It’s been a while…time is moving fast, and I have no idea how we are almost half way through the year. Anyone else feel the same? Part two of our sheep journey concluded a couple of weeks ago and so it is most definitely time for an update…
The time had arrived to package up our first flock of what were now hoggets (one year old sheep) and send them off to market. By now we had a gleaned a little wisdom in the art of sheep gathering and second time around we were more successful. We dispensed with the additional team members and opted for just the pickup. This seemed to be a much more successful method and only required us to jump out at the last minute to encourage the sheep into the pen.
Of 45 sheep in total, 35 were taken to market in Stirling. The remaining 10 sheep must have felt they’d won a watch as they remained at the farm, whilst their compatriots disappeared in a lorry. We created a temporary pen for them in the cow shed – much to the intrigue of the neighbouring calves, and to the delight of the kids who enjoyed the opportunity to chase them around their pen. We had decided to keep two of the sheep for our own freezer and had an agreement with our local butcher to take the rest.
Having been fans of the programme ‘The Mart’, we were keen to experience for ourselves the process of selling our own livestock, so we followed them to market.
It’s fair to say that my experience was not exactly as I expected. I guess the scenes we have watched on the mart featured the more glamorous end of the livestock trade, where pedigree beasts are being fought over by many eager buyers, and are ultimately seen grazing in pastures new, with their proud new owners.
Our sheep, which I had not previously felt any emotional attachment to, suddenly felt like family pets when I saw them being hustled into the selling ring.
They were prodded and poked for meat value by a handful of seasoned buyers (to my inexperienced eye it was nearly impossible to tell the difference in value between different sheep), then the hammer slammed and they were sent through to the holding pens, out of sight.
There was definitely a sense of guilt. I wondered if they were dreaming of the field from which they had been wrenched, or if they had any idea of what was to come?
However, this is what our sheep were always intended for, so there’s not too much time for sentimentalism. Plus…I have to say that lamb is by far my favourite meat, and it wasn’t long before we got to taste our own Lochaber lamb.
This has been our first experience of sitting down to a meal of our very own produce – a proud moment.
Taking on sheep at Lochaber has been a big learning curve for us, but it’s been totally worthwhile. Particularly for the kids, who have enjoyed working with these relatively easy to handle animals. We are excited to welcome our next flock at the end of the summer, with just that little bit more experience under our belts.