Our first lambing season has come to an end, with four boy and four girl lambs gracing our paddocks. All our ewes birthed successfully and recovered well for which we are proud (none were first-time mothers). Our two alpacas have done a great job at keeping foxes away from the lambs, making this freaky high pitched ululation when even a small elderly house dog sets foot on the property in a car with its owner! We’ve kept mothers and lambs together so that mothers can pass on their nutritional wisdom, and to self-wean whenever they choose to.
Even though we completed an excellent NRM sheep course, we’ve had to largely teach ourselves how to do a range of lambing operations. We’ve docked all the tails, given two rounds of vaccinations, tagged their ears, and castrated the boys (this was a real challenge!) Thanks to Simon, Asha and Rob who were guest sheep wranglers at various points, and without whom we would have struggled to complete the jobs.
Raising animals is part of our commitment to taking responsibility for our food. However I hadn’t prepared myself for the sense of power and weight of responsibility that comes with looking after sheep. For example, we discovered a couple of kangaroo sized holes in one of our boundary fences, which our sheep had been using to commute between paddocks via our neighbour’s property unbeknownst to us. If they got stranded in another paddock without water, this could have led to loss of life. We have since closed up these holes with extra fencing and gates, making sure to keep the sheep on our side! Likewise, if we make a mistake with our water set-up and accidentally leave a valve closed so troughs can’t automatically fill up or leave a valve open but have a dodgy float and accidentally drain a whole tank, this can also be catastrophic for our sheep. Luckily so far our sheep have survived our learning curve, but it is sobering to think of the impact we can have if we are in a rush or we’re overtired or the countless other reasons why mistakes can be made.
We’ve now taken our first batch of sheep to the Normanville Meatworks to be turned into chops and roasts. We picked out three of the male lambs and four of the more mature ewes. We had a selection process for this, but it is still a challenge to wield the power of deciding who lives and dies. I’m sure with practice we will be able to come to terms with these decision-making powers and step up to the responsibility, but for now we will just try to look after our remaining fourteen sheep equally.
Once slaughtered, we raced the sheep skins over to Port Elliot, to SA’s last remaining tannery “Southern Tanners”. Tony Scott who runs this outfit is a total legend and kindly gave us a tour of the process. Our skins were salted and will go through various processes over the course of six weeks to end with some nice hides. It feels good to be able to honour the lives of these creatures by using as many parts as we possibly can.