of the sheep are now in sheds rather than out on the fells - being
fed and tended by Malcolm. He prefers to keep them indoors at this
time of year to minimise the trampling damage they would otherwise
cause on the wet fells, and also to care for them more easily and
efficiently. However, there are a number out on the fells and in the
meadows, which he has to check almost daily at this time of year and
bring some in at lambing time. The tougher ones are more than capable
of lambing outdoors, usually.
in November - the 30 tups now take their well-earned holiday in another
shed - the ewes have been scanned in January. Lambing generally starts
in late March, early April and for about 4 to 6 weeks Malcolm is barely
seen by the outside world, so hectic can the lambing be.
The sheep carrying twins and triplets have been distinguished from
the single-bearing ewes by the scanning system, marked accordingly
and will be fed twice daily from now until lambing. The scanning system,
which has been around for the last 15 or so years, enables farmers
to plan the feeding programme according to the varying energy requirements
from tupping to a couple of weeks after lambing.
carrying twins or triplets obviously have different nutritional needs
and healthier lambs and ewes are one of the benefits of controlled
feeding. There are also considerable financial implications when you
can calculate more accurately how much feed you need to order, and
then bag up. The fell sheep staple feed consists of a mix of sugar
beet, pulp and distillers grain, whereas the draught sheep are given
Sheep farming is not exclusively about sheep - the ground that they
graze and live on has to be tended with equal care and knowledge.
Fertilizers are used, including muck spreading and the appropriate
machinery has to be maintained and stored ready for use each year.
Grass is cut in the meadows and baled up as sillage which is used
as a feed supplement later in the year.
farming calendar is a multi-layered creation - stretching a farmer's
resources, resilience and skills: from tup sales, tupping, scanning,
building pens, administering injections, lambing, nurturing, auctions,
grass cutting and sillage making, through to maintenance of farm buildings,
equipment and boundaries.
Like many of the hill farmers in the area Malcolm usually shepherds
his land on a quad bike, which allows him to cover the often muddy
terrain more quickly and with less risk of getting stuck than in a
4-wheel drive vehicle. He can carry feed and other equipment that
he will use out on the fells with him, along with his dog.
on the fells behind his farm you find tranquillity and unequalled
beauty - a different beauty on a wet, windswept winter's day, when
the harsher aspects of a hill farmer's life surface. But today, walking
alongside a gill untouched by the outside world, soaking up the sunshine
and watching and listening to buzzards and sheep, the calling is there
- 'farming is a way of life, not a job'. A timeless saying perhaps,