The deep and crisp snow shows no sign of going and the animals must be feeling hungrier as they now rush up to the tractor for their hay every day. The sheep are clearly not as stupid as many people seem to think either, they pick the hay over, eating what they want, and then lie on the remainder, chewing their cud contentedly, as a way of protecting themselves from the hard frosted crust of snow.
Mollie seems fine, albeit in our human eyes perhaps a little more fed fed up than usual. Hay 3 times a day is what she gets as the rams she lives with make ‘feather’ beds out of most of it. By giving her a chance of hay 3 times a day she has first pick of the forage before the rams, she is totally the boss of them. Woe betide the boys if they dare try to take a mouthful from her pile before she has had enough. Her ears go flat back and her teeth are bared and her hind feet do a quick jig, the rams have learnt this is not a good sign and immediately back off. We do however set out a lot of separate piles of hay so they can feed at the same time. Mollie moves the rams along from pile to pile, with one sour look, while picking out the choicest strands of homemade hay for herself.
The snow is so deep and hard that even she has taken to walking in the vehicle tracks and only very occasionally trotting instead of her usual top speed around the field. I have just cleared all the icicles from her fetlocks and given her an extra feed of soaked sugar beet with a chaff mix. Her very expensive rug [nb: for rug, read ‘duvet’] is keeping her toasty warm from her ears to her tail and although many horses have been brought inside during the snow she still prefers to be out and it is what she is used to. Even fetching her in, at present, would be nigh on impossible as we have sheet ice for several hundred yards from the field gate to the stable yard where the farm machines travel daily. I thought the Rhino rug was a huge expense when I rushed out and bought it the day she arrived but owing to this winter’s colder weather it has turned out to be absolutely invaluable.
For us people the ‘going’ is harder too, but the work out our muscles get is fantastic. Fit flops are increasingly popular and good for all sorts of toning and orthapaedic quirks [my arthritic knees improved no end by wearing them in the summer] but I can vouch for the fact that walking through this deep crisp snow, day after day, is most excellent for toning too. However our appetites for warm and comforting food are also increased!
We have managed to buy some extra hay, 550 small bales which will be very useful for the cattle and the sheep. Forage requirements [hay and silage] after many mild winters, like tons of road grit, are hard to predict and we need a lot more this year to keep the animals satisfied. The bought in hay should last us an extra 50 days for the cattle, we will use our existing big bale hay for the sheep.