College Calendar: Sheep keep Lizzie from the ball

The highlight of the college summer tends to be the Ball. In Bishop Burton’s case this meant dodgem cars, laser guns, bouncy castles, a fairground, fancy meal and a Grease tribute band. With anticipation building for weeks, the event wasn’t a disappointment. At least, so I hear.

I wasn’t at it on this occasion. And what a one to miss. I’ve just been replying to some baffled friends on Facebook, explaining why (late in the evening, stinking of sheep and formaldehyde, sunburnt red-raw and ready for bed) I decided the unthinkable and gave travelling to Beverley a miss.

“Call yourself an Agric?” When it comes to the traditional drink and partying, I’ve seriously let the side down.

I’ve been doing my first farm-sitting. Grimston Manor Farm near Gilling East is a farm I already know quite well. The Kelsey family were away on holiday for the first time in a while and felt it was a good chance to leave me to my own devices for a bit.

I soon discovered a shepherd’s work is never done. No sooner is one treatment complete, but another is due. Some ewe decides to prolapse, while another decides to pop out a couple of June lambs, and yet another reckons mastitis (and a 108F temperature) might be the way to go.

These were my prides and joys for the week, as all of them survived. Not wanting to have to ring up for deadstock collection in my short watch, they received every possible care and attention. The ewe with mastitis actually seemed to appreciate the effort, developing a habit of resting her head on my shoulder as I stripped out the infected quarter.

Juggling different flocks, age and weight of lambs, withdrawal times, dates of last treatments and other priorities, planning each job was like deciphering an algebraic formula.

Looking at how much I didn’t have to do and plan in that week, I start to wonder how someone can fit it all into their time. Let alone additional contracting and fork-lift training as in Tim’s case.

I was not always alone. I had the welcome company of Kelsey relatives next door, and Ray Beckett who was dealing with the arable and machinery side.

Checking round the flocks was my favourite job. I’ve seen so many hares, I wonder now why seeing one was such a big deal before?

Putting lambs through the footbath was the worst job. I’m sure they deliberately waited until I was close enough before kicking and splashing their way through the formaldehyde solution. Cute little lambs they were not.

An interesting job was collecting fresh muck samples to test for worm burden. Waiting for lambs to “defecate” was like watching the proverbial kettle. An odd hobby, but I can now tell the difference between a strongyle and a nematodirus egg.

I’m now missing having livestock I can call, even temporarily, my responsibility. But, with the summer shooting by, there’s no time to pine.

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