Plaw Hatch Flock

Field to Fibre

Shearing 2018

Gala Bailey-Barker
Shearling Lleyn and Jacob cross Lleyn ewes

Shearling Lleyn and Jacob cross Lleyn ewes

Shearing is an exciting day every year but this year was particularly exciting since we were shearing our home bred Jacob x Lleyn ewes lambs, our three black Romneys and our twenty-seven white Romneys for the first time!

Jacob cross Lleyn shearling fleece

Jacob cross Lleyn shearling fleece

Timing shearing when the sheep are ready to be sheared, the flys haven't become a problem and our shearers are available is a real challenge every year. Our main flock of adult ewes who lambed in April didn't shear very well because they're wool hadn't lifted but the ewe lambs, rams and ewes that didn't lamb this year all sheared very nicely. 

Matt and Bridie from New Zealand came to shear this year, usually Malcolm comes but he was off teaching a British Wool Board shearing course so he sent his Kiwi team. Matt did a great job taking care over the ewes who weren't shearing so well and Bridie who was very knowledgable about wool really enjoyed sorting our fleeces for us. It was interesting to hear about the wool sheds in New Zealand where each fleece is sorted into multiple grades. Here wool that is sold to the wool board is paid for in weight so all the dags and skirtings are left in the fleece to make up the weight. 

We had to keep the ewes and lambs in from Wednesday lunchtime until Friday when they were sheared to keep them dry. It was a week of very heavy showers between hot sunshine. We put them out for a few hours on Thursday and get them in very quickly when a new down pour began. I did more physical work than I had in a while and really felt it but it was so much fun to get really stuck in with the sheep work it was definitely worth it!

Romney

Romney

As soon as the Natural Fibre Company are ready to do an organic mill run we will be sending our wool for processing. My current plan is to blend our Lleyn and Jacob cross Lleyn shearling fleeces for one yarn. We did this before and it created a beautiful oatmeal colour. For our second yarn I will be blending the white and black Romney fleeces that I'm hoping will create a beautiful grey. It's always to some extent a guessing  game but a very exciting one!!

 

Knit British just reviewed our Plaw Hatch Flock Lleyn Yarn you can see what they had to say here.

 

In other news I am now thirty-three weeks pregnant! The wonderful Rose did lambing for me and has continued taking the lead role in taking care of our lovely flock. It's been great fun having someone to be super nerdy about clean grazing, weaning times and sheep care with. I am going on maternity leave this Friday and Rose is going to continue to look after the flock for my leave although we will be having regular meetings about the sheep. You can follow Rose on instagram @rosebramwell.

Rose just completed a shearing course and got her Blue Seal she'll be shearing some of our lambs later in the summer that we will probably sell for hand spinning keep an eye out for them. The Romney lambs dad has a really stunning fleece can't wait to see how their wool develops!

Me and Pip at Cronkshaw Fold Farm

Me and Pip at Cronkshaw Fold Farm

Pip, my now year old Border Collie is currently in Lancashire at sheepdog school with the lovely Dot McCarthy and Cronkshaw Fold Farm. I'm getting regular updates from Dot and although Pip isn't the fastest learner she is slowly getting there and I'm super excited to see her new skills.

The Future of the Plaw Hatch Flock

Gala Bailey-Barker
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These young sheep are the future of the Plaw Hatch Flock. In all there are twenty-one ewe lambs in this group all of whom where born in April 2017. All of our ewe lambs have a year and half to grow up and bond with their flock mates before they meet the rams. 

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The white ewes in this group are pure lleyn whilst the brown and white ewes are Jacob x Lleyn. The ewe above is the only one in the group who has real Jacob markings. 

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We will be shearing all of these ewes for the first time in May of this year. I am really excited to have the beautiful shearling wool of the brown Jacobs blended with the wool of the pure Lleyns. 

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The ewe lambs are very affectionate towards each other. 

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Our ewe lambs are very curious about us. Mostly I check the sheep everyday myself and I try to spend time sitting in the field with them so they get used to me being around. This really helps keep their stress levels low when we need to handle them and it helps when it comes to them lambing. This little one who is investigating my face is from a line of particularly friendly sheep. I knew her grandmother when I first came to the farm, no. 22. No. 22 had triplet daughters 3 years ago and this ewe is the daughter of one of the triplets. I love knowing the lineage of our sheep. Keeping our flock closed, for the most part, means I get to rear the future breeding ewes from lambs and build a relationship with them. 

Buying in the Romneys has been an interesting experience they are beautiful sheep but it will take a long time for them to trust us. Eventually they will learn from our homebred ewes that we are safe. 

Romneys in January

Gala Bailey-Barker
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Our Romney ewes have been at the farm since October but I’ve only just got round to taking “proper” camera photos of some of them. 

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The romneys along with the rest of the flock will be scanned on the 31st January. Finding out how many lambs each ewe is expecting is always an exciting time tinged with a little anxiety about how many might not be in lamb. Fingers crossed we’ll have lots of twins! 

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Autumn

Gala Bailey-Barker
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Autumn 2017

Giving Lottie a scratch

Giving Lottie a scratch

 
Lambs on fresh grazing

Lambs on fresh grazing

 
Hedgerow Dyeing colours 2017

Hedgerow Dyeing colours 2017

 
Romulus the Romney and his pal Lenny

Romulus the Romney and his pal Lenny

 
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Autumn has well and truly arrived now with chill misty mornings and long dark nights. Most of our cows are in the big barns for the winter. The young stock, lighter on their feet than the milking cows, are still out finishing off what is left of the grass. Autumn calving has begun with Doris and Cindy calving in the last week. We have four heifers (first time mums) in the milking herd who will calve soon and we will need to teach them about the parlour. A frustrating but ultimately delightful process as they settle down to their new routines.

 

We currently have twenty-four piglets on the farm. Dakota had nine piglets a few months ago. Her sister Montana, who I had planned to keep as a breeding sow immediately became dangerously protective of her sister’s piglets. Sadly, I decided it would be unsafe to keep her with all the volunteers and children that spend time at the farm I couldn’t risk her biting someone. Izzy our saddleback sow had a rather disappointing but very cute litter of four piglets that are growing like crazy. The litter that were born in the spring are now six months and ready to start going to the abattoir, all part of the cycle of farm life as our younger piglets are growing and in need of more space.

 

Throughout the summer I moved the ewes and lambs weekly onto clean grass. “Clean” grass is grass that has not had sheep on for at least a year. This is a way of managing the numerous internal parasites that sheep are vulnerable to, particularly in their first year of life. This proved to be very successful although it has become more difficult to continue into September when I ran out of clean grass. I am experimenting with different management systems to try and beat the parasites. One group of larger male lambs I haven’t wormed at all, I wormed my ewe lambs after they got nematodirus and the smaller group of male lambs twice. I will continue experimenting with moving the lambs next week. Not even the vets have cracked it, but we must make attempts at managing sheep with minimal wormers as resistance in sheep flocks is becoming a serious problem and use of chemicals is not in line with our aims as a biodynamic farm. Having said that animal welfare is as ever my priority and regular tests are done to make sure the sheep are not carrying too high a worm burden if necessary I use conventional wormers.

 

We have now started the process of sending this year’s lambs to the abattoir to be butchered for the shop. I take four lambs in the morning every other week to the abattoir and return later in the day to collect the skins to take back to the farm to cure with salt. I am gradually dispatching the skins to the Organic Sheepskin Company where they will be processed into beautiful finished skins for the shop, the Jacob skins are particularly beautiful. We are never certain when the skins will return but if you are interested in being notified you can email me at gala@plawhatchfarm.co.uk

 

This autumn Deborah (my mum) and I have run three plant dyeing workshops. ‘Hedgerow Dyeing’, ‘Madder and Weld Dyeing’ and ‘Woad Dyeing’. With 100g of wool spun from the wool of our flock to dye each participant went home with an array of colours. It is a wonderful experience to dye wool spun from the fleece of our flock with plants gathered from the land where that flock grazed. We will be running more courses next year if you’d like to know about upcoming courses please email me gala@plawhatchfarm.co.uk

 

The other exciting news is that we have just bought thirty Romney ewes which brings our breeding flock to eighty-two ewes. Forty-two of these ewes have never lambed before so I’ll have a busy lambing season; maximum supervision minimum intervention! This is a one-time purchase as we are as a rule a closed flock. We usually only bring in rams. Three of the new Romney’s are black Romney’s, they have black fleeces with grey tips so I am interested to see what colour their lambs will be.

 

I attended my first livestock auction with Emile and Eelco of Hathor farm. Marie kindly helped me pick some rams out and I came home with a lovely Romney ram who has been called Romulus. I was feeling quite triumphant returning home with my new ram but was quickly brought back to earth as I found myself chasing him around the garden after he jumped out of his pen!

 

Pip is now 8 months old and has become more and more confident around the sheep. We are just back from a beginner sheepdog clinic in Shropshire. Pip is not quite ready to start her training in earnest and has “too much eye” this means her favourite thing is to get the sheep somewhere in a corner, lie down and eye them so that stay put. In moderation eye is a good quality in a sheepdog but too much makes it very hard to train them to gather the sheep. I am going to keep Pip completely away from the sheep for 6 weeks and then take her back to training. Fingers crossed she’ll be ready!

 

https://www.indiefarmer.com/2017/11/09/plaw-hatch-farm-autumn-update/