Sheep Category

  • A spot of recycling

    Adventures, Agricultre, Lambs, SheepComments (1)

    On January 23, 2015 • By

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    This lovely load of tyres is on its way to my crofts, to (hopefully) provide some shelter for my livestock.  I have flat open crofts, with zero shelter and have decided to try something different.

    On this trailer are 30 bales of tyres, weighing over 20 tonnes, to be spread out amongst the crofts that I have and use.  This will provide shelter for the animals and also not be blown away like sheets of corrugated iron!

    I applied to SEPA for a Waste Exemption Licence and received the bales free of charge from the council.  I think the council get a landfill tax rebate, as the bales are diverted from landfill and put to a good use.  Basically everyone wins!

    They are being dropped off tonight and placed on the crofts tomorrow.

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  • Worst storm I’ve experienced

    Adventures, Chickens, death, Lambs, SheepComments (6)

    On January 9, 2015 • By

    I am totally exhausted just now. The last 30 hours have been non-stop tension, fear and worry.

    After getting everything tied down last night, I went to bed around 11, with the wind gusting around 70/80mph. I slept until 1.47am, when the wind woke me. This was the last sleep I would get until 5am, when I slept for a couple of hours.

    The power went off around midnight and is still off now. I was up and around the house numerous times during the night and I was so so worried that the hen house would be damaged. As well as the obvious impact it would have on the hens, it would be financially disastrous for me – my eggs are literally in that one basket! (It is insured, but that’s not the point!)

    In the middle of the night, this was the sight that greeted me from the back door – the ‘skin’ on the roof of the portacabin torn to shreds.

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    After checking the roof was intact, the hen house was next stop. Fortunately it survived the storm, although there are possibly some issues with the doors, which will be inspected properly after the weekend – as long as it survives tonight and tomorrow. I found one hen dead outside, she must have left it too late to head back inside last night.

    I had some damage on the roof of my house, slates missing and flashing torn, but not too bad.

    The sheep I had moved to the front of my house had a lucky escape, with sheets of metal gouging out chunks of earth right between them

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    The lambs didn’t fare so well though, 2 dead with another apparently in shock. It’s inside and doing a lot better now.

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    After moving the lambs to a more sheltered field, I saw the carnage that had been left – and that was only in 2 of the 15 villages in Ness.

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    Shipping containers and skips blown over, houses stripped of slates and thousands of pounds worth of damage to the church.

    In my own village, this boat was flipped – despite being anchored down with blocks and tied to two fence posts, which were ripped out of the ground. It usually takes 6 of us to lift that boat!

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    I’m in now and totally exhausted. I’ve been worrying and tense since 3pm yesterday and felt a wave of relief when I sat down at 6pm tonight. I just hope that everything makes it through the night ok.

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  • Hatches battened down

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On January 8, 2015 • By

    Finally sat down and had my dinner after coming home early to get ready for the storm that’s about to hit us.

    Last night, this is the forecast that we had for Fri/Sat (this is from xcweather, the site I use almost exclusively)

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    96mph, which usually means that we will have gusts over 100mph. The weather station that was formerly Eoropie Tea Room has been relocated to my village, so should be interesting to see what it reads. I’m pretty sure it’ll be over 100mph. In the past few hours though, the forecast seems to be dipping ever so slightly, so I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as feared – but still very very bad.

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    Because of this, I came home early from work today, to make sure everything was as secure as it could be. On Monday, I put the blackface sheep out onto the moor. They are hardy and can find plenty of shelter out there. As you can see from the picture, though, there is absolutely no shelter on the crofts.

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    So I went to take the Cheviots back from the field they were in at the bottom of the croft, and leave them in front of my house for the night, where they can shelter. That was supposed to be a 5 minute job, until I noticed the rope on the gate had snapped (probably in yesterday’s mini-gale) and the sheep had disappeared!! Fortunately, they came when I started calling them, they had gone down to the shoreline – probably the worst place for 100mph winds straight off the Atlantic!

    They followed me all the way out, nearly a mile, and I treated them to some feed in front of my house.

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    Everything else tidied away, bins put in the barn and peats taken in. One more job was to check the hens. I am pretty sure the hen house itself won’t move, but I am concerned about the roof. One section tore away in December but hopefully the repairs will see out the winter and then I’ll replace it with box-profile.

    One wee issue has been wind-driven rain coming in under the ridge. This is because the roof has a shallow pitch, so wind doesn’t have to fight gravity when pushing rain in. I think I have plugged most of the holes with expanding foam

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    Now I’m in by the fire, all gadget fully charged, torches to hand and ear plugs by the bed. Hope I sleep, although worry and wind will probably keep me awake.

    One thing is that I bought a generator this week and it’s sitting in the back of the pickup, at the back door, ready to be put to use if (or probably when) the power goes out.

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    I just hope the hens are all ok in the morning!

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  • My thoughts coming into a new year

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    As the year draws to an end, I have been thinking about it a lot in the past few weeks.

    2014 didn’t get off to a good start for me at all, as I felt some backlash, both locally and nationally, for arranging the world Guga eating championship. Afterwards, I made a conscious decision to move away from community-involvement and focus on my own plans. I had been involved in numerous community groups over the past 10 years; Ness FC, Social Club, Comunn Eachdraidh, village Grazing Clerk, Ness Golf Club & the Community Council, but decided to focus on my own plans after this.

    And focus on them I did. As soon as lambing was over, I ordered 320 hens. The thinking was to provide some kind of sustainable income from the croft. The sheep and everything else washes its own face, but I needed something that would make a decent profit. Having done the sums and spoken to shops, I decided that hens were the answer.

    Another big step was at the end of June, when I reduced my hours at work. I now work 3.5 days a week, having every Monday off, as well as every 2nd Friday. This has been invaluable during the winter, as I’d have no time to get anything done otherwise.

    There are plenty folk who were trying to convince me to work full time or who thought I was crazy in doing it, but I have always been of the opinion that work is there to fund life, life isn’t there to sit in an office. Work to live, not live to work. I know what I want to do and 18 months of hard work will get me where I want to be.

    The hens arrived at the end of July and things have gone well since then. They started laying semi-regularly by mid-September. Things have been ticking over since then and I hope to hit the ground running by the end of January.

    There are loads of things going on behind the scenes too, but I can’t share all of those quite yet, as things are at a sensitive stage. I cannot wait for 2015 though, I know it is going to be my most successful, profitable and happiest year as a crofter.

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  • Monster Saturday

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, Lambs, Rams, SheepComments (0)

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    I’m lying in bed on Sunday morning, feeling like a broken man. Not because of a hangover, but because of how much I did yesterday!

    Last week was one of these rare Saturdays when I actually managed to do everything I’d set out to do. Funnily enough, I repeated that feat again yesterday.

    I didn’t do anything until after 10am, as we had strong/gale force winds overnight and they didn’t ease off until mid-morning. I had arranged to help my neighbour Donnie take his ram from the ewes, and then he’d help me do the same with mine. We got them all in the trailer and moved them, with me travelling with them in style :)

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    We put the rams together on another croft that I have started using – more on that in a few weeks. They’ll be happy there for a while & are easily accessible to keep an eye on and feed, right out on the main road!

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    After this I caught up on tagging this year’s lambs. Lambs need to be tagged within 9 months of birth, so I tagged the last 5 today, as well as upgrading the slaughter tags in 5 I had bought. You can put a single slaughter tag in a lamb, which apparently markets & buyers prefer, but it means they have to be slaughtered within a year. The ones I bought will be 18 months before they’re slaughtered, so I need to upgrade. I just have 2 ram lambs to tag and that’s it all done. Hopefully I’ll do that on Tuesday.

    The 24 lambs I have we’re drenched for fluke and then I moved them to Cross, the next village, where they’re on good grazing for the next month or so.

    By this time, it’s getting dark. Back home and to the hen house to collect the day’s eggs and sort them. I now have 95 boxes of eggs ready to go. Anyone fancy some???

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    In an unusual act for me, I am going to work tomorrow. I haven’t worked a Monday for a while, but the weather is rubbish and Tuesday looks a lot better. I think tomorrow will be my last day of the day-job this year. No rest for the wicked though, plenty to be getting on with over the next fortnight!

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  • The storm

    Adventures, Chickens, Poultry, Sheep, videoComments (1)

    On December 10, 2014 • By

    Well, what a couple of days. It’s not over yet, but I hope that’s the end of the drama anyway.

    I suppose the storm build up started on Monday. The forecast was for strong winds, so I had to prepare for it.

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    My father and I secured the hen house by anchoring it down with wheelie bins and barrels full of water, around 900kg in total. After that I tidied up as much of the stuff lying about as I could, to make sure it didn’t blow away and cause any more damage.

    All good, I thought.

    Tuesday was a rough morning & started with a wee interview on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland news programme, talking about the weather, before I went to work. While at work, the forecast for Wednesday was upgraded to an Amber alert by the Met Office and most public services were closed to the public. I work for the council and we were all told to use our own judgement to decide whether it was safe to travel to work or not.

    I got home around 5.30 on Tuesday and decided to make sure everything was secure before the wind blew up again. This was the forecast on Tuesday:

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    First stop was the hen house. Everything was ok and then my dad happened to phone while I was up there. While on the phone, lightning struck nearby, with the thunder less than half a second later. Now, my hen house is on the highest point of my croft so I decided to get out of there asap! I hung up the phone without saying anything and hurdled the fence beside me and got into the house before my dad phoned back to see if I’d been fried!

    So we got through the night ok. I woke up around 2 and put my ear plugs in, as the noise was keeping me awake. I woke up at 6 & noticed my alarm clock flashing, indicating a power cut, before it went off again around 7. We ended up not having any power until after midday, although there was plenty to keep me busy before that.

    I went in to check the sheep just before dawn (around 8, which sounds less impressive!) and came back via the hen house. I can see it from my house & looked ok, but, on closer inspection, some of the roof was missing, with several other sections flapping in the wind. I checked the birds inside; one dead and the whole place soaked. I had cleaned it all out on Monday, but that didn’t last long!

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    That’s the only photo I have of it, as pictures weren’t really a priority! Fortunately the wind died down a little, gusting probably 40-50mph, so with the help of my neighbours James and Donnie, we managed to replace the missing sheet and secure the rest of the roof.

    Another power cut and 3 hours without internet but we can live without that! Credit to the Hydro boys who got us all back up and running, and also the BT guys who fixed the fault. Shame I can’t say the same about Vodafone, as I haven’t had any signal since 8.15am.

    After the hectic morning, I went to the Butt & Port to take some photos & video. You can see more of them on the facebook page but here is my favourite

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  • Calendar

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, Dog, Fishing, Lambs, Peats, Pigs, Poultry, Sheep, tractor, WildlifeComments (2)

    On October 25, 2014 • By

    2015 is just around the corner, fancy an Air An Lot calendar? I’ve printed a few using some of the most popular photos from the past year and I’m selling them for £10. Leave a comment if you’re interested, payment via PayPal.

    Here are some of the photos:

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  • A busy Monday

    Adventures, Agricultre, Lambs, Pigs, Poultry, SheepComments (1)

    On October 7, 2014 • By

    I used to blog about busy Saturdays, but that’s not as much the case any more. Since reducing my hours at work, I am off every Monday and I now have a wee bit more time to split work between Saturday and Monday.

    This week was a bit of catch-up on Saturday, as I’d been away for work Wed-Fri the previous week. Hen houses were cleaned on Saturday and lots of other jobs too, mainly working on getting electricity connected to my portacabin. My cousin and uncle (both electricians) were over and got most of the work done. It’ll make a difference having power to the place, especially now that it’s getting dark. I’ll also have to work on lighting the hen house – although I’ve got that one figured out in my head.

    So Monday was awful, weather wise. We had gale force winds and pouring rain, so it was a day for doing indoor chores. That meant cleaning out the portacabin and organising things the way I want them. Once I have a picture in my head of how I want things to be, it’s not easy to persuade me to do something different – I have to know if my idea works!

    Once the portacabin had been sorted, it was off to the lambs with me. The Government announced a new subsidy scheme for less favoured areas earlier this year, with each ewe hogg kept meaning a payment of €100 (around £80). No one seems to be sure when it is kicking in, so I have kept every single female lamb that was born, in the hope of receiving extra payment, but I’m hearing now that it won’t kick in until next year and that means getting rid of this year’s females.

    There is one more sale here, on Thursday 16th Oct, so I have gone through my lambs and kept 18 for breeding, with 17 going. There are a few more being kept for the freezer.

    These are some of the ones I’m keeping

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    As you can see, they are mainly Cheviots, as I am looking to build up my cheviot flock. There are a couple of nice Suffolk/Cheviot crosses in there too, along with some Suffolk/Roussin hybrids. I have plans for them, and we’ll see how they go.

    The rest are off to sale on the 16th, and I’ll need to borrow a trailer for the day, as mine won’t take 17.

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    Next up is to book in some lambs and pigs for slaughter. October is turning into a busier month than I expected, although I am off to Glasgow for the weekend for some much needed R&R!

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  • Catch up

    Adventures, Agricultre, SheepComments (0)

    On October 5, 2014 • By

    I’ve never been good at keeping the blog up to date in the summer months, mainly due to the fact I’m out working while the sun’s out! Now the nights are getting longer, I’ll have more time to share my thoughts.

    At the time of my last post, I was embarking on the first of two Farpaisean Chon Chaorach film trips; the first to Tain for the World Sheepdog Trial and the second to Roscommon in Ireland, for the International. I actually came home early from the World Trial because Ness were in the Lewis Cup final – and we went and won 3-1!

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    Back home, it’s the time of year when changes are made to your stock. I’ve bought in around 20 new ewes, while some of the older ones had to go, due to missing teeth or faulty udders.

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    It’s not a job I particularly like, but it’s better for the sheep to be sent away, rather than struggle through the winter here.

    I wasn’t happy with my prices in Dingwall though, particularly for the 11 lambs I sent away. I think I might try the Stornoway Mart next time, at least I can take them home if I’m really unimpressed!

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  • Progress, progress, progress

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On August 31, 2014 • By

    I can’t wait for winter. There, I said it. This summer has been the busiest I’ve ever had; 320 hens, sheep, filming, football and a job are all catching up with me. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and being able to focus on getting things running properly instead of getting them started.

    I have 2 sheepdog filming trips in the next fortnight, the World Trial and International, while our football season ends next week with a cup final on Saturday night. That should mean a little more time to myself, once they’re done.

    There has been so much happening here in the past 3 weeks and I haven’t been updating this as much as I should have, purely down to long long days.

    The hens are settled and starting to lay their eggs. Buckie, the joiner, has built a fantastic hen house and decorated it in his own unique style.

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    I’m currently getting around 20-50 eggs a day, a far cry from the 250 I need to fulfil orders. I hope to be in the position to sell eggs when I’m back from filming, probably week beginning 22nd September.

    Buckie has also been busy getting the portacabin ready too. One of the rooms is where I’m going to have my egg packing station. It’s coming together nicely. Just about ready, just needing a clean.

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    I also hope that I’ll be able to show you my egg box labels some time this week. Fingers crossed anyway!

    I’ve also been fortunate in that I’m now using a barn on the croft next to mine. It has been particularly useful for storing feed and Buckie was also hard at work here, fitting large double doors that make it much more practical.

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    I was at the lamb sale in Stornoway last Wednesday and ended up buying 17 sheep; 9 lambs and 8 ewes.

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    I’ve since agreed to buy a few more ewes, so I’ll have to sell some lambs soon and maybe move on a few sheep. I have twice as much land this year, so I have plenty scope for expansion. I’m not sure my father will agree, though!

    On that, I am putting sub-tenancies in place on the crofts I use. First up is my mother’s croft, which I received confirmation of this week.

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