Tristan da Cunha Farming News
News of farming matters and activities on Tristan da Cunha for the years 2006 to 2013.

Sheep Shearing Day, December 2017

Report and photos from Tina Glass

Saturday the 9thof December was the annual sheep shearing day. This day marks the start of the Christmas festivities. Usually the sheep are put in the pen the day before, but this year they first had to wait and see if it was a fishing day.  No gong was heard that morning, so there was an early start at the sheep pen to get all the sheep from the hillside herded into the pen.

Sheep Shearing Day, Dec,2017
Gathering sheep on the run.

All islanders have separate small pens adjoining the communal pen where they put their sheep and lambs to be sheared and marked. After the sheep have been sheared they are marked with spray paint so the owners can recognise their sheep from others.  It was a splendid day and the weather was good to us, one of the best we have had in a few years.  It was a great day especially for the children; they were all running around laughing and catching the sheep, and helping the elderly to catch their sheep as well.

Sheep Shearing Day, Dec,2017 Sheep Shearing Day, Dec.2017
It's not just the sheep that gather. Penning sheep.
Sheep Shearing Day, Dec,2017 Sheep Shearing Day, Dec,2017
Family sheep pens. Shearing.
Sheep Shearing Day, Dec.2017 Sheep Shearing Day, Dec.2017
A newly shorn fleece, ready for washing, carding, spinning and knitting into Tristan Ganseys, Love Socks, and other woollen handicrafts - available from the online gift shop.

Later on in the day after every one came home, they all got together in their shearing groups to have a braai and relax.  It was a great day enjoyed by all, and some even managed to get a sun tan.

Improving Tristan's cattle herd

Information from Agricultural Advisor Alasdair Wyllie & Vet Joe Hollins
Photos from the Tourism Department and visitor Bernard Pronost

Cattle are important to the island economy, but with limited areas of pasture, overgrazing has been a problem for many years, and there are strict limits on the number of cattle each family can own. The island has faced a worsening situation, especially during the winter. Consequently, the Island Council has recently made the brave but necessary decision to reduce the quota from two breeding cows per household to one, effective the end of April 2019. This should substantially reduce the size of the island herd over the next three years and allow the grassland to recover.

Coupled with this decision, Tristan is seeking to improve the bloodstock its cattle herd through a combination of artificial insemination (AI) of local cows with imported semen, and by importing new breeding bulls. The Agriculture Department is also taking steps to improve the quality of the pastures by reseeding with new grasses and by applying fertiliser and lime.

One of the new bulls.

An AI programme was carried out in the early part of this year, using semen from four breeds - Aberdeen Angus, Welsh Black, Red Poll and Hereford. The decision has been made to retain crossbred bull calves from the Welsh Black and the Red Poll breeds. Several AI calves have been born in recent weeks. There have been fewer heifers born than was hoped, but the primary aim is to get a couple of good breeding males. Meanwhile, two new pedigree Aberdeen Angus bulls arrived on the 6th November 2017, one red and one black, from breeder Klasie Loubser of South Africa. All these 'native breeds' should produce cattle better suited to conditions on Tristan.

The bulls were transported to Tristan on the MV Baltic Trader in a specially adapted shipping container fitted with bull pens at either end. They were safely ferried ashore on the raft in their shipping container during a tricky operation, but the bulls positively frolicked with joy when they were finally released. They now have a field of their own, where they can rest and build up their strength ready for the breeding season in February.

The container with the bulls is ferried ashore on the raft. The container is lifted ashore. 
The bulls are ferried ashore in their container on the cargo raft.
The bulls grazing. The bulls resting after their voyage. 
The bulls grazing and resting after their voyage.

More detailed information about current farming developments can be found on Alasdair's blog:

Sheep found at the Caves for the first time

Report and photo from Kelly Green

On Saturday 28th October 2017 some island men visited the Caves to take supplies and do some work on their huts. When they where over there they spotted a mother ewe with two lambs. This is the first time ever known by the islanders that sheep have been seen at the Caves. The  mother ran away but the two lambs where brought back by boat. They are now out grazing at the Patches.

Photo taken on 29th October shows:
Back row left to right- Martin Green, Joe Green, Jason Green and Neil Swain. 
Front row right to left Steve Swain, Shane Green and Lucas Swain. 

Sheep graze the Settlement Plain and often at Anshorstock and Sandy Point, as well as on the mountain. It is possible that this group of sheep found their way down the Gipsy Ridge path from the base to the Caves.

Sheep Shearing Day, January 2017

The delayed annual Sheep Shearing Day was held on 14th January 2017.
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Report on storm and flooding damage in October 2016

The Public Works Department has had to clear major blockages on the road to The Patches from landslides caused by heavy storms in early October 2016.
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Neil Swain's UK Trip 2016

Tristan islander Neil Swain undertook agricultural studies in England at Harper Adams University, Shropshire, during 2016.
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New Page: Tristan da Cunha Island News

News relating to the landscape and ecology of the main Tristan da Cunha Island.
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New Page: Tristan da Cunha Economy News

News regarding the economy of the Tristan da Cunha group, which is mainly based on rock lobster fishing, farming and tourism.
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Advert for Agriculture Adviser gains international interest

An advert for an Agriculture Adviser for Tristan received a lot of press coverage worldwide.
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