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PICTURES: Snow drifts made feeding a challenge on the croft

By Contributor

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Argocat delivering hay to the ewes.
Argocat delivering hay to the ewes.

We’ve gone from one extreme to the next with weather during February and March; I’ve seen mixed forecasts for April, when we will be lambing, including the word snow mentioned.

It’s been a few years since we’ve had snow during lambing but let’s hope it’s just a few showers, should it arrive.

Extreme was probably the best description for the snowdrifts we had at our higher parts of the croft last month. We know the area is prone to drifts – Gavin has had to dig out a track with the tractor and bucket before, and even hire a digger on occasion to do this.

So he’s generally prepared, leaving some bales in the shed so you can walk up and feed the sheep if necessary. However; these drifts were impassable, and with high winds keeping up, there was just no progress in getting up the hill.

Filling the feed rings with hay.
Filling the feed rings with hay.

We had a couple of nights wondering what to do; digger buckets were making no inroads to the drifts; but in the end our source of help came on hire from just down the road in Edderton – Robert and Chris with an Argocat on tracks to the rescue, which we piled high with bales of hay.

I was lucky enough to go on one of the runs, quite a surreal feeling literally driving over the younger spruce trees just poking out from the snow. It felt strange too, steering a course which veered so far from the actual track but we sailed over the drifts and fences to the sheep with some skilled navigation.

The ewes of course were quite unconcerned – peace and quiet with trees and sheds for shelter and they didn’t miss a day of feed in the end.

It was an unusual end to the snow too – although the drifts left access issues for some time after everywhere else was clear, the temperature rose so much in the space of 24 hours, Adam was happily sledging in the moonlight on the last night of what had been bitterly cold snowy weather just a day or two before.

Loading up hay for the trip.
Loading up hay for the trip.

A rapid melt from the next day brought the inevitable flooding, but we were into some sunny days within the space of a week.

Gavin’s been out on the tractor with the harrow; always a sign that the weather is dry and improving, this freshens up the fields ready for new growth, pulling out moss and any dead grass, and generally aerating the soil.

The ewes have been moved around for the final time before lambing – leaving the fields nearest to the house and steading to recover with some new grass, ready for their return.

The steading preparations are under way here too – Gavin’s been clearing out one side of the cattle shed to make room for some pens this week; the other sheds will take a bit more work moving bales about but this was a fairly quick afternoon’s work with the forklift. You can’t help but remember how long that would have taken with a graip many years ago.

The dung is carted off to a field for reseeding next year; that will give it enough time to break down well. A few more tractor jobs such as fertilising can be done now we are heading into better weather, and that will bring us up to lambing time; which, whatever the weather, will keep us busy well into May.

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