After a mild winter so far, with only brief spells of snow, snow and ice has arrived on the tails of Storm Chiara last weekend.
Shetland sheep are a hardy primitive breed but that doesn't mean that they can be completely left to fend for themselves all winter.
We are down to about 8 tups now, as the field will shortly be sold off, with the current plan to get the boys slaughtered for meat once the grass starts growing again. In the meantime, they are overwintered in a sheltered field with a permanent supply of hay and some mineral buckets. They all received a pre-winter vitamin drench which helps them get the most out of any fodder over the winter. The tups we loaned out across the country are all safely home looking none the worse for some solid 'work' to service other people's flocks.
The ewes are a few miles away from the tups. Their fields are more exposed to the prevailing weather, but they have plenty of shelter, ad-lib hay, mineral buckets and helpings of hard feed if they need it. We have been working our way through the flock, checking teeth, body condition and feet, and find it easier to group the sheep by colour for these tasks so we can keep track of who has been 'done'.
The flock had a good annual health check from the vet prior to the winter, and preparation for the visit prompted us to revisit the Flock Health Plan given that we have gained one field but are about to lose another.
Prolonged harsh weather can show as a weak area in the fleeces of the sheep, but good spells of cold weather are also good for keeping down pests in the fields and the garden.