Blog: Lynn Allison
31st December 2015
Lynn Allison (22) is an NSA Next Generation Ambassador 2015 from Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire. Having graduated from the Scottish Agricultural College (SRUC) in July 2014, Lynn is now helping on the family farm, establishing her own flock and working in the local market at Newton Stewart. She currently has 30 Scottish Blackface ewes, but says she is reliant on the goodwill of her mother letting her have land at home and will need to rent grazing locally to increase numbers further. She spent some time in New Zealand this summer and is also keen to head back there to better understand farming without subsidies. Lynn believes there are lessons to be learnt from New Zealand, but at the same time understands the importance of a payment system for farmers at home. She is concerned that higher payments for better land in Scotland and a focus on forestry on poorer land will reduce areas of sheep grazing and make it even harder for people like herself getting started. She therefore wants to keep all her options open at this stage.
Scroll down for entries from Lynn about her farming year in 2015.
General work continues in February, with a few extra jobs. The hoggs were starting to get bother with lice so I brought them in and treated them, and treated the ones that had sore feet. The neighbouring farm was due a TB test so I was helping there for the two days, and in return I got my Blackies scanned. On the second day of testing we managed to get the cows through the race and back to their fields in time for me to get some time at the market. This was the first of the store cattle sales of the year. While at the market I managed to spend some time working the scales weighing the cattle before entering the ring. It was good to refresh my memory on how to use the system, as I hadn’t used it since coming back from New Zealand.
In February it was also the first delivery session for the Next Generation Ambassadors. The things that I have enjoyed the most about this first session was finally meeting the rest of the Ambassadors and spending time to get to know each other. I found the vet’s corner to be really interesting and beneficial. I wasn’t confident enough to give intravenous injections but I feel slightly better about it. I would never have thought about giving ewe's epidurals before, or how to administer one, but now I know. I found the grassland and soil assessments to be a good refresher from what I had done at college.
March was a busy month for me and the farm. I was getting ready to head away to start an indoor lambing job and home was about to start lambing and calving. I finished working at the market on the 11th and started the night shift on the 15th at Bogrough Farm at Penpont, Dumfries. Bogrough ran about 900 Scotch Mules and Texel ewes. The Mules were crossed with Texels with the farm sourcing their replacements Texels from these lambs. The Texel ewes were crossed with Suffolks and the Texel gimmers were crossed with Charolaise Beltex crosses. The ewes were in good condition with oceans of milk and I can only describe their vessels being the size of footballs at times, which sometimes was a curse in that some lambs need a little help to suckle.
With the ewes being in good order this led to large lambs and the ewes needing a helping hand to lamb. In most cases the lamb would be coming with a leg back or were tail first. I did notice this year that some lambs that were being hung were being hung inside the water bags. In conversations with Mum back home she was experiencing the same problem with lambs hanging inside the water bags, which she had never seen before. The ewes were very maternal in most cases where they were stealing other ewe’s lambs. Trying to shed a newly lambed ewe and her lambs out of the group pens with two burly Texels arguing with you after you have just had your dinner is never a nice feeling. And this happened most nights! The singles had triplets twined on to them and in one case a Texel ewe had a Texel lamb twined on and was so in love with it she started to reject her Suffolk ewe lamb. In the end, the Suffolk lamb had to be lifted and was latter twined on.
After three weeks of lambing it was time for home for a couple of days before starting my next lambing. It helped having a few days at home to chill out and try and move the body clock back to working during the day and sleeping at night. During this time at home I got the full story on how the Blackies were getting on while I was away. It was also when one of my sets of Blackie triplets lambed, which I was there to see at 1am.
The next farm was about 10 miles from home and ran Scottish Blackface, Lleyn Charollais crosses, pure Lleyns, and a few Charollais ewes. Some of the Blackface ewes were kept pure and the others were crossed with Bluefaced Leicester and Lleyn and were lambed outside. The pure Lleyns, pure Charollais and Lleyn Charolaiss cross ewes were lambed indoors in the new slatted shed. I had never done a lambing on slats before and I prefer straw pens for lambing. When it’s cold in the shed at least the lamb can snuggle into the straw, but it can’t do this on the slats. By the third week the lambing had slowed right down to maybe four lambing a day. This meant I could get out of the lambing shed and enjoy the warm weather, which seems to have disappeared since. While being out of the shed I helped with the marking of the Blackie Lleyn lambs and the mule lambs and moving them out onto the hill for the summer. With things being quiet I got to take ewes and lambs out of the shed and put them out to the grass, which was nice to see how the other lambs growing.
After six weeks of lambing it was good to get back to the market where there are no prolapses, lamb beds out and rotten lambings!
The month of May saw the last Blackie ewe lamb, it was nice to see an ending to this year’s lambing, with which there will be a few changes next year.
So far at home it’s been a case of castrating and dehorning the young calves before moving them to the summer grazing, though the weather hasn’t been good growing weather. I’ve also been back at the neighbour’s helping tag up his baby calves, getting them castrated and dehorned as well as getting his herd’s BVD test done.
I’m still at the market on Wednesdays for the prime lamb sales, with the addition of a Friday store cattle sale. This saw me back working on the scale where I have developed a habit of hitting the select button instead of the start button, thankfully the sale hadn’t started this time. This was the first time I had really been left to do the whole sale myself, whereas there’s normally someone around if I needed help.
The second delivery session also took place along with NSA Welsh SWheep. Clarke, Jonny and myself travelled together down to the event. I had never been to Wales before and thought it was a really nice area and the people were really friendly. I enjoyed day wondering around looking at all the different breeds of sheep as some of them aren’t that common in Scotland. I even bumped into one of the girl’s that I was at college with, which I wasn’t expecting.
Fernhill, the farm that we stayed at for the second delivery session was a really interesting place to stay at. The fact that they work with Shetland sheep and the reason why became obvious. When the payment system was based purely on numbers the best breed for the job were the Shetlands. They could be sourced and transported from the islands cheaper than any other commercial breed and could keep larger numbers of them. They also get paid for conservation grazing, I think everyone would like to be paid to graze their sheep instead of having to pay for it!
The delivery session looked at farming for profit and farm accounts, which are a vital part of farming used to assess how good business is. The session also looked at ways we can get grazing and other ways for us to get into farming. We also looked the management of parasite burdens which was interesting in terms of anthelmintic resistance.
This month was a little bit busier for me than normal, as I spent my Mondays and Tuesday’s pressure washing out the sheds for one of the local farmers. I’m still working at the market on Wednesdays, though the price of lamb could make you weep. A couple of the normal guys being off work also meant I had to start filling out the sheep movement pads with one of the other guys. I ended up back at the farm where I did my second lambing stint, to cover while they were away at a wedding. For the days that I was there my time was taken up with driving round the farm feeding some of the Saler cattle, and checking the calving cows and making sure that they hadn’t gotten out on to the roads. I had the sheep to check too, to make sure none of them had got stuck on their backs as they hadn’t been sheared at that point. The dogs proved to be more of a challenge. I had been told that some of the dogs might wonder off and do their own thing and I shouldn’t worry, but I was to make sure that young Jim didn’t run off as he would go to the sheep. Jim, on this occasion, was perfect and didn’t disappear once but Ben and old Jock disappeared on two separate occasions– just as I was about to leave to check the stock. After a bit of shouting and whistling the dogs would turn up!
I was back a couple of weeks later to help with the dosing of the lambs. We managed to do a couple of lots but the following day was too wet to do the lambs. I went and checked the cattle instead and spent the afternoon getting the sheep shed ready for the shearing.
At home we tailed the hoggs for shearing the following week. This was the first year that I attempted to shear my Blackie tup, Cameron. It ended up with him running out of the shed after I got his belly done. I’ve had experience shearing the Suffolk tups before but Cameron just wasn’t interested in sitting, but later that afternoon he did look to be enjoying the sun on his ribs though!
Just a quick mention: well done to Grant Hurcomb who completed his charity shear 24 where he sheared 938 sheep and has raised over £20,000 for Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK, a brilliant result.
With the weather being better I was back at the second farm, where I worked over lambing time, to help with the shearing of the ewes and the dosing of the lambs. With three people shearing, another pushing up and myself rolling the wool, the shearing was done in five days. It was hard going but it worthwhile as there hasn’t been many dry days since.
At home, it was a case of getting the shearing started as well but trying to fit it in around paid jobs and trying to get my sister and me available on the same day can be trying. The ewes and lambs got dosed and any with sore feet were treated.
I spent a few days rolling wool with my sister for the local estate but if it had stayed dry it could have been done in a day.
We were back at a farm that we rolled wool for last year and it was a race against time with the weather. With sun showers and clouds hanging around, it was a case of shearing as many as possible. Normally, the other bit down the road gets sheared then it’s a case of pack up and head to the farm. But this year, with the weather being so iffy, only about 200 ewes were shut in the shed over night at the farm and the ewes from down the road were brought over with the trailer. The only time the farmer was really seen was when we stopped for lunch. Thankfully the weather held for all of the ewes to be sheared.
This year, we were at a new farm rolling wool and it was all blackies so I was quite happy but getting directions for the pens in a field was a different matter. It was by chance the field that we needed was on my way to college and for some reason I had noticed that it had pens in it.
We our third NSA Next Generation delivery session on time management, conflict resolution, negotiation, a visit to the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) at Bradford, a visit to Howarth scouring plant and visit to Roaming Roosters farm shop and. We finished the three days with a farm walk at … share farm. I really enjoyed the tour from BWMB and the scouring plant and found it interesting. I didn’t realise how much work went it getting the final product.
August started off slightly different from the rest of the months, as I went to work on an estate milking their cows. I haven’t done any milking since my first year at college and even then it was only for a couple of days with the dairy man alongside and another girl from my course. I got a shock then, when the dairy man told me, after the first morning milking, that I was being left to do the next five days milking by myself. The first day was the hardest with everything being new to me and the cows not being used to me. The early mornings weren’t my favourite and I was a bit paranoid about putting the milk from cows that were being treated with various medication in the bulk tank. It all made me realise that milking isn’t for me. I was back later on in the month pressure washing though.
I was back working on the scales at the store cattle sale later in the month, and I saw one of our calves that we sold last year come back through the market that day. The first of our fat lambs and store lambs went to the market too and they seemed to do alright. I’ve been getting a couple of extra days up at Ayr market which is a busier market to Newton Stewart, the one I usually work at. It felt like what it did when I first started there, lost and unsure of everything, only this time some of the staff knew me.
September was a busy month with breeding and store sales for cattle and sheep at Newton Stewart and Ayr markets. Newton Stewart was experiencing high numbers of prime lambs and cast sheep. On one day there were 2,500 lambs and 600 ewes, numbers remained high for the rest of the month, but not to the same level.
I was back at one of the farms that I’ve worked at rolling wool to shear some of their lambs. In a discussion about wool and the recent visit to the British Wool Marketing Board and Howarth Scouring plant, I found out that the farm has received a certificate for excellent clip presentation. They thought this was something all farmers received, but I told them that only a limited number was issued.
I was milking again for an afternoon with a few new faces in the milking herd and it was a trying afternoon with all these new heifers to milk. Having my wrist stood on by a heifer confirmed my decision that milking is not for me!
On a rare day away, I made it to the international sheepdog trials at Dumfries. The rain made for a wet and muddy final, and of the runs I did see no one completed it as they ran out of time at the shedding ring.
Things have been busy between working on the farm and working at the markets.Newton Stewart held its annual two-day calf sale, which saw 2,864 spring and autumn sucked calves sold. Thankfully I made it through the sale without being kicked, stood on or chased! Blackie sale Newton Stewart also saw the annual Blackface tup sale, which is a busy and stressful day. Farmers are some of the worse people for leaving gates open, which never helps when it comes to penning back! It all starts to get a bit chaotic when people want to collect their tups while the sale is in progress and there are very few loading areas.
The highlight of this year has to be being selected as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador. We may all come from different parts of the country and have different ideas and opinions on what systems work best, but the one thing we have in common is our passion for sheep and our desire to be a part of the industry. Since being an Ambassador I’m more open to new ideas and thinking about what is working well, what needs improving and what needs changed completely. I plan on looking more
towards performance recording using EID and also removing ewes that are causing problems at lambing time, have health issues or producing poor lambs. I would like to join the NSA Scottish Region Committee and, where possible, be able to help out at NSA events and encourage other people to join so our voices can be heard
I think the price of lamb won’t dramatically change in the future, but theway in which we get there could. I think there will be those who will remain farming in the
traditional ways and may not be willing to change, and there will be those who want to be at the forefront of these changing times. I can see performance recording and the use of EBVs becoming more common to improve flock efficiency and flock managment.