Ooooh! Sheepies !

I'll soon polish you off madame ! A sheep is heavy And suddenly it got cold Jason organises the waiting room Come dancing Must be Latin American Next Some of M Barbier's plaques
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture Tramping down the wool Duck family Pasha the donkey The western red All very serious Male lambs keep their tails Charolais and Suffolk rams
 

Chez M Barbier

2 May 2009

Jason's foster family (The Barbier family) own a small farm which raises sheep. At the end of his Easter break I took him back down to the farm on the day that they carried out the spring shearing.

By the time that we arrived the rams had already been sorted and put back to pasture. Although he has a small field at the back of the house most of the sheep are put out to rented pasture.

The farm has about 120 sheep and almost all of these are Suffolk (with their black faces). There are however, a Charolais ram and a handful of Texel.

Suffolk are noted for their ability to gain size quite rapidly, which makes them a popular breed for meat farmers.

The current market looks for lambs of about 30-35 kilos and this can be attained within a year. Even if raised for their meat, sheep still need to be shorn. The price of fleece has dropped so much that on some farms it is burned, not being worth the effort of selling.

M Barbier does have enough though to make it useful and it is packed into large sacks which the youngsters of the family tramp down to make space for more.

It takes a couple of minutes to shear each sheep with a pair of electric clippers and the workmen were only getting a short pause now and again as the boss trundled off in his wagon to bring more sheep in from the fields.

Although quite docile, a fully grown ewe is a hefty enough animal to be moving about against her will and I have to admit to being amused by some of the antics as the shearers prepared their next client.

Only the rams and ewes are shorn as the lambs are still too young.

I asked if the sheep felt the cold as we would after a haircut and was told, yes, they do, and that is why they would be put back into the barn the first night.

The lambing season has started and the males all get to keep their tales. They don't know it, but lamb's tail is a popular item on Arab menus.

Some of the sheep have been crossed with the Charolais ram and these have a lighter coloured face.

The rams are big brutes of over 150 kilos and if they were stood on their hind legs are over two metres tall.

For somebody who is a failure at school, Jason is surprisingly withit about what goes on in the sheeping world and told me all about the various ailments that can afflict sheep. The average woolly pig appears to go about its life waiting to get bluetongue, foot rot, or an entire clatter of parasitic diseases.

They require a lot of husbandry and careful watching. This is especially the case during the summer if there is a lot of humidity. That triggers an increase in the number of flies and gnats about which find wool the ideal place to lay their eggs.

The farm used to have lots of chickens but they had all been taken by a fox within the past week leaving just the ducks, one family of which had just hatched a dozen young.

In the field next door is Pasha the donkey who went to great lengths to live up to his breed's reputation by refusing categorically to come over and say hello.

 

Honours all round

On the wall of the barn there are numerous plaques which have been won by M Barbier at the various shows.

Over the years he has collected 40 First prizes, 30 Second prizes, 19 Third Prizes and a plaque for Championship winner.

M Barbier and his Suffolk ram

M Barbier and his Suffolk ram

 

See also

Introducing the V-1

Magnicourt: Digging for victory

Hilary spins and knits a Tommy

Heritage Weekend 2008