Jill Thorp: Getting ready for tupping time on Stott Hall Farm

We’ve had an incredibly hectic and amusingly varied week. My mum and I had a day out at the Horse of the Year Show, sadly not competing but cheering on our friends who had successfully qualified and gained their golden ticket.

Jill Thorp lives at Stott Hall Farm in between the lanes of the M62 and writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Watching all those fantastic native breeds, coats glistening, manes and tails shimmering under the spotlights, is an absolute joy for us. I have no doubt that John-William’s skill and sheer determination will one day get him there.

As tupping time is fast approaching we decided to get one of our Blue Faced Leicester boys fertility tested. We’d used him last year and unfortunately he’d proved to not be hugely successful. He’d shown little interest in the ewes and I’d wondered if being a lamb it was all a bit too much for him. The corn trough was definitely more an attractive proposition than the ewes.

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As we’d decided to give him another chance I thought we’d better make sure that he was firing on all cylinders. After getting over the initial childish hilarity at the “tickler” that was to be used, I was given the task of semen collector. Thankfully we’ve known our vet, Shona, for quite some time, and she took great delight in witnessing our childish hilarity, which only increased 10-fold when she whipped out the bull tickler.

Stott Hall Farm, where Jill Thorp farms with her husband Paul and son John-William. Picture by Tony Johnson.

The device used is actually an electrode probe. It is inserted into the rectum to massage the seminal vesicles. A very mild electrical charge is applied and hopefully ejaculation occurs.

Unfortunately for our tup, or some may say fortunately, the process had to be repeated. It was clearly an exhausting process for our lad as after a few grunts his knees gave way and after a successful collection he was assisted back to the trailer by Paul. Of course this resulted in more giggles and mutterings of “typical bloke”!

Later in the week, following an early start, we arrived at Hawes Auction Mart for the annual sale of Blue Faced Leicester sheep. I am, of course, like a child in a sweet shop whereas Paul smiles on through gritted teeth. Row after row, pen after pen of my favourite breed. I’d had my orders, no more females and just one shearling tup.

As the day progressed, he softened and came more round to my way of thinking, eventually taking a stroll through the females. Despite not always agreeing on the breed of sheep, we both usually pick out similar sheep and tend to agree on what we want. By the end of the day we had a shearling tup, a tup lamb and two beautiful shearling ewes to join my ever increasing flock.

John-William shares my love of the mighty Leicester, mostly I think because they’re so friendly and amenable. He was ecstatic when I told him that the tup lamb and females were to be his own and after several minutes of admiring his new tup named him Timmy. After a liberal splattering of raddle paint he was introduced to his new wives and eagerly watched by John-William.

The pressure is now on!