Today marks the start of ‘tupping time’ when the farming year starts all over again! Farmer has spent the day moving the ewes around in their different groups to certain fields, and once the tups (the rams) were given their hi-vis colours he took them out to the different fields in the trailer to join them.
The tups will be out with the ewes for 6 weeks, until just after New Year. We bring the hill ewes down from the hill (they gathered yesterday) and keep them in the in-by fields so that they are closer together, and there is more chance of being served by the tups. Traditionally farms like Treshnish would have had a tupping shepherd. His job would have been to walk out on the hill each day and move the tups around through the scattered flock. Nowadays no one can afford one, so this is the best way to ensure each ewe gets served by a tup!
The main flock are on the Point. This field has a build up of grass, which we deliberately create by leaving it un grazed (deferred grazing) for a lot of the summer – Jon Newton, the organic sheep specialist, who used to advise us when we were organic referred to it as our hay barn. There is certainly lots of grass and the tups initially seemed more interested in that when we let them out of the trailer than the 400 ewes in the field with them!
I thought the colour scheme Farmer used this year was particularly good. It certainly brightens up a dull November day – and they can easily seen from afar. Each day Farmer will go out to check that everyone is okay, and will be looking for the 15 or so tups to make sure they are all active, and spread out through the flock. Sometimes they forget they have a job to do and end up hanging out in a gang, which is not necessarily going to help lamb numbers in 4 or 5 months time!
We would ask that guests and walkers don’t walk with dogs on the Point at tupping time. There are steep cliffs on the far side, and it would be too easy to lose livestock over the edge.