Baa’ck to the Land!

Posted by Nick  | 02 Jun 2015  | 4 comments

So… somehow we’ve become shepherds.

No one would have thought twice about a young Char one day herding sheep of her own – she grew up in the country and had barnyard animals around her all the time. But me, a soft little city boy with a predilection for being a homebody… no one could have guessed it.

On Saturday Char and her mum arrived with a horse float full of lambs.

The breeder we chose was up in Auckland. Char timed one of her trips up for work with collecting the lambs. Sixteen managed to fit comfortably in the float.

They’re about seven months old, all ewes, and are a breed called “wiltshire”. Wiltshires are self-shedding sheep – meaning we don’t have to go to the trouble of shearing them in summer (there isn’t much profit in wool, especially for a small herd like this). In the warmer months they just shed clumps of their coat. A bit messy, but ah well.

They were at first hesitant to leave the float, but as soon as they saw that lush Waikato pasture, they all bolted out and immediately started feasting.

They all funnelled through the gate into our orchard without incident.

It’s a small flock to start us off – we don’t want to jump in the deep end without much experience. We figured a low-maintenance breed would provide us a sensible initiation into agriculture.

We’d prepared an old sheep fence to keep them out of our yard and garden area, which seems to be holding up thus far.

We’re also experimenting with a Smart Fence – a useful invention which allows you to reel out multiple electric string lines designed for sheep. Since we plan on shifting the flock to a paddock with some native trees we’ve planted, we need to train the sheep to respect the fence and keep a goodly distance.

We had a few escapees bolt through when they got shocked, but now the whole gang seems to have learnt respect for the hot wires.

The other advantages of wiltshires are not having to dock or dag them – which also means they get to keep their luxuriously long tails!

In addition to that glorious fifth appendage (which makes them look somewhat like golden retrievers), you can see in the above photo how that particular lamb still has part of last year’s coat which hasn’t fully shed. Apparently when they’re born late, as this lot were, they might need a little assistance in their first year with shedding.

The long drive from Auckland to our farm meant there was a decent amount of crap to blast out of the float. Char took care of it with glee.

The whole lot of them seem really content in our orchard. There’s plenty of shelter for them and they enjoy rubbing up against the trunks of the plum trees. There’s even a delicious low-hanging rimu…

They’re mowing through the grass at a quick rate, so we’ll have to shift them in the next couple of days. By shift I mean herd. Because apparently we’re shepherds now. Yup…