Wealden Times | WT213 | November 2019 | Gift supplement inside


Wealden Times - The lifestyle magazine for the Weald

Jane Howard’s

Fables from

the Farm

Jane ensures her flock is in prime condition

November means tupping time at Coopers

Farm, when the rams go in with the ewes and

the whole ‘sheep year’ starts over again.

But of course before that can happen there have

been lots of behind the scenes preparations to make

sure everyone is match fit and ready for action.

The spring lambs were weaned in August to give their

mum’s a bit of ‘me time’, then last month we went through

them all to check they were young and fit enough to have

another successful lambing season. Each one gets a thorough

MOT – starting with their teeth. Like all of us, sheep teeth

wear out and fall out as the years pass, but in order to sustain

a pregnancy and then milk a sound pair of gnashers is

essential. So anyone with wobbly ones or missing ones is out.

Next, we check their teats. Not only are

we checking to make sure they are soft and

supple but they also have to be what might be

termed ‘pert’. Some of the old girls get very

low slung and there’s nothing sadder than

seeing new-born lambs searching for a drink

up where it should be when in reality the

milk bar is almost trailing on the ground.

Once we’ve decided how many of the

ewes are staying and how many are leaving

we make the numbers back up to about

75 with home-grown tegs – females born

in spring 2018 destined to be first time

mums. Then they get cosseted with delicious

mineral supplements and the best grass the farm has to

offer in order to flush them – encourage their ovaries to

produce lots of eggs and then hopefully lots of twins.

And then of course there’s the other half of the equation,


rams have always

gone in with

the ewes on

Bonfire Night

with the lambs

arriving some five

months later”

the boys! A ewe comes into season about every 18 days and

young rams can manage to get round about 35 ewes at a time,

so we have two. Each stays on the farm for

a couple of years but by the third he would

be serving his daughters and we’ve worked

it that each year we change one and keep

one. Back in the mists of time we bought an

incredibly ugly ram – a Beltex, a breed which,

while famous for having a magnificent arse, is

not blessed in the looks department. He got

called Boris Karloff and his deeply handsome

colleague, a Southdown ram became George

Clooney. Five months later when the lambs

arrived it was pretty obvious that the girls

didn’t worry too much about looks as we had

rather more ugly Beltex lambs than pretty

Southdowns. The name thing has continued over the years

and Robert Mitchum, a smart blue Texel arrived on the farm

a few weeks ago to join Jon Hamm for the 2019 season.

Traditionally rams have always gone in with the ewes on

Bonfire Night with the lambs arriving some five months

later from April Fools’ Day when hopefully the weather

is better and the spring grass has begun to grow.

But before they meet the girls they each get fitted

with a raddle, a harness that holds a coloured wax block

to the chest, which marks the rump of each ewe as he

mates with it. The wax block is replaced every 10 days

with a darker coloured block, so that the colour of the

last liaison will overwrite any previous matings.

All the action will be done and dusted by Christmas

and while the girls will have plenty to be getting on

with, it’s 10 months ‘me time’ for the boys. Hmm…

Follow Jane Howard – and the farm – on Instagram @coopersfarm



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