Summer’s passing

Summer has passed and the nights are starting to draw in. Our small flock of Hampshire Downs are happier with the cooler days, their fleece now becoming thick after their shear in early spring. All the rams and ewes were sheared by a local shearer in March and their fleeces stored for collection. A number of the fleeces were collected by the Lincolnshire Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, with the remaining 51 kilos going to the British Wool Marketing Board, who collected last week. After deducting carriage costs the Wool Board will pay us around a £1 a kilo, which will just about cover the cost of the shear. Below are the bags of fleece, prior to being loaded into the Wool Board’s sheet for collection.

woolWe did not show the ewes or rams at the Wayland and Aylsham Agricultural Shows as planned. Both shows are towards the end of the summer, but alas the summer passed before we found the time to halter train, wash and trim the shearlings and lambs. There is always next year……….

Due to the mild winter and warm summer the insects; and particularly the flies, have flourished. This has posed a real threat of ‘blowfly strike’ to the sheep. The Greenbottles have swarmed over the sheep in their deadly task of laying eggs in the fleece, from which the maggots emerge to feed on the flesh. If not caught in time, the maggots can disfigure the sheep and this can result in an agonising death. The main defence are pour-on solutions, which are sprayed onto the back and hind quarters of the sheep. These solutions usually protect the sheep for up to 16 weeks, but this year, because of the onslaught of flies, the period of protection has been considerably reduced. Indeed our small flock was showing the signs of attack after 8 weeks. Fortunately, tell-tell signs of sticky smudges on the fleece were spotted on one of the ewes. Once the sticky fleece was removed the maggots could be seen starting to burrow into the flesh. We removed the maggots and cleaned the wound, and to ensure there was no further infection we called the vet. The vet checked that all the maggots had indeed been removed, administered antibiotics and provided pour-on to protect the ewe and the remainder of the flock from further attacks. A month later, the ewe still bears the scar of the attack, although her fleece is now starting to grow back and she appears to be making a complete recovery.

In recent weeks we have noticed considerable owl activity in and around the barn owl box overlooking the caravan site. Indeed in the last week, hissing sounds are audible in the early morning and at dusk. According to  the Barn Owl Trust, Barn Owls make a loud, 3-4 second hiss at intruders or predators that disturb the nest. However, the Barn owl box isn’t positioned in a place where the owls are likely to feel threatened and where they would be disturbed. Therefore the hissing is probably due to baby owls or chicks; which hiss when fed. With the mild winter and a warm spring and summer, it is quite possible that the baby owls are members of a second brood, which would most likely fledge in mid to late September. Unfortunately without a nest box camera it is difficult to know the reason for the hissing. So during the close season, while the owls are away from the box we hope to have a camera installed so that we are better to monitor the owl’s progress. If this camera is successful, we will look to install cameras in the other 2 boxes.