Sheep Shearing

At the end of July 36 organic pedigree Poll Dorsets arrived at Godolphin. 

The Poll Dorsets arrive at Godolphin.

The Poll Dorsets arrive at Godolphin.

They were all born between November 2012 and January 2013. Here are the lambs when they were only a few weeks old, they’ve definitely grown a lot since then!

The sheep as lambs.

The sheep as lambs.

As the sheep were just getting used to their new home, Sidney, a young ram was introduced in to the flock. This will be his second year in command of a flock of females.

Sidney

Sidney

Sidney has been selected because of his conformation and build, which will compliment the ewes he is breeding with.

Sidney arriving.

Sidney meets the flock at Godolphin.

He was marked with a marking harness (a raddle) which contains a crayon, on his chest. The ewes were then numbered with the last three digits of their ear tag. After 17 days each of the ewes should have come into season at least once. This is shown by a coloured mark on their back left from Sidney’s raddle. Sidney is then given a new coloured raddle and any which may have returned or aborted their foetus early on, can be identified when they come into season again. This is because they will have a different colour from the rest of the flock. The flock currently look like they have been in a paint ball fight but this should fade over time! To make a ewes existence financially viable, it needs to produce at least one lamb each year. If one of the ewes fails to reproduce she unfortunately is not useful to Mark as a breeding animal.

Also this month, Mark and his family visited Stithians Show. One of the ewe lambs, Gracie, was selected to go. She had to be halter trained and taught to stand properly for inspection. Gracie came 4th in the ewe lamb class, and showed a lot of potential for future competitions.

Gracie with her rosette.

Gracie with her rosette.

The family were also busy sheep shearing this month. This is the first time this group have been shorn due to their age, and they were reluctant to embrace this new experience. Next year Mark is sure they will take it all in their stride. Its is important that fleeces are dry when shearing and Mark managed to get them into the barn before the weather broke. The Care family from Burras brought their shearing equipment and began working their way through the flock.

Before the shearing starts...

Before the shearing starts…

The sheep being shorn.

The sheep being shorn.

Well deserved tea break.

Bagging the wool.

Bagging the wool.

Mark has also had problems with flies irritating the animals in the hot weather this month. Firstly, a young Ruby Red cow had been on the hill scratching her head near her horn. The more the flies irritated her, the more she scratched her head on anything she could find. The herd were taken off the hill whilst the animal was treated. Mark has also had to keep a Hereford cross Limosin cow and calf in the shed for a few weeks. This is because the cow had damaged its teat and the flesh wound was attracting a lot of attention from the flies. Each day she was taken out of the shed and the wound treated. It was time consuming but now the cow and the calf are back in the field.

The sheep are possibly the most vulnerable to flies. A condition known as fly strike can be severe and can kill a ewe in days if not identified early. A fly would land on the wool, bury its way to the skin and lay its eggs, the maggots would then hatch and begin eating the flesh. This is very nasty and it is not easy to identify what is happening under the wool of a ewe several meters away. Knowing your flock and the behaviour of the animals is key, and fingers crossed Mark has avoided any cases of fly strike so far this year.

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An introduction to Mark, his family and other characters on the farm

Farming runs in Mark’s family, and he has farmed with both his dad and brother since he was very small. He now owns his own farm near Gweek, also in Cornwall, and has been a tenant farmer for the National Trust Godolphin since 2005. It is important for Mark and his family, that the Godolphin estate remains a working and viable farm, and the family work hard in all weathers to ensure it stays that way.

The farm itself is made up of organic and non-organic land, although all is farmed in an environmentally sensitive way, in line with the requirements of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. This scheme helps to promote wildlife sustainability, habitat creation and conservation. The livestock on the estate are also traditional breeds, which are in keeping with the National Trust ethos.

Mark runs two main herds of cattle at Godolphin; a large herd of Herefords and Hereford crosses, which graze across the bottom of the hill and lower grass fields, and a secondary herd of pedigree North Devon Ruby Reds which graze the hill and upland areas. The Herefords and Hereford crosses consist of the bull Supercharge and approximately 61 cows and calves. When the calves are fully grown they are separated from their mothers and eventually sold for beef production.

The Herefords and Hereford crosses

The Herefords and Hereford crosses

A key character in this herd is Supercharge (the bull). He is a young pedigree Hereford bull and hopes to some day fill the shoes of his predecessor, Gladiator.

'Supercharge' the bull

Supercharge the bull

The two Hereford cross Shorthorn cows nicknamed ‘The Miss Marples’ (also known as Martha and Mary), are favourites with Mark’s family. This year Martha calved just before her sister Mary.

Martha and her calf

Mary

Mary

Martha

The Ruby Reds are also kept for beef production as well as conservation work on the hill, breaking in areas of overgrown bracken and creating a variety of habitats for wildlife.

The Red Devons on Godolphin hill

The Ruby Red Devons on Godolphin hill

Primrose, Mark’s favourite cow, is part of this herd.

Primrose

Primrose

Mark’s wife Ruth is responsible for the 36 pedigree Poll Dorset sheep, which graze in the small meadows adjacent to the Side Garden, and Side Garden Paddock of Godolphin House. The high stone hedges surrounding the meadows are perfect for the small flock to graze without causing too much mischief!

The sheep grazing at Godolphin

The sheep grazing at Godolphin

These youngs lambs are bred from Ruth’s flock of Poll Dorsets at their home farm, and were born in January 2013.

Poll Dorset lambs

Poll Dorset lambs

Wheezy and Gracie are two characters in this flock. Wheezy was bottle fed due to catching pneumonia as a lamb, which thankfully has cleared up, although the name has stuck!

Wheezy

Wheezy

Gracie is a young ewe who has been selected to show, her size and shape make her a good example of the breed. She is now halter trained and currently roaming the small meadows with the other young ewes.

Gracie

Gracie

Mark’s eldest son Daniel and daughter Jessie work on the farm with him, whilst the youngest Sam and Katherine are drafted in when additional hands are needed.

Daniel

Daniel

Their daughter Jess on a hay bale

Jessie

Sam

Sam

Katherine

Katherine

Well, an introduction to the tenants wouldn’t be complete without Belle, the Springer Spaniel. Belle waits by the Landrover each morning for her trip to Godolphin, and rides with Mark as he checks his stock each day.

Belle waits for Mark in the Landrover

Belle waits for Mark in the Landrover