Green bottoms

An early morning view of Roseberry from Gribdale. The sheep nearest are showing off their green raddle marks. Not so obvious are others with yellow. The colour comes from an oily paste which is contained in a leaky leather sack called a raddle strapped onto the chest of the tup or ram. This enables the farmer to know which ewe has been serviced.

The tup is usually with the ewes for six weeks. The sheep have a cycle of 16 to 17 days so if she comes back in season then the ewe is not pregnant. After two weeks therefore the colour in the raddle is changed. This enables the farmer to know the likely lambing date for each sheep. Young tups might mate with twenty ewes whereas an older more experienced one might service over a hundred.

Each farm aims for a particular lambing time. A lowland farm might start lambing in January. Upland ones later when the weather is likely to be better and the grass is growing. I am not sure which farm these sheep belong to. Aireyholme Farm lies at the foot of Roseberry to the left in the photo. I remember the late farmer there once telling me that he aims for a lambing date of April 1st so the tup is placed with the ewes on November 5th. So that’s when the fireworks happen.


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