Katie Keenan, Farm Student

05 June 2023

Although I’m not originally from a farming family, I have found my passion in shepherding. I joined the Balcaskie team in June 2022 and have loved every moment. I have been lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to work on a range  of farms all over Scotland but never an organic farm, so I was keen to come and learn from the team at Balcaskie.

I’ve always enjoyed working with sheep but more so now that I have a sheepdog by my side. We work together to move sheep from field to field, he was invaluable at lambing time. If a ewe needed some assistance lambing, the quickest and safest way would be, to get Bill (my sheepdog) to help me catch her. We harness a dogs natural instincts and give them commands to help us do our job; so if I’d say ‘come-by’ he would go clockwise round the sheep and if I’d say ‘away’ he’d go anticlockwise. Bill loves his job and gives 100% even when he’s tired, he’s my partner in crime and never fails to bring a smile to my face!


Now that the  hotter weather is coming,  so are the flies! This can cause a problem to the sheep called Flystrike. Flies are attracted to dirty wool around the ewes tail and lay eggs which hatch into maggots. The maggots thrive in the warm, moist wool, multiply and if left untreated will start to feed on the sheep’s skin. So we clipped the wool around the tail of the ewes to try and keep it clean and applied a product called Crovect . This gets sprayed along their back and kills any fly eggs and maggots, also protects against ticks.


In the UK, farmers have use rotational grazing and rely on wormers to keep the worm burden of a flock down but this can build up wormer resistance. Our sheep are pasture for life which mean they predominantly graze grass on the estate and are moved field every 10 days or so to fresh pasture. This not only helps to keep our sheep in great condition but also helps to keep the worm burden of the flock down.  I have been working closely with our vets to learn how to do a Faecal Egg Count on site to determine if the flock actually need wormed or not. I’ll take a sample of faeces and mix it with salt water, which allows me to count any eggs under the microscope. This means when the sheep do have worms the wormer will be more efficient in getting rid of them.

(Nematodirus Worm Egg can be seen in the red circle in the picture above)

Shearing Season has begun, the Texel Cross Ewes were clipped this week and the rest of the flock will be done within the next few weeks!

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