With The Rock Farm’s new lambs quickly growing, we had a well timed visit from the cousins to help with marking duties. Marking was our first opportunity to check on the health and welfare of the lambs.
Marking is when you give the lambs their all important vaccinations, place an ear tag in their ear and dock their tails. As an added bonus the boys are also castrated.
As our sheep shed their wool, we don’t need to mules them, however we do need to check for fly strike.
Can you pick the odd one out? One fellow here is a first cross lamb from last spring.
With a bucket of feed, and a couple of kids on foot, the sheep were soon mustered in the yards. The advantages of teaching them to come when called and to follow a bucket (bucket mustering) is worth it for the ease and stress free nature of mustering, for both man and beast.
It has been a while since I have marked lambs, and then never many at once. A firm believer in learning from the collective knowledge of those gone before, I had a quick read through the excellent NSW DPI handbooks (http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/content/agriculture/livestock/sheep) and the Producers Guide to Sheep Husbandry Practices published by the Meat and Livestock Association (ww.makingmorefromsheep.com.au/_literature_129885/Sheep_Husbandry_Practices). It was time to get the job done.
The ewes look on anxiously whilst we take care of their babies.
My main aim when marking is like any farmer. To make the process as quick and painless as possible. We used lamb marking rubber rings to castrate the males and dock their tails. These rings essentially cut off circulation to the relevant bits. I think it is more humane than the older methods that used a knife to achieve the same aim.
With such small numbers of animals, we adapted an old set of cattle yards for our purposes. A run of chicken wire effectively secured them in the yards. One of the cousins was employed as gate keeper, allowing only caught lambs into the main yard for marking. He also took turns at catching lambs.
Lambs will sit quietly if held sitting upright. With no cradle to hold the lambs, my brother kindly offered his services. You will note that The Little Fisherman has it sorted in the photo above, unlike the The Little Helper in the photo below who didn’t hold on to his lamb properly. As a result he was having a bit of fun holding on to it whilst it waited its turn.
Marking is usually the first opportunity to confirm lamb numbers. Out of our 14 ewes, we had 16 lambs, with an even split of boys and girls. We had lost one ewe and one lamb a few weeks earlier. Despite this loss, I was really pleased with the overall result. Healthy happy sheep.
The ear tags are all marked with our unique Property Identification Code (PIC). This means that all sheep that leave our property can be traced back to The Rock Farm on the National Lifestock Identification System database. Each year a new colour ear tag is applied, to allow quick identification of the animal’s age. For 2016 lambs, the colour is black.
To prove the sheep held no grudges, I turned up with a bucket the next day in the paddock, and they all came running, despite the green grass of Spring. They will get another vaccination booster in four weeks or so, and then they will be good to turn grass into meat!
Special thanks to my brother and his wonderful kids who did a great job helping on the Rock Farm. Also to the little photographers who took many photos whilst my hands were full! We loved having everyone visit for the school holidays 🙂