Friday 25 July 2014

West Highlands too hot for goats

More comfortable in the shade
This evening I have kept the goats indoors, in the shade. Its seven o clock and 28 degrees.

I love it but the goats are suffering; their tongues are lolling out, they are panting and drinking enormous amounts.  Its strange when they were originally domesticated in hot arid mountain regions , they thrive in the deserts of Arabia and make a major contribution to animal production in the tropics.

But in the 6000 years since they were first domesticated goats inhabit just about every climatic zone from the Arctic to hot tropics. It must be that different breeds have become  acclimatised to these  regions. Some Indian research that I turned up showed that Indian goats sweated at up to nine times the rate of Saanen goats when kept at the same temperatures.

Of course it won't last there is rain and wind forecast for tomorrow when they'll want to stay in because of the wet cold.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Hay making - a tough time for voles

The hay park grass was cut on Monday and baled today (Wednesday) a result of our hot, dry and sunny weather.

This year there are 15 bales out there compared with only 11 of much inferior stuff last year.

As soon as the mower enters the field  birds arrive, herring gulls, black backs, hoodie crows and buzzards, they are all after voles. I f you watch for long enough you'll see them all get what they are after.

Vole heads Must be a delicacy for hoodies. I watched one hunting the hay swathes in front of the kitchen window last night it stalked through the grass, head bent, listening. When it struck its head came up with an impaled vole.  It ate the head then carried on hunting.  Perhaps its the vole's brain is small but highly nutritious? Hoodie crows should know,  they are among the most intelligent and highly evolved birds.

The next job is to paint smiley faces on the bales to keep the gulls off them then fence them off to keep the sheep and goats off.

Saturday 19 July 2014

The North Face

The CIC hut below Tower Ridge
There's usually a mountaineering epic prefaced by , The North Face" . Not this time.

Thursday was a day off from milking so walk up the Allt a Mhuillin (Mill burn) to the CIC hut below Ben Nevis was in order. It wasn't much more than a stroll but  It does  take you into the heart of some spectacular mountain scenery below the North Face.

The path through the Forestry Commission woodlands is so well engineered and has such a good surface it wouldn't be out of place in the quad of an Oxbridge college. It took me two hours to get up and an hour and a half to get down; the perfect afternoon daunder.

The CIC (Charles Inglis Clark) hut sits in a sheltered hollow below Tower Ridge. Clark died in WW1 in Mesopotamia, now Iraq.  his parents had the hut built in his memory.

There is a charming black and white film of the opening of the hut at Easter 1929,. The assembled mountaineers are mostly wearing celluloid collars, ties, tweed jackets caps and trilby hats.  Take a look you'll enjoy it as much as the walk,

Friday 11 July 2014

Can you identify this mobile milking machine?

Earlier this week we were given a mobile milking machine. It has the manufacturer's decals on the bucket, "SAC".

Here it is sitting in the workshop
 SAC is a well known dairy engineering company in the Netherlands so it must be well designed and built but I have no idea of the model name and number. We need an operator's manual and a maintenance manual can you help to track these down?

It has obviously been standing in a weatherproof byre or workshop for some time it covered in dust and grime, some of the taps are seized but otherwise it looks in very good order. I want to get it running.  There is a down side to machine milking, it costs more, there's more washing up to do, machines go wrong, parts such as liners need replacement and the goats have to be trained to accept it.

On the plus side milking machines are cleaner and quicker, my hands are getting a bit arthritic and I like the sound of the machine chugging away in the early morning. So get it going and give it a try. If it works we could  use the existing milking stand but put it all in a much cleaner miling parlour at the end of the workshop. Sounds like a good winter project.

Update:  The SAC agents in England sent me copies of the operator's manual and the maintenance schedule, thank you.

Clipping and dipping

You could see the relief on the ewes faces yesterday after losing their 4 kg woollen overcoats when it was 25 C in the shade. Hughiie took them down to his big shed to clip, too hot outside and he's all set up for it in
Its back breaking work

Only one wasn't clipped next year's fleece hadn't risen to separate the old from the new wool so it will have to suffer in the sun, it was the latest to to lamb so that could have something to do with it.

Years ago we dipped the sheep to control insect pests. First there were the organochlorines like Dieldrin, very effective but disastrous for the wider environment.

Then came the organo-phosphates, slightly less damaging to wildlife but there were nasty effects on the people doing the dipping. You had to immerse the sheep in the bath by pushing it under this resulted in lots of splashing on to humans .

 The wool had to grow back for a week or two before dipping so that there was something to hold the chemicals. All of that is over. Today it was a simple task  of pouring a measured dose of systemic insecticide along the mid line of the ewe's  back. Its similar to the stuff you use on your domestic cats and dogs for fleas. Much easier and safer as long as you where latex gloves.