Thursday, March 24, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

We have taken a break from crutching the sheep this week due to a little rain event we had Sunday night. I think the weather bureau forecast between 5 to 10mm of rain for Sunday night, well we had more like 5 to 10inches of rain. I couldn't accurately measure it, but I'll estimate that we took out 5inches, that's 500points (or if you like the new language 125mm). Although we had steady rain most of the day Sunday the majority of the rain fell overnight Sunday night/Monday morning. We woke up to lakes in paddocks where we've never seen lakes before, roads under water and our driveway resembling more of a river than a driveway.
A number of local roads were blocked, but I haven't heard of any houses being flooded out (the Edithburgh Football Club may be the only exception to this).
Water is receding now, 4 days later, but some roads are still impassable and are now home to bird life previously unseen on the roads and paddocks, such as ducks and ducklings, black swans and Cape Baron Geese (which are common around the swamp that is near by).
This is just a shallow lake. At least this road is still passable.
Here you see a river system running down into a lake that last week was our paddock.
This is the neighbours paddock... ahhm I mean.. Lake.
We have paddocks both sides here, but the only way we can check the sheep is with a boat.
The lake in this photo actually runs right through the paddock on the right and crosses another road. At that point the water is actually deeper, with the fences and 5 foot high fence posts well and truly covered in water. The kids were able to get there swimming gear on and take there boogie boards down there for a bit of a swim... on the road.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crutching the Ewes

As soon as we could this week we got stuck into crutching the ewes (female sheep). They were quite a priority as they are due to start lambing in a few weeks, and so couldn't really be walked out of the paddocks to the shearing shed if we left it any longer.
This is a description of the crutching process, and I know that a picture is worth a thousand words, but as I was hard at it I couldn't really take any photos. So the process starts with tipping the sheep over and dragging them out of the catching pen backwards and position them next to the shearing equipment (the down-tube and hand piece). They are then given a dose of drench to kill any intestinal worms etc, and then the crutching itself begins. Crutching is similar the shearing in that wool is cut from the sheep using a handpiece. Starting with the head the wool around the face is first to go. The forehead (like the fringe) and on the sides of the face. This clears all wool from around the eyes so the sheep can see clearly, which will be important when they are mothering their new lambs in a few weeks time. They can become "wool blind" if the wool is left there and wouldn't be able to keep track of their lambs, and chances are the crows (which are evil animals by the way) would probably kill the lambs. Next I move down to the crutch area between the legs, and with the sheep still in the sitting position I take the wool off from the inside of one back leg, then a blow around under the udder to the inside of the other back leg. With the ewes getting close the lambing in a lot of them the udders are starting to enlarge so care needs to be taken not to nick of any skin around this delicate area. Quite often there is a small strip of wool that grows down between the teats (or nipples if you like) and that needs to be removed to give the young lambs the best access they can get to their precious food supply. Once the inside of both back legs are done I roll the sheep over to one side to do the backs of the legs and around the tail. I've got to be really careful around the backs of the legs because if the comb on the hand piece digs into the skin in that area there is a real risk of the hand piece catching the hamstring and cutting it. After doing one leg the area around the vulva, which is the external part of the reproductive system in female sheep, needs to be crutched, leaving no wool in the area at all - once again care needs to be taking in this delicate area of the animal. A blow over the top of the tail also clears this area up nicely. With the ewes so close to lambing it's important to have the area as clean as possible for the birthing process. I finish off the crutch with a blow down the back of the last leg, and one blow to tidy up the edge of the long wool that is left and then the sheep is let go out into the counting out pens.
We have four mobs of ewes, and we're working on the last one of them this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Long Harvest is Finally Over.

With great relief I am happy to report to you that harvest for the 2010/11 season is finally complete. On the 7th of March at 2pm the last row of windrowed barley was reapt. This is quite a bit later than the optimal finishing date, which would be early January. We had been waiting on the moisture to come down in the barley, to get it below the required 13.5% maximum, but when it come down we were into it again as hard as we could. The reason for pushing so hard in the end was that there was another rain even forecast... and we beat it! About an hour after we finished the rain started again. We only received around 9mm, but other areas in the state received quite a bit more.
So what's next? well I'm glad you asked. With the recent rains alot of weeds have germinated out in the paddocks. While some of the weeds are good weeds that provide good feed for the sheep, there are also paddocks with some quite nasty weeds which will need to be sprayed out before they get out of control.
The ewes will be due to start lambing in just over a month too, and with harvest being late, that means that we are now running late with other jobs. Crutching the sheep is a job that would usually be well underway by now, so the crutching is really quite a priority.
We are also looking down the barrel of this years seeding program, which should start around 6 weeks from now. We're changing over some of the seeding equipment this year so we'll need to start on the alterations pretty soon too, or we'll be running behind with that as well.