Give young ewes a chance

With a strong red meat market the two-tooths are getting extra rations to see if they can produce the goods, Dani Darke writes.

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“It was like this when I got here, you can’t prove a thing!”

With a strong red meat market the two-tooths are getting extra rations to see if they can produce the goods, Dani Darke writes.

ONE OF THE THINGS I MOST ENJOY about farming is being able to try out something new. It’s been four years since we put in our intensive bull-beef systems, and apart from some tinkering around the edges since then, we haven’t really changed too much.

So I’m looking forward to giving something new a try, and in the hope of increasing scanning rates, I have convinced hubby that we have a go at feeding grain to our two-tooths.

It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and with a very dry summer at hand, I managed to get the idea over the line. Perhaps it’s something that eastern North Islanders do on a regular basis, but to some of us ‘West Coasters’ it has seemed to be a bit extravagant for our climate. However, my maths makes it look like a no-brainer.

With the red meat market going strong, every extra lamb on board is dollars in the bank. As well as that, normally we kill any two-tooth that doesn’t get in lamb, which seems such a waste, and I am determined to give that young ewe every possible chance at turning up with at least one lamb, but hopefully two.

So, after talking it through with our farm consultant, we will start them off on sheep pellets at 50g/day with a bit of salt for taste, then slowly add in whole barley, before fully moving to barley and increasing their intakes to 250g/day.

We will start a month out from tupping and finish not long after the ram goes out so we don’t cause too much disruption (unless we are still really short of feed).

It sounds like it can be a challenge to get the ladies on to it, but I’m hoping our handful of pet lambs that had nuts at rearing will get everyone else started, otherwise they will be locked in a small paddock until they can be convinced to eat it.

Sadly, hubby lost two of his favourite dogs a while back, and ever since he has said ‘yes’ to every pup on offer, with the hope that in one of them he will find the next star. Our kennels are now pretty much a nursery, with two older dogs to try and keep everybody else in line.

Fortunately, the neighbours’ ram lambs keep getting into our front paddock, making for a good wee mob of training sheep. We’ve always brought-on our own dogs, but with so many and the old dogs rapidly getting older, it’s looking like one of the more promising heading pups will be sent away for some professional training.

To the kids’ delight, our pups spend their first few months living up at the house – chewing boots, stealing jumpers, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. It makes for well-handled, and well-socialised wee dogs, spending their days being cuddled on the trampoline, or playing under the garden sprinkler.

However, when I woke up a few mornings ago and found the latest Huntaway pup had torn apart a large cushion from my recently purchased outdoor lounge, I just about hit the roof. Hubby looked particularly sheepish, but it’s fair to say at the moment that he may like this pup better than he likes me.

I have to admit, ‘Rua’ is pretty cute, and hubby looks at him like he is in love. Inevitably though, give it a couple of years and he will be ripping up a gully sending lambs in all directions, and I think my beloved will be wearing a different look altogether. Meanwhile, I have requested a puppy reprieve and a cap on kennel space to try and curb some of this silliness.