Meet the sheep
When you are milking any animal, it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible. While their property isn’t organic, Kirsty and Dave believe it is important to be good managers of their land and one positive is it means they can minimise their use of chemicals like drench. Drench products have withholding periods and you can’t use the milk in that time, which means a ewe is out of action for weeks.
“One of the main things we do is try not to be overstocked so we don’t have so much pressure on the pasture, and we do rotate (grazing),” says Kirsty. “We try to keep them in as good a condition as possible, so even if they do have a bit of a worm burden, it’s not affecting them.
“Sheep aren’t as bad as goats – goats are terrible for worms – and it tends to be the young sheep that have problems. In our flock there’s 10 replacements a year and if they need to come out because we’ve had to drench them then they can. Once they’re two, three, four years old – and we’ve got some five and six years old – they don’t seem to get too bothered by the worms.
“And it’s not great for them, to drench all the time – I mean, it is a poison.”
Dave is the one who loves the challenge of breeding and jokingly calls himself a ‘sheep genealogist’. He is in charge of the animal husbandry, deciding which ram will get together with a particular ewe.
“I love the breeding side of the business so I spend a lot of time out in the paddocks working with the sheep,” says Dave.
“Some of our white sheep are prone to sunburnt ears in the summer, so we have started experimenting with black sheep to try and overcome this. We’ve now also got East Friesian and crossed East Friesian-poll Dorset sheep.”
He’s also in charge of nutrition, sowing red clover into the pasture on their home farm and their new block, and fertilising the soil.
This season they’ve got an added pasture option, grazing the local race track, where their hoggets are growing fast on protein-rich plantain.