FARMER FOCUS: Herdwick sheep make their great escape

Last week will probably go down as the toughest week of my life both mentally and physically. Shearing by day and driving 40 miles to sit with my father in hospital to give my stepmother a break, not knowing if he was going to make it through the night. Dad was seriously ill with emphysema (farmer’s lung). Thankfully now he has turned the corner.

Twenty years of open-top combine driving and a packet of cigarettes a day have resulted in his present condition.

At this point, I urge all those young farmers out there to wear dust masks when shovelling grain or bedding crews, and throw away your cigarettes if you smoke!

When a tractor breaks down or things go wrong on the farm, dad’s favourite saying is: “Things will look better in the morning, son.” Thank God, they did for dad.

On a lighter note, my six naughty, dog-training Herdwick sheep decided to jump ship and went missing in the next door neighbour’s’ oilseed rape crop. Young Rob, myself and all the dogs could not sniff them out in an over-powering crop of flowering rape. Twenty four hours later while shearing we received a phone call. The Herdwicks had brought the local village to a standstill! We arrived at the scene of the crime with the Land Rover and trailer. A young lad had gathered them into somebody’s front garden and erected a fence made out of fifteen wheelie bins to secure them until we got there. The next day I rewarded the young lad with some well-deserved chocolate and thought to myself, we have a budding young shepherd in the mix.

To round up a busy week, the sheepdog trial at Sutton Estates, Stainton-le-Vale, for Cancer Research was a huge success and I am sure brought the working border collie to some people’s attention, as the Open Farm Sunday event attracted well over 4,000 people. I must take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors, and most of all Sir Richard Sutton, Chris Baylis and Malcolm Vaughan for letting us use such a picturesque venue.

James Read farms in partnership with his father, in Louth, Lincolnshire. They farm 400ha of mainly arable land, run 200 breeding sheep and a pack of working/trialling sheepdogs

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