It’s a phrase I’d never come across until I started working with sheep. It’s normally directed at the misbegotten mule ewe who wiggles, burrows and climbs through or under netting, snapping off posts and generally creating a gap which the rest come pouring through.
From experience the Mule (normally round here a cross between Blue faced Leicester and Swaledale) is the worst culprit. They’re the normal ‘breeding sheep’, the mothers of this year’s lambs. They have the toughness and mothering ability of their own Swaledale mothers, and because their mothers are fell sheep, they’re prone to wandering.
Down breeds aren’t such a problem, and they provide the sires of this year’s lambs, because they’ve better confirmation, grow faster and taste better. But they’re not as hardy and aren’t such determinedly good mothers.
And we’ve fetched a batch home because they’re coming up to lamb. In another month the first of them will have lambed and things will be hectic. So we fetch them home, pamper them a bit, make sure they properly fed and generally treat them as you’d expect expectant mothers to be treated.
But their condition doesn’t stop the bluidy auld witches ‘ratching’ through every fence looking for better grazing.
The problem is, there is one field with a little bit of grass. We’ve been saving it for them, so they can go on it after they’ve lambed.
But of course they’ve found it now, and they just keep breaking fences down to get to it. And of course I just keep putting them back up again, strengthening the weak spots and generally trying to make sure the fence is as stock proof as I can. But it’s a fair length of fence and bits that appeared OK yesterday were the ones they went through last night.
So after I’ve posted this I’m back out to have another go. There are things I should be doing; after all they’re robbing the world of my deathless prose. (Or alternatively saving folk from having to read my petty scribblings.)