Ewan Ramage, Shepherd

08 April 2022

I came to Balcaskie because I was looking for a new challenge. I had never worked on an organic farm before and this looked like a nice area with a good social aspect to it to. I am originally from Northumberland and wanted to move further North from there. Balcaskie have an up and coming sheep enterprise with a different set up which drew me to it.

We have been sending 2 pigs and 10 fat lambs a fortnight down to the Ethical Butcher in London and I have been impressed with the weights we have been getting before sending them off. For the animals we put directly to the Butchery at Bowhouse its good to see them once they are in the butchery to see the fat covering and see if they need more or less fat which helps me then judge if they went away at the right time.

This time of year is all about lambing for me, our first lambs are almost finished, we only have 4 left to go. All our first lambers are down at Bowhouse and are averaging roughly 1.7 lambs per ewe, these lambs are from a texel cross ewe which comes from a mule ewe crossed with a texel sire.

Our second lambers started on the 28th March and is mostly outside. So far, so good, but there is a long way to go – about 650 left to lamb. As the sheep are grass fed they get organic energy buckets which helps give them mineral, protein and energy for lambing. Because of the good weather in winter the sheep are all in good condition which means plenty milk and strong lambs. This gives the lambs more vigour as the mothers are in better health meaning I have less intervention which helps the mothers bond better.

I have never lambed hoggs before so this is something different for me. The hoggs we have are crossed with a Shetland tup giving us the Shetland cross lambs. These are easy lambed and hardy. The mothers have good maternal instincts which means I don’t have much intervention and leave them for a day before we walk them out to a new field.

Balcaskie has been the first place that I have had free reign on what sheep are bought or kept which should hopefully help the flock improve. Buying in better texel tups would help improve the texel herd, spending money on good tups helps improve the length and shape of the lambs which will help improve the overall flock.

This is the most social lambing I have done as everyone on the farm has played a part from putting up bale shelters and carting lambs out when there have been busy times and I am stuck in the shed. I have also really enjoyed having the students, Murray, Rose and Emma volunteering as it has been nice to pass on knowledge and experience to others as well as seeing them developing their skills and gaining confidence which is really great to see.

Apart from lambing I am also trying to train a young sheep dog. She has good natural flanks which is a bonus and is very calm so doesn’t spook the ewes and lambs. She looks to have a promising future as a sheep dog which is nice as I have bred her myself carrying on the bloodline as I have her mother and father.

As well as the sheep I also look after the pigs. I have never had to run a pig enterprise before although I do have some experience with Tamworths which is what we have here at Balcaskie. This has helped as they don’t have big yields unlike other breeds. I feed them most mornings on grain that we aren’t able to sow. They also get barley, rye, wheat and oats which are whole grain but they get enough nutrients out of it. Between mid-February and March we have had 5 pigs farrow which has given us 34 piglets. We gave each piglet an electronic identification tag (EID) which allows us to keep track of them and we had 3 piglets that escaped when we went to tag them so we had to try and catch them while the other pigs were chasing us!

I love being in Scotland and I can see myself staying here in the future. I love this area and we have settled here much better than anywhere else which is down to the people I work with and the friends we have made.

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