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Tupping time on the farm

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Autumn is the time our ewes or female sheep on the farm are in season - meaning that they're receptive to a potential mate.  At this time we put out our male sheep called "tups" or rams with them in order to conceive new lambs. The ewes are in the peak of health and condition at this time of year from all the rich grazing theyʼve consumed in the summer. They will need all their extra fat reserves for the winter to come and to provide for themselves and the lambs growing inside them.

In November the ewes will be very much interested in finding a handsome tup. However, we decide when the tups are allowed in with the ewes - this way we avoid early surprises and plan for the lambs to be born when there is good grazing available to boost the ewes milk supply for her offspring. A ewe's gestation period is 5 months so the tupping is carefully planned for the new lambs to be born in the following April and May.  That's considered to be fairly late for lambing but up here in the hills, spring can be a little later than elsewhere.  The weather has hopefully become a little warmer by then to improve the pasture for the new lambs when they need it and for their mothers who need the energy for producing milk.

For much of the year you might see the tups taking things easy in the field in front of our house. Just before tupping season when hormones start to run high, the tups are moved into the big sheep-shed to keep them out of mischief!

When the time is right, each tup is allowed in with his ewes. Itʼs important for us to make sure that he stays in the right place and doesnʼt stray from his ground and his group of 60-70 ewes. Heʼll generally have about 6 weeks to “service” each ewe but with that many thereʼs not much romance involved - itʼs hard work for him! To keep the ewes "interested" we put out some fresh tups after a few weeks and give the first lot a a well-earned break. In the winter of 2010 the snow was so heavy the tups were snowed out on the hill, eventually coming back a few weeks later - a little tired but in good health.

For more pictures and information about life through the seasons on Eastside Farm, please see our booklet "The Seasonal Farm" and the Farm Photo Gallery.

A Blackface tup resting in the shed

A Blackface tup resting in the shed ↑

All photographs © Michael Rummey Photography

A Blackface tup making amorous advances on a ewe

A Blackface tup making amorous advances on a ewe ↑

Some tups coming in from the fields after some hard work!

Some tups coming in from the fields after some hard work! ↑

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