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In your field: Thomas Carrick - 'Most farmers on these hills would swap all their triplets for singles'

When it is mild and wet all winter, all I can think is that a bit of cold, dry weather would do just fine.

Stock look better and seem content in frosty weather and, while it has been colder and snowier than average since Christmas, the snow has not caused too many problems for us getting about to feed stock.

 

It is nice to have a little bit of winter, as long as it comes at the right time of year. All is great until it gets into the double digits below zero coupled with a 50 mile per hour east wind.

 

The back end of last week was chilly indeed and definitely the coldest weather we have had since the Beast from the East three years ago.

 

It may have been even colder, albeit only for a couple of days.

 

So here I am, after a couple of days of thawing pipes, carting water and generally reminding myself that I should be careful what I wish for. I am back to yearning for the warm and wet.

 

Ewes are now scanned and in decent condition thanks to some good silage being fed.

 

It is slightly wetter than we would normally make which was due to the catchy weather in July, but it is feeding really well with very little or no waste.

 

Where possible the ewes are fed a TMR of home-grown silage, barley and nearer lambing time, protein meal.

 

It is a handy way of feeding, as diet can be tweaked as and when needed and silage intakes are maximised, making the most of your home-grown feed.


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Competition at the feed face is reduced as there is no desperate rush to see who can eat the most ewe nuts in 30 seconds and thus makes for a more calm and natural meal for a ewe, which has to be a good thing when they are growing lambs.

 

Sometimes, however, I do wonder if we are treating them too well. Our number of triplets have been steadily climbing for years and I find myself thinking where it will end.

 

No commercial sheep is well designed for three lambs and hill sheep definitely are not.

 

Some of them will rear all three and if you try to forget about all the ones that do not manage or come to grief trying, you could convince yourself that it is not a bad idea.

 

But in reality it is the source of a lot of problems. Most farmers on these hills would swap them all for singles, especially when so much of our ground will support a ewe to rear one lamb easily, but two at a push and with quite a bit of help.

 

Off-wintering has helped create the situation. Young ewes which used to have one lamb after a winter on the fell are now having two after a much more comfortable time in-bye.

 

The perhaps unintended consequences of schemes that aim to see less grazing sheep on our hills and moors are that the sheep themselves are becoming less accustomed to life there.

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