Tuesday, 25 August 2015

To market, to market

Market day today.  Every Tuesday for the next couple of months, there is a sale in Oban at the Livestock Centre about a mile out of Oban on the road towards Kilmartin.  It is an elephant of a building filled with echoing pens and on market day, it is transformed from the silent hulk it becomes between markets, into a busy hub of thousands of animals, dozens of men and a similar number of vehicles.  

Imagine looking down, if you could, early this morning, from space and seeing across Argyll.  You would see in isolated remote glens and villages, farmers and crofters loading up their lambs into livestock trailers and lorries, scrabbling about for the paperwork to keep it legal, putting on their 'market best' jacket and off down the track to the ferry or along the mainroad to Oban.  They all converge here.   Huge livestock lorries 'and drag' (trailer) head up from the central belt and beyond, some from as far as Yorkshire.  The 'dealers' arrive in their own vehicles, possibly more comfortable than the cab of a lorry. 

Our lamb sale preparations start early.  Booking a place on the right ferries is one thing.  Booking pens in the market is next.  Preparing for gathering, arranging helpers (J from Dervaig this time) and watching the weather.   You want your lambs to look their best.  If it is wet when you are sorting them, they will pick up muck and dirt from the yard and the fank, and not look as clean and fresh as you would like.  

Sunday's sort out had gone well, and Farmer had left the lambs he wanted to sell in a paddock by the farm building.  Their mothers rather treacherously had stopped hanging around the fence lines and moved off to quietly graze further afield. 

Last night, Farmer gathered them into the fank, to recount them before putting them into the cattle shed over night.  Thank goodness he did as in the middle of the night it rained heavily. 

The lambs huddle quite close together, almost in a swarm, with no single lamb wanting to be the decisive one, but they are soon in the pens, and Farmer can count them through.

Cap had this job well under control.

With the shed doors safely closed up and the trailer parked ready for the morning, we walk back down to the house. The verges beside the track look beautiful in the evening light.

Common Hogweed.

Devil's bit scabious catching the light.

Aphid attacked hogweed drooping.

And another wonderful sunset..

Farmer is on his way to market as I write.  Along with dozens of other farmers and crofters from the island and mainland Argyll.  Motorised ants heading up the road to Oban! 

Prices are a lottery. There is no way of telling what we might get for our fine looking lambs, even though I say so myself. 

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