Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock (GRAPHIC)

I’ve mulled over this post for a few days but I’ve decided to post it, as I said I was going to post the bad, along with the good.  There is a pretty horrific picture further on down this post.  It’s not nice but imagine how I felt finding it!

*it really is a horrific picture so don’t go any further if you are squeamish and if you do, don’t bother complaining to me*

It is of one of my favourite sheep, found dead in the croft.  Here is the sheep with one of her twins, minutes after they were born in mid April.  I was given a black sheep for my 10th birthday (yes, a little strange, I know) in 1994 and I’ve always tried to keep a black female to keep the strain going.  I hadn’t had any black females for a few years and unfortunately both this years lambs were male.  So ends the bloodline.  When you have a small number of sheep, you get to know their personalities.  This one was a good mother and a little bit wild.  She didn’t like people and would hang back a wee bit when someone that wasn’t me was about.

I usually take the dog in the croft for a walk every second day, or so, to check the sheep.  It’s not uncommon to lose a lamb or two in the summer months so I like to keep an eye on them, just in case anything goes wrong.  I don’t normally count the sheep or lambs, just walk through them and make sure they all look ok.  I went in last Monday night, having not been in since Thursday night and didn’t notice anything wrong.  I walked through all the sheep but decided to carry on to the bottom of the croft, just in case there was anything I’d missed.  As I passed this mound that I’ve pictured, I smelled death.  One of these things you can’t describe unless you’ve experienced it.  It took me a minute or two to figure out where it was coming from because I couldn’t see anything.  Looking at the picture below, you still can’t see anything.

On closer inspection, the sheep was on her back/side on the other side of the mound, with her horns stuck in the fence.  She had absolutely no chance of getting out.  To say I was gutted is an understatement.

I covered the carcass with the bath you can see in the earlier picture and came in the next evening to bury the sheep.  I did it at the ‘cemetery’ at the bottom of the croft.  This was when things got messy though.

Before I show the picture of the sheep, I’d better mention that I came home that day to be greeted by a dead chicken!  No idead what cause of death was but I chased some crows off the carcass.  I buried the chicken with the sheep.  This is when things get gruesome.

So, like I said, this is when things get nasty.  The sheep had probably been there for the best part of a week.  Add into that the warm, dry weather we’ve had and it’s not a good mix.  I had to use wire cutters to cut it free and then when I lifted it, the side that had been on the ground had been eaten away by maggots.  The smell was horrible and the carcass a lot lighter than it should have been.  Into the transport box on the tractor with it and buried as quickly as possible.  One of the low points of the year on the croft so far.

I’m not ending on that pic though – here is a pic I took of the sheep in April 2011.

Ness Sheepdog Trial

Last week saw the annual Hebridean Sheepdog Circuit. 7 trials in eight days.  Watternish in Skye, Berneray (Harris/N Uist), Scarista (Harris), Shawbost (Lewis), Ness (centre of the universe), Staffin and Dunvegan (both Skye).  Watternish is first, on the Saturday, nothing on the Sunday, then work their way round the rest of the circuit Mon-Saturday.  The Ness trial is held on the Thursday, on Lionel Machair, opposite Lionel School.  Here is Google Earth/Streetview of the location.

I had the day off work (my cousin was getting married the next day) so it was my first chance in a few years to go down and relax at a trial. I think 48 dogs ran on the day, down from the 60-odd that were supposed to attend.  Numbers have been down slightly in last 2 years, despite many handlers booking their places months in advance.  I’m not sure if it’s to do with the expense of visiting the islands, or because people book up so far in advance and then realise they can’t make it due to other commitments closer to the trials.

We’re well organised in Ness, with a special are reserved for our VIP guests….As you may know, my puppy is called Bud – here is his mother, who ran on the day.  Her owner is Dolaidh Macleod from Point.  Most Lewis folk will recognise him as the guy that used to read the meters for the Hydro.  He’s recently retired and started trialing again

Here are some 4-week old pups belonging to Stuart Grant from Ullapool.  They did the whole of the Heb Circuit with him and the rest of his dogs!      Alasdair ‘Beag’ MacDonald running.  He is from Cross, the next village to mine.  I always knew he was an expert when it came to sheep, but since I started on Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, handlers from all over the country have spoken to me about him, saying he could have been amongst the best in the UK, had he stayed on the mainland and regularly competed in trials.Dolaidh and Roddy ‘Norrie’ studying the scores.John ‘Inch’ from Cross, talking things over with Murdo ‘Bloxy’ Murray from Back.  Bloxy used to play football for Back and his son Kevin is one of the best footballers I’ve ever played against.  Murdo himself is now a well respected trialist and regularly travels to trials on the mainland.  I think he’s the only Gaelic speaker that competes at the Scottish National.  He won the local aspect of the trial, with his dog Jim.Visitors come from far and wide for the Heb Circuit, with many of them making it their summer holidays.  Obviously it’s harder on some than on others!  Here are Alfie Kyme (left) and Steve Duckworth, both sound asleep!  Alfie won last year’s English National and himself and Steve have been regular visitors to the islands over the past few years.Plenty other familiar faces around too.  Standing on the right here is Stuart Grant (owner of the pups that were shown earlier) and seated is Jim Cropper, one of the best handlers around and finished second in Ness.

Winner was James McGee from Ireland, pictured here on the left.  Winning the Ness trial should rank as one of James’ highest honours – although I’m not sure it will compare to winning the 2011 World Trial!  He won that with Becca but retired her straight after so he won Ness with his 2 year old dog, Sid.  James also went on to be crowned ‘Lord of the Isles’, awarded to the top scoring handler across all seven trials.  Also pictured is John Palmer, another regular in the England team, who has visited the islands before, winning the Shawbost trial in 2009.Image

Busy fortnight

I haven’t blogged in a fortnight, things have been hectic!  After shearing, I was away filming Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach in Argyll, played 3 games of football (I was sent-off in my last one, last man offence) and the day job too.  So many things to do at this time of year, I actually found myself looking forward to the long winter nights when I can relax and do NOTHING!

When I came back from from filming, first thing I did was check the hen that had been sitting on eggs for the past few weeks.  Much to my surprise, this wee fellow was waiting for me!

I think this was the first (and only, unfortunately) chick to be born on this croft in over thirty years.  My mother thinks it’s that long anyway.  This didn’t end well, however, I found the chick crushed by it’s mother after 3 days.  Gutted.

I added some more hens that week though.  A friend was looking to cut down the number of hens so I took seven off her hands.  This is me up to 16 hens, plus 2 cockerels now.  Here are the hens boxed up for transportation.

A few months ago, I acquired a second (possibly 3rd or 4th) hand hen-house.  It’s a wee bit shabby and wasn’t being used to I took it for a tenner.  I eventually got round to doing a couple of temporary repair jobs on it, to house the new hens.  In true Lewis crofter fashion, I recycled some bits and bobs that were in the barn to patch it up.  The door here is a tile left over from the laminate flooring that went in my parents utility room – perfect fit!

Couple of other things needed repairing too – like rehanging the door!

I’ve noticed that the number of eggs I get each day is down.  As of 3 weeks ago, I was getting 4-8 each day, now it’s one or two.  There are 3-4 hooded crows that are pretty much resident around the house and I think they’ve started to pinch them.  That’ll need sorting soon.  I also suspect that some of the hens are laying in this patch of long grass.  Will get the strimmer on it when I have time.

The grass is growing there, but it’s not everywhere.  Most of the UK is complaining of heavy rain but we’re the exact opposite as this Farmers Weekly article shows.  The article also features an interesting map, showing rainfall percentages across the UK, oh and a quote or two from me.

The plus side of no rain is nice days!

As I posted last week, all the sheep have been shorn.  The wool has been bagged up and sitting in our barn since then, so myself and my father closed the bags and prepared everything to take them over to Stornoway.  The bags are usually picked up by Hebrides Haulage sometime in August, but three bags take up a lot of room so we’ll take them over next week.

The bags are sown shut and a label attached, identifying who they come from.  We had 65 sheep shorn at £1.50 each (£3 rams) so paid £100-110 for it.  Depending on wool prices, we should get most of that back, maybe all of it.  I remember getting a cheque for around £10 a few years ago, for all our wool.  You don’t make much money out of it but it’s something that has to be done anyway.  Prices are much better now, I think we got £70-80 last year, making up for what we paid out.

We still haven’t been out on our new boat yet.  She hadn’t been at sea for a while so there was some work to be one.  The outboard has been serviced and my dad has painted most of her.  We had a joiner up yesterday putting a floor in her.  Here’s Donnie “Disaster” Campbell, checking out his handywork.  We’ll hopefully get out sometime in the next fortnight.

Lots of other things being done too.  The dry spell means I have to take water to the sheep on a more regular basis than normal.  They’re all home now after a week in the village park after shearing.  All marked and drenched (for worms etc) and split into different fields.  The rams, hoggs and gimmers come home this Saturday, hopefully not too early in the morning as I have my cousin’s wedding on Friday night!

The following week I’m off to Glasgow for 5 days, filming Faraisean Chon-Chaorach and also going to Hampden for Olympic football!