.

I was still shearing until the weather turned, but now I am waiting to see if October improves and may still cover comb the last 100 of my ewes who missed their second shear.

 

I cannot stand seeing them getting covered in burrs and brambles grazing the neighbour’s banks as the rest of the flock looks very tidy.

 

In the middle of a very busy week I had a Rural Payments Agency sheep inspection with a few hours’ notice, which was quite daunting and very thorough, but all was fortunately in order.

 

I recently brought an Aberdeen-Angus bull over from a neighbour for a romantic holiday with my four Highland cows, so I can look forward to a few more calves.

 

It was a buyer’s marketplace on Romney Day at Ashford market, with stickier trade than other breeding sales recently. The bigger buyers from away were not present and, of course, many people breed their own replacements, so there was not a huge demand for shearlings.

 

I bought 75 that are a smart group of sheep out of a run of a few hundred, which I would happily have invested in if it fitted with the short-term plan.


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I have welcomed six new Romney rams from Cornwall, which bring new bloodlines to Kent, having been scrutinised by selection pressure, for growth rates, litter size, worm tolerance and flystrike susceptibility among other valuable traits.

 

The plan is to improve the performance of my core Romney flock for a few years before offering for sale again the Lleyn and Cheviot crosses which have been in demand off the farm.

 

I have sold nearly all of my wethers as stores through Ashford, which prioritises grazing for my ewes and ewe lambs over winter.

 

Hopefully flock work will be straightforward for a month or so while I am away in Iceland shearing. If New Zealand opens its borders to shearers I intend to go after Christmas, but that is a big ‘If’.

 

They have already been able to resume some shearing competitions, which is a more distant prospect for the UK, with many early events next year looking unlikely.

 

We need individually and collectively to have things to feel positive about and look forward to and, for me, that is keeping active and hoping to reschedule my shearing record attempt for later next year.

 

Taking time to practise gratitude for the ability to grow my own food, be healthy and make connections with people in small but meaningful ways is what keeps me passionate about farming day-to-day.

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