Friday, 4 September 2009

Preparing for Lamb Sales

A ewe and her lambs with the Haunn self catering cottages below.

Cap: our top working dog.

Now is the time that our spring born lambs are weaned. The female lambs (hoggs) are selected to keep for breeding. The surplus females and the male lambs (wedders) are sold as store lambs.

The curious thing is that many people visiting the Isle of Mull may not be aware of any of this happening and yet it is such an important part of the annual seasonal work of the farmer and crofter. Like getting the silage in ready for winter, selling the lambs and letting the ewes back to the hill to gain some condition before the sea winds burn off the autumn grasses in the late autumn storms.

Fanks (sheep handling pens) are not always visible from the road. Unless you happen upon farmers, crofters, helpers working their dogs with flocks of sheep and lambs on the move, you may have no idea this is going on.

Our fank is fairly new, up beside the cattle shed and at a short distance from the Treshnish and Haunn Cottages, it replaced the old wooden one that was situated where the woodchip boiler now stands. Originally they would have been made of stone, and you can see disused ones in a few roadside sites on the island - there's a beautiful one towards Gribun from Knock, and in June the foxgloves in the one in Glen Bellart is a stunning carpet of deep pink flowers!

The nearest sale ring is Oban Livestock Centre in Oban and alot of Mull farmers and crofters take their stock there. Alternatives are to go to Dalmally or Stirling. Or you can arrange a private sale.

Organic sales are few and far between, and if we put our organic lambs through a non-organic sale they lose their organic status. For the last few years we have sold our lambs direct to the same organic farmer on the east coast - this greatly reduces the stress for the animals as they don't have to go through the market process and we enjoy the continuity of dealing with the same person and having agreed a price before the lambs leave the farm.

This year all the lambs are being vaccinated as part of the compulsory Blue Tongue Vaccination Programme - before they leave the farm. And they must have double ear tags as well. All the numbers recorded and as they are organic they travel with a medicine record of what medicines they may have had prior to sale.

So the Treshnish gathering will take place early next week - followed by a long days work in the fank - checking, selecting, vaccinating and tagging our organic lambs.

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