Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A new flock of sheep

After the bird and flower friendly summer grazing regime (Holding back some fields for ground nesting birds, allowing flowers to set seed before cutting silage) the in-bye fields can be in need of some harder grazing to clean up the pasture which creates a better habitat for the huge diversity of wild flowers to flower again abundantly next year.

For this reason, a few years ago, we began keeping a small flock of 'cast ewes' over the winter on the fields. 'Cast ewes' are the older sheep who need a bit more comfort than they would get out on the hill. Usually they are sold off Isle of Mull hill farms onto 'softer' mainland farms where they graze turnips and raise their lambs in more sheltered fields. But some island farms keep them back and lamb them on their better ground as we have been doing.

Traditionally the winter grazing of sheep on arable and dairy field rotations is called 'the golden hoof' principle - they fertilise neatly as they go! But our gold hooved 'cast ewes' can be alot of work to look after as they are not so used to the fields and perhaps need more shelter than we can give them. So for their sake and for ours, we decided to start a new flock - so we will sell the older ewes through Oban Market and we have bought 40 Cheviot Hoggs from a neighbouring Farm and a Croft in Dervaig.

As we are still organic we had to get a Derogation from SOPA to enable us to buy non-organic breeding stock. (You have to have a good reason. In our case, we had looked for organic Cheviot Hoggs and couldn't find any, not even in a small number such as this.) And it has to be better buying local.

If you decide to come and stay in one of the cosy Treshnish and Haunn Cottages over the winter you may well encounter our new flock of sheep when out walking below the Treshnish holiday cottages, perhaps when looking for the resident otter along the rocky shoreline near the ruin of the 'old boathouse'.
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