By Katrina Brandon
FOR farmers, protection of their stock is everything to them.
Strong gates and well-built electric or barb wire fences can only do so much.
Other animals can always find a way through fences whether it’s going straight through or digging underneath.
Foxes are the main problem for most farmers.
Sheep, cattle and chooks are all targets.
Each farmer uses a different tactic for keeping their stock safe and the Brandon family at Moyarra’s Prom Country Cheese have a handy maremma and two alpacas to protect their animals.
From morning to night, Bronwyn and Burke anxiously waited for their first lamb of the new season.
On July 17, the lucky lamb was brought into this world. The family own around 160 ewes.
In the week from July 17 to 24, nearly a third of their ewes had lambed.
In the herd, the two lazy alpacas decided to do their job of protecting the ewes and lambs from foxes for the first time in seven years.
They feared a new member of the farm, a large nine-month-old maremma pup called Lotta, was going to take their jobs.
Alpacas are described as sheep with long necks, and their job is to protect sheep by herding them up, making alarming noises and spitting at the threatening creature.
But for majority of their lives, they have stubbornly refused to be of service.
Lotta has slowly been growing into her role.
She was a typical puppy – all she did was sleep, play, eat and explore.
She would go under fences and find any hole to escape through just to explore her new home.
She was just like any other puppy who likes to cause trouble.
While Bronwyn and Burke were busy over summer with their cellar door, Lotta learnt “life” lessons.
She dug holes, attempted to pinch food from customers’ tables and ate kids’ toys.
Her name suited her perfectly; ‘Lotta’s a lotta fun, but a lotta trouble’.
But when she sighted the first newborn lamb of the season, she suddenly matured into a large, caring guard dog.
She is now the guardian of the farm, whether it’s protecting the lamb sheds, the door step or “defending” the Brandon family from the fellow kelpie Whistler.
Whistler and Lotta are now friends, but still Lotta does not let Whistler anywhere near the lambs or the family.
The Prom Country Cheese cellar door is closed in July and August so that Bronwyn and Burke can spend some quality time with the lambs to keep them healthy and does some farm maintenance.
Bronwyn and Burke’s sheep are breeds called east Friesians, and cheviots. East Friesians are a type of milking sheep that need sheering once a year before lambing season. The Brandons milk their sheep morning and night until the sheep start producing less milk, then they start to milk once a day. After milking they all go out to their paddocks, after having a careful health check, and eating away at the lovely green grass.
When the cellar door reopens, customers can rest easy. Lotta’s all bark and no bite.