Spring - The Farmers and the Winemaker Dinner Part 2 - Gippsland Food Adventures

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Spring drop

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Spring · 19/8/2014 20:50:18
Tags: Springlambs

One of the many things I love about life on the land is the closeness to nature. We see and feel first hand the changing seasons – grasses going to seed then senescing over summer, the power of the autumn rains to convert dry paddocks to green, wet and muddy paddocks through winter and the increasing day length and breaks of sunshine over spring.
And the appearance of little white specks in the paddocks in August reinforce that a new season is on its way. Lambing at Malabar Farm has started and, in many ways, marks the beginning of our new production year. We’ve come out of our winter recess and the action is about to begin. A lot of work and planning goes into a successful lambing, and we’re ready for it!

During the 5 month gestation we carefully managed the ewes’ diet. If they are underfed, the lambs will have lower bodyweights when born, reducing survival rates. If overfed, the lambs will be too big causing lambing difficulties, also reducing survival rates. At the mid-pregnancy stage, we yarded the sheep and those ewes that were getting a bit skinny were separated from the others for priority feeding.
In late July the ewes were drenched to kill internal parasites (worms), vaccinated to protect their newborn lambs, and spread across the farm for lambing in the driest paddocks and those with the best shelter.
Industry research provides us with some guidelines about maximising lamb survival. We lamb the ewes in mobs of no more than 150 to minimise the risk of mismothering, and aim to have sufficient grass in the paddock, so the ewes don’t abandon their offspring in the search of a feed soon after lambing.
So what can go wrong? Foxes can be a real problem – potentially taking up to 10-15% of the lambs. The native bush and tree shelter belts that provide protection to newborn lambs against bad weather, unfortunately also provide a haven for foxes. So prior to lambing, these vermin are hunted by a team of shooters. These marksmen use their hounds to flush out the foxes from their dens to get a clear shot at them. In the first weekend of August this team shot 19 foxes on the property ( after eliminating 25 in may) – and hopefully lambing will be completed before neighbouring foxes move into the now empty territory!
And all that’s left now is for Mother Nature to provide some benign weather for the newborns. They can handle low temperatures and a bit of rain, but fierce cold winds with the rain can be deadly
.
In the early stages of lambing I check the ewes most days to make sure everything is ok, but once there are lots of lambs being born I tend to stay out of the paddocks to minimise any disturbance to the sheep. Some ewes when frightened will move away taking only one of her twin lambs, abandoning her second in her dash to safety – and we want to avoid orphans as much as possible.
We’ve had a few attempts with poddy lambs – and they’ve presented some problems! When the kids were much younger we thought the experience and responsibility of raising a couple of lambs to be a great part of their education. So the lambs were set up in the warm and dry shearing shed, with the kids feeding them a warm powder milk formula. The lambs loved it, and as they grew stronger they would charge the kids at the sight of a milk bottle – a frightening exercise the kids soon grew wary of, and subsequently abandoned.
And then there was Lucky - he was the last orphan we reared. He was fed by the back door - much more convenient then the shearing shed! Very cute, until he stared to leave his droppings around the verandah, and would savage anyone entering or leaving the house in search of his next bottle feed. The verandah had never been so well scrubbed, and Lucky’s halo of cuteness was dissipating. With much relief it was time to wean Lucky and put him back with one of the mobs. Secretly, however, he had developed a fondness for our verandah matched with a homing mechanism, which saw him return from the paddock next door, the paddock at the other end of the farm, then the paddock from the block across the road (after he had been spun around several times to disorientate him). Finally Lucky was relocated to a friend’s farmlet, where he lived out his life as a tethered lawn mower!
Feeding poddy lambs is now one of those outsourced operations of the farm, which pleases everybody.





Asparagus season

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Spring · 8/12/2013 19:31:15
Tags: Asparagus
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Spring Lamb

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Spring · 25/9/2013 11:18:07
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