Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Herdwick sale


A sea of Herdwicks.


As far as the eye could see.


There were commercial breeds for sale later in the day.



Lots of 'draft ewes'. Draft ewes are 2 or 3 crop ewes.  Ewes that have had 2 or 3 lots of lambs out on the fells.  They are sold to farmers on the lower greener kinder ground.  This is quite different from Mull, where we sell our oldest ewes each autumn as 'cast ewes'. They will have had more crops of lambs and be a couple of years older than the 'draft ewes' from Cumbria.


We had room for 5 ewe hoggs in our trailer alongside the new tup, so we had to watch to see how the pens were split up as it would be no use us bidding for 20 if we can only take 5.


So many ewes.


They are so calm and quiet in the pens.


The sale begins with the 'draft ewes'.



It is busy.  The ring arena is pretty full as the sale gets underway.


Each farmer tells the auctioneer what treatments each pen has had, what age they are.




(I wasn't quite sure what breed these were).




Then it was the ewe lambs turn.  The ones we bought had come second in the Show, and we are pleased with them.  The breeder gave Daughter a luck penny. 



Next day, it is the tup sale.  Pens and pens of them, and very difficult for us to judge what we can afford as we have no way of telling what each tup is worth, according to its breeding/bloodline. We just don't know.  We are told of one breeder to look out for, who has good bloodline but hasn't got a name for himself yet.  His tups went way over our budget! 







This tup topped the Show at the start of the day.  He sold for 10,000 guineas.  The tups were all sold in guineas not pounds.


After the hammer. Looking down on the prize tup having his eartag read and recorded.


This was second or third.  Prices went down dramatically.









In the end Farmer and Daughter selected their tup as it went through the ring, having seen that prices were going way over our budget.  With only 9 ewes for the tup this year, and 14 next year, we cannot justify spending a lot on a tup.   

And here he is...


It was a fascinating couple of days, observing a different farming community, and how things work.   We loved that the market was so busy.  Looking at the sale reports, the average tup sold for £745 up £275 on the year.  I am glad to say that we bought ours for A LOT less than the average! 


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Hay cake




As we don't have cows of our own or the machinery to make silage ourselves any more, we sell it to another farmer on the island.   Jamie's cows graze here during the summer months, helping us keep the fields in good wild flower and biodiversity condition!

We do need hay ourselves to feed the sheep indoors in the winter, so Farmer shared a lorry load of small bales with a neighbour last week.  This has to be unloaded and stacked by hand, so help (muscle) is required!  Farmer baked a cake in order to entice the helpers over and they had a cup of tea and slice or two of cake after the hard graft was done.  It looked delicious and the cake tin was empty in no time.


Autumn is well underway now, with its accompanying gales and storms. Tail ends of the terrible hurricanes across the Atlantic and so very, very mild in comparison - I am certainly not complaining!  In between the storms we have had some beautifully sunny days, which gladden the heart and warm our backs before winter sets in.



This young donkey lives on the north side of Loch Cuin near Dervaig. Sweet!


Later this week we are off to buy a Herdwick tup (ram).  It is the beginning of the school half term so a busman's holiday for us.  We may also come home with some more ewe hoggs if the prices are right!

When they get home we will segregate them all from the rest of the flock for 16 days to make sure they don't have Scab.  Mull is a scab free island so ensuring our stock is clear is very important.

Farmer has done a deal with a local crofter too, to buy a strong looking Blackface tup lamb.   Planning for the next generation of lambs already!


The moon is approaching fullness so any mild aurora activity has been affected by the moon.  I tend to watch the weather forecast (for cloud cover) and the aurora forecast and set my camera accordingly.  This was taken on a timer while I was asleep, after the moon had set.  A nice surprise in the morning!  


Moments of watery autumnal light are much appreciated. 




The Coll and Tiree ferry was cancelled yesterday, when this photograph was taken.  I love watching the shadows shift across the sea, as the clouds are blown overhead.


Walter is always ready for anything.  What an extraordinarily happy dog.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Autumn equinox

The grass (can't really call it a lawn!) in the farmhouse garden is peppered with curled up leaves lightly blown from the trees as a mild equinoctial wind blows.  The motled surface of the sea is strewn with small breaking white horse waves. It doesn't look rough but I am sure it is!  It is cloudy but bright.  A good autumn day!




Our lamb sales are over but a lot of farmers are still taking their trailers over to Oban with regular qualities of lambs.  I am not sure anyone gets any better at the lottery that is guessing the market price, it varies from week to week, and seems dependant on whether or not the buyers turn up in number or not.   The weather can have an effect - as traditionally the west coast store lamb is bought by east coast farmers to go onto their harvested or silaged fields for the winter.  If the harvest or silage is delayed then the farmers dont have anywhere to put a new batch of lambs.

I got lucky last Sunday!  I was hoping to catch the Aurora borealis on camera, but the forecast was weak and I wasn't really expecting one... however..... I caught a meteor instead!  I shared the photograph with the Facebook page Aurora Research Scotland as I was't sure what it was to begin with.  It was confirmed that it was indeed a meteor and its green colour shows it was high in copper. Suffice it to say, I was well pleased!!


Farmer has been 'topping' the fields.  This cleans up the ungrazed grasses and encourages a late growth.  In some of the fields we can already see they have greened up giving a fresh bite for the sheep and Jamie's cows.


















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