Lesley Prior on Growing Wool…

If any of you read Lesley’s blog, you will already be familiar with her inspiring work! Lesley keeps a range of fine fibre animals on her farm in Devon, including Bowmont Sheep. Continuing the breeding work of the Macaulay Institute and producing Bowmont sheep whose wool demonstrates a consistently fine micron-count, and who can survive in the UK climate, Lesley is also very active in The Campaign for Wool. Speaking on behalf of artisans at Council meetings, participating in events such as the Wool Train during Wool Week 2012, and taking her Bowmont sheep to Saville Row are just some of the things Lesley has done to raise the profile of WOOL, and just some of the ways in which she contributes to the promotion of this marvellous stuff. Especially inspiring to WOVEMBER is Lesley’s work as a communicator. WOVEMBER grew out of a deep desire to clarify the problems with descriptions of garments and to combat misinformation and ignorance re: WHAT WOOL IS. Lesley seemingly works to this same end at all times. Her discursive blogging practice is an ongoing conversation about WOOL, and WOVEMBER loves the mix of shepherding, philosophy, clarification, technical specificity and community-mindedness of the Devon Fine Fibres blog! Throughout WOVEMBER we will share some gems from Lesley’s wonderful writings. In keeping with the Growing Wool theme, this first batch is all about the realities of keeping fine fibre animals…

Lesley talking about WOOL on Saville Row! In the background you can see her Bowmont sheep.

What a wonderful reminder of where wool comes from to see the source of WOOL right beside the clothing shops which work with the finished textiles!

March 1st, 2012 – First Lambs

Today my oldest Bowmont sheep, number 1039 aged 11, who was born in the year of the Great Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic, gave me twin females. To say I am overjoyed is putting it mildly! Firstly, both lambs are healthy – a great relief given the terrible toll Schmallenberg virus is taking on some farms. Secondly, these are GIRLS! Last year we were so top heavy with boys that even 2 out of 2 so far sounds good to me! I know we have miles to go but this is such a fantastic start. Add to this that this female has given me a string of males and only 1 female EVER until now and you can see why I’m so pleased. 2 lambs doesn’t fill a lambing shed but this is a good start.

Here are some self explanatory pics to show you what has been going on. Not too gory!

Bowmont lambs being born

And before any wise cracking meat lamb farmer says -”Don’t think much of them”” remember these are WOOL sheep and not only that but this ewe is 11 years old. What do you expect? Mega-lambs??

May 13th, 2012 – Animal Husbandry

What does this mean to you?

To me, animal husbandry means the day-to-day care and maintenance of our sheep and goats.

Lesley with her Cashmere goats

Today was a full on Animal Husbandry day and we are completely shattered. It started at 5.30am with bottle feeding the 2 lambs who need it. At 6.30am the morning feeding rounds began. By 8.30am I had started worming our Angora goats who were showing the early signs of picking up these infernal little creatures. Milking mothers are vulnerable since their immune systems are under stress from looking after their babies and worms, if unchecked, can cause much damage.

After that I castrated 5 little Cashmere male kids. I like to do them at a few days old and they barely notice.

A quick trip in to the house for a coffee and to sort out the flock ear tags and the correct numbers for the lambs and then it was a 3 person job with DH and son to ear tag all our Bowmont Merino lambs. Every one had to be identified by its paint mark, given two tags, one electronic and one not, and then that number recorded in my breeding record so that I can keep totally accurate records of pedigree.

Bowmont lambs!

Every lamb is pure Macaulay Institute Bowmont with pedigrees right back to the earliest days of the project. I’m not about to ruin that by careless record keeping now! Progress with these sheep depends on accurate and detailed breeding and fleece quality records.

So, about 3 hours later we finished the ear tagging. I also gave each little lamby 5ml of Spot On to help protect it against ticks. We have high tick levels here and some years have Tick Pyaemia in the lambs which can partially paralyse them. We protect the lambs until they are about 6 months old now and it helps enormously. No cases last year at all.

After that we finally managed to turn out our sheep. We put up running hurdles, opened and shut the appropriate gates then stood back while there was the usual mad dash for the fresh air, sunshine and green grass. What a joy to see them out there enjoying themselves after weeks cooped up in the shed.

Finally we had to let the little Cashmere kids and mothers out. We have about 40 of those so far and we like to give them free access to the orchard during the day and shut them in at night. Badgers are a threat to goat kids.

Again, more pen and hurdle arranging followed by much laughter as we watched the little monkeys leap for joy and lead their mothers a merry dance as they frantically tried to keep tabs on who was who in the melee!

I’m knackered!! The joys of farming, folks; it’s hard work like you wouldn’t believe.

These posts originally appeared here and here on the Devon Fine Fibres blog. All content © Lesley Prior and used with her kind permission

This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

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