Autumn is shearing time at Markdale so we thought it was the perfect time to share some fun facts.
- Domesticated sheep have been shorn for their wool for millennia.
- Early on, wool was a vital resource to support human life. To protect this resource, shepherds tended flocks of sheep with care and respect for the animals like we still do today on Markdale. In exchange for their wool we ensure the sheep have access to food and water, and protected from disease and predation.
- Most sheep grow wool continuously and they should be shorn annually.
- The shearing process is not painful to the sheep. The shearers are highly skilled and work to protect the sheep, the wool and their backs!
- It takes on average 2 minutes for a professional shearer to shear a sheep.
- West Australian shearer Lou Brown set a new world record last year by shearing 497 merino ewes in eight hours — just over a sheep a minute.
- Wool removed from a single sheep is called a fleece.
- On average a sheep’s fleece weighs between 5 – 8kg.
- A wool classer works beside the shearers to class each fleece – things taken into consideration include colour, strength, diameter and spinning capacity.
- The fleeces are bundled by class into bales and each bale weights between 110 – 200kg.
- Our fleeces are sold at auction.
- Following sale fleeces are washed and the wool grease (lanolin) is extracted and used in lotions. Clean wool fibres are made into clothing or blankets. The lanolin is used in hand lotions.
- During March our rams and ewes will be joined. The rams will work hard over 5 weeks and we will hopefully expect thousands of lambs on the ground in October.
- Superphosphate is spread in early March to catch the autumn rain. This year we will have both a ground crew and plane applying the fertiliser.
- Shearing will commence in May this year. A team of shearers travel to Markdale each day and will shear thousands of sheep through the week. It is an exciting time on the farm with all hands on deck to ensure the sheep are kept in good condition, the beautiful fine wool fleeces are treated with care and the shearers are well fed!
- Our bees are being checked regularly and are enjoying their home on the hill overlooking the pond. However our honey production has been lower than expected because of the smoke from the bushfires in the Southern Highland and drought conditions. A decision has been made to not ‘raid’ the hive this year and instead to let the bees have their honey for the long winter months ahead.
- It’s time to plant the garlic again. Garlic will grow from March to November and this year we are again thinking of planting Italian White and Monaro Purple.
- Other autumn veggies to be planted include onion, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cavolo nero and leeks.
Summer should be a time of growth on the farm. The long days and heat mean our pastures should grow and the sheep are feeding. The one element critical to this is of course water. On Markdale we have not experienced the drought as badly as others, however our dams are low and the pasture is not as strong as we’d like. The work is hard during the summer days and it often means early starts to avoid the searing sun in the middle of the day.
Drought still ravages the east coast of Australia and coupled with the bushfires on the NSW north coast there are many farmers whose livelihood and morale has been devastated. Many of these people are doing it tough – the very people who will farm much of the produce we all enjoy during the holiday season.
As Christmas and the holiday season approach we encourage everyone to support our rural communities. One such initiative we are getting behind as a family is #BuyfromtheBush – fantastic gifts from rural producers. Why not aim to do some or all of your gift shopping through this network. The other big thing people can do, as we said in our last edition, is to get out to rural towns and communities #StayintheBush. Take the kids for a weekend or a day trip, round up some mates and head to a gastro pub or take a road trip through our beautiful country towns.
- Our lambs have just been weaned and are out exploring, becoming independent and finding their way through Markdale all on their own four feet!
- Our cross bred lambs (white Suffolk/merino) will be sold off to be fattened for the butcher shop.
- The team will check all paddocks and water troughs, creeks and dams each week to monitor the water levels on the property.
- The sheep will be checked daily for flystrike.
- Weed control and eradication of invasive introduced plant species intensifies, namely blackberry, serrated tussock and Bathurst burr.
- Maintenance work continues on the farm as we consolidate much of the work done through the winter months.
- Our amateur beekeepers are monitoring our new beehive to ensure that our little honey makers have ample water and access to the flowers in our wonderful garden. Hopefully the first honey harvest (or raiding the hive) will occur in February.
- The family (and our farmstay guests) will take advantage of the pool and tennis court.
- Our summer crop includes tomatoes, broccoli, beans, beetroot, carrots and corn.
We were very happy to welcome our first beehive last week!
Before the sun broke on Sunday our novice (but registered) beekeepers closed the nucleus box full of bees and drove from Sydney to the property. The ideal locations for the new hive were scouted – the bees need to be close to water and of course flowers. After careful consideration a decision was made to put the hive in the ram paddock behind the the homestead. As you can see from the photos this vantage point gives easy access to both the lake and the wonderful flowers in the garden. After allowing the bees to acclimatise to the environment for a few hours the queen and her colony were officially relocated into their new hive and left to settle in.
At Markdale we understand that bees are a critical part of our ecosystem and are integral in agricultural pollination as well as food production. Unfortunately however the global population of bees is in decline. Australia is experiencing the same issue very acutely at the moment given the drought conditions ravaging the east coast of Australia and the devastating bush fires. Our hope with our little hive is to increase the population of bees on Markdale Station, produce honey for our family, friends and guests and raises awareness about the positive impacts of bees on the environment.
Our bees were purchased through the Urban Beehive based in Matraville – we’d like to thank Doug and Vicky for their help and crash course on transportation! We’d encourage anyone who wants to find out more to visit their website (https://theurbanbeehive.com.au/).
Given its lambing season we thought we’d share some fun facts about our wooly friends!
- The period of gestation for lambs is about 5 months.
- One ram will sire 70 to 90 lambs each season.
- Lambs are between 2 – 3 kilograms when born.
- Lambs can walk very soon after they are born.
- Lambs receive a 6 in 1 vaccine at 7 weeks, with a booster dose at 14 weeks.
- Lambs are dependent on their mothers until they are weaned at 3-4 months.
- Baby lambs have ‘playgroup’ every afternoon where they learn to play, interact and have fun. One or two of the ewes will watch the playgroup whilst the other mums rest or feed.
- Merino lambs are retained on Markdale for future wool production, and the merino/white suffolk cross lambs are sold for consumption.
- Young sheep are called ‘lambs’ until they get their first adult teeth at approx 14 months old – they are then promoted to hogget (‘teenager’) – they become an adult at 2 to 2.5 years old, when the next 2 adult teeth emerge.
- Markdale lambs are free range and essentially pasture fed.
At Easter this year we travelled to Berrima to visit Eagle Rock Farm with the hope of buying some donkeys for our Farm Stay guests. After careful consideration and much hee-hawing, two young female donkeys were chosen – Nancy and Nelly.
The pair are named after people dear to the family and they will be joining us in a few short weeks.
The loveable pair don’t talk back as much as “Donkey” from Shrek but love to be fed and patted. Our Farm Stay guests are more than welcome to introduce themselves and take them over a vegetarian treat, carrots preferred!
In celebration of the new additions we headed to Bertha’s in Bowral for a meal – a new spot by the Biota restaurant. We highly recommend popping in if you are in the area or better yet on your way to Markdale. The smoked meat burgers and mac and cheese were an inter-generational hit!
For those who have yet to visit Markdale, we are a fully-operational merino sheep farm based outside Binda. We are about 3 hours from Sydney, 1.5 hours from Canberra and an hour from Goulburn. Fast Facts How many sheep are on Markdale now? Over 8,000. How many acres does Markdale cover? 6,300 acres Bloodlines? Our […]