Lambing is always a stressful time here at the croft and this year was no exception. It’s filled with sleepless nights watching restless sheep and anxious days peering at fragile looking lambs wondering if they’re feeding properly. This year was made a wee bit easier by the installation of our CCTV cameras. Instead of spending hours in a chilly shed, we could monitor all the activity from the warmth of the house, only needing to venture out when a lambing was actually in progress.
It all went much more smoothly than usual and of course we could see which lambs were feeding and which ones needed a bit of help. One particular boy (we named him Polka-dot, after we marked him with a blue spot so that we could recognise him instantly in the crowd), spent his time standing hunched in the corner. We eventually came to the conclusion that he wasn’t getting enough milk so with the aid of an obliging goat, we supplemented his mother’s milk. He is now fat and healthy.
Most of the births were straightforward, the ewes producing mainly twins but there were a couple of singles. No triplets this time which is good for the mothers as it’s easier to cope with two. However, we did have one first-timer that gave us cause for concern. After watching her all night on camera, she finally got started in the early hours, but the lamb was going nowhere. It was stuck fast. Thanks to the assistance of our obliging neighbour, an experienced sheep farmer, now retired, and some baling twine, we managed to heave the enourmous lamb out.
Despite the fact that it took quite a while and its tongue was blue, it survived and is now thriving. What a relief and we were so grateful for the help, you learn something new every year.
Only one left to lamb now and she is certainly taking her time. All the rest are ready to be vaccinated and move on out to pastures new.
In other news, Fin seems to be responding to the medications and is feeling a lot more comfortable now.
It’s been a busy month. With lambing imminent there were many preparations to make. All the pens needed to be mucked out, the hay moved and new lights installed. The weather was a worry, we bought all the ewes in for a week to get them out of the wind and rain.
Every year we muddle through and sadly lose a few lambs so this time we decided we wanted to take the guess work out of it. We tracked down a lovely man who came along one evening and scanned all our possibly pregnant girls. It was very exciting and we discovered who was in lamb, how many they were having and their estimated due dates.
It was all very useful but we went one step further and installed CCTV cameras in the lambing shed. We are now all hi-tech and can monitor the ewes from the comfort the house! We are thrilled that we will be able sit in the warm kitchen instead of trudging down to the shed through the mud or snow, in the middle of the night.
There is also an added advantage. Some of the ewes seem to hide their birthing signs when we are watching them close up, so by using the cameras we should be able to see what is really going on without disturbing them!
At the moment all that we can see are a few chickens and cheeky mice but we are looking forward to the next month or so when all the ewes will be tucked up in the straw beds with us observing from afar.
At the beginning of the month, Animal Health carried out routine testing for brucellosis. Thankfully we were all clear, it hasn’t been present in Scotland for years now, so we didn’t want to be the ones who upset the apple cart!
Later than we hoped, we managed to separate the ewes that were to join one of our tups. We were aiming for the beginning of September but were two weeks behind schedule. Nevertheless they are all together now and we will be looking forward to lambs around March next year.
Once we had those sorted it was time to pick the lambs from this years crop that we would keep. There was no real formula, just ones we liked the look of or who came from our favourite ewes.
With that done the remainder would be sold at the local mart. Before that could happen they needed to be smartened up for their appearance in the ring.
We built a pen and rounded up a couple of ewes and the rest of the lambs. All without the aid of Jack, he’s not quite ready yet, but he has been practising! The only exit from the pen, was our “new” (to us anyway) sheep turner. Our beasts are not small, they are probably the size of a shetland pony and are not easy to upend for routine work. This device grips them securely and then turns them upside down so that you have full access and they can’t get away. It still takes a bit of muscle to flip them but it’s much easier than alternative methods, plus the fact you no longer have to bend.
With them incapacitated on their backs like a beetle, we happily trimmed their feet, re-tagged any that were necessary and chopped off any grubby fleece.
We were done in no time and they were looking smart. Hopefully they will command a good price at the market.
Lambing earlier than usual was not the best idea considering the weather
It’s been a very busy month here on the croft. In the past we have always lambed later in the year when the weather is better (supposedly). Last year we decided rather rashly to put the tups in earlier than usual and as we had considerably more ewes than normal, we would stagger it over 3 months.
The plan that every four weeks we would have a new bunch lambing went horribly wrong, as did the weather! With snow and bitter temperatures, we welcomed triplets in the middle of the month, 3 weeks overdue from our predicted date for the first batch. Less than a week later, lambs from the second batch started to put in an appearance so instead of having plenty of room in the shed to house them all, we rapidly ran out of space.
We had to turf the goats out of their large loose box into a smaller one and hastily build another pen, just 24 hours before it was needed by a new mum!
With space still short, we invested in some sheep gates and quickly set about clearing a space in the hay barn to house the ewes who were getting fatter by the day and eating us out of house and home.
For the time being, everyone has their own little suite but very soon now, the third batch will be starting and we will have to shift them all round again.
As far as the lambing itself is concerned, it has been very tiring. We have been taking turns to watch them throughout the day and the cold nights but not only that, the births themselves have been difficult. The ewes seem to be delivering huge lambs that are reluctant to come out and we’ve come to the conclusion that we have fed them too well this year. We also had one ewe prolapse which involved a vet visit and an uncomfortable delivery. Mother and baby are now doing fine.
Looking forward to it all being over and done with and getting back to having a proper nights sleep.
It’s that time of year again when the tup is once again reunited with the ewes in the hope that they will produce a lovely crop of lambs next spring. This year it’s been more fun than usual – but not for us.
We have to introduce new blood into the flock so our old ram who has a gentle nature, unlike some we’ve had in the past, needs to move on and we have acquired two new boys. They are only youngsters born earlier this year so as yet unproven. One is a pure bred Lleyn and the other a Texel Suffolk cross. Both will be a good match for our girls who are a mix of Lleyn, Suffolk and Cheviot so they are not small beasts.
This year we decided to stagger the lambing as there is not enough room in the shed for all of them at the same time, so we picked the first batch of girls and put the Lleyn tup in. We had a harness and crayon on him so that we could tell when he’d done his job but since he is not yet fully grown, it was far too big. We had to remove it as it was hampering his efforts. The next morning we discovered to our horror that the old ram had managed to break through the fence and was busy courting the ewes who were promised to the new boy. We had quite a job persuading him to leave.
Four weeks later we put the second new tup, the Texel Suffolk cross, in with the remainder of the girls and once again went out the next morning, only to find that he preferred the ones betrothed to the Lleyn and was busy chatting them up. It was a Monday morning and we had all of the weekend orders to pack but we found ourselves in the field chasing sheep and getting splattered with mud!
With all the wet weather we’ve had, the posts are loose and the fences are barely holding anything in. We have had to move everything around so there is no danger of beasts escaping. For the time being they are all where they should be but who knows how long that will last. Now we have to wait 5 months to see the results of all our efforts and find out if the boys were up to the challenge.
It was an exhausting month with lambing drawn out over several weeks. We ended up with a total of 8 lambs which was a little disappointing. Four girls who we will keep as breeding stock and 4 boys who will go to the mart later in the year. Due to the appalling wet weather, we kept them inside for longer than usual but when a beautiful sunny day presented itself on Saturday, we finally turfed them outside.
One of our favourite moments is when they all get their first taste of freedom and meet the other lambs face to face. There is always mass confusion with the ewes rushing forward with the smell of spring grass in the nostrils, completely forgetting about their babies. They rush to the field and with their mouths full baa loudly for the lambs.
The lambs, meanwhile haven’t got a clue what’s going on and are running round in circles looking for mummy and shouting. When they catch up and get to the field they are suddenly confronted with a whole load of sheep and have to find their mother. It’s pandemonium.
Eventually it all gets sorted out and then the leaping starts. It’s amazing how high they can jump.
Now that lambing is done we start kidding, and that’s no joke. Check back next month for a goat story.
After many a sleepless night, the lambs finally arrive
After a month of disturbed nights, checking the ewes to make sure they weren’t giving birth, we finally welcomed our first lambs on Friday afternoon. Despite the fact that we were on high alert, the first lambing didn’t happen without a hitch. Agnes, started early by expelling the water bag but by lunchtime nothing else had appeared. She wasn’t distressed but we were.
Eventually the rubber gloves were deployed and we discovered that the lamb on it’s way out had too many legs. It was quickly clear to us that two were trying to emerge together. After some skilful manipulation and untangling of small bodies, one of the lambs was pushed back whilst the other was pulled out. The first, thank goodness, was alive and well. The second one came out backwards with more than a little assistance. We weren’t sure if it was all over and since she had been so huge, we ventured back in and pulled a third out.
All were boys and all appear healthy and are feeding well. We may have to supplement them with goat’s milk if Agnes can’t produce enough to sustain all three but we will keep a close eye on them and monitor their progress.
Well that’s one down, only another 5 to go until we can once again sleep peacefully at night.
As the evenings and mornings draw in, we’ve been busy as usual. Busier it seems, as shorter days always mean packing everything into a shorter time.
Our main event was harvesting the grapes from the polytunnel. We had hoped to do this sooner, but as usual there are other distractions. Still, eventually we managed to sort out 8 demijohns of wine – 7 red, and 1 white.
We would have had several more if we’d used a different recipe, but we do prefer the rich flavour that we get with this method. There’s no added water, juice only. Can’t wait to bottle it in the spring!
In the meantime, Daisy has become a good labour saving device in a slightly different ‘field’. As our nominated sheep dog, she helps us to move the sheep around more efficiently. She weaves around behind them according to our hand signals (not traditional, we realise), and they disappear back into their paddock without too much resistance.
It certainly saves a good deal of running and shouting on our part! Well done Daisy!
After the long winter, and somewhat poor start to the spring, we found ourselves with a shortage of grass for the livestock to graze.
Our usual strategy of moving them around between 6 small fields worked for a while, but even topping up with hay left us with barely enough to go around. They were eating it faster than it was growing!
Luckily we heard of someone fairly local to us, that had an acre of grass which they found difficult to cut and keep under control. They were making it available to anyone with animals that could graze it. We jumped at the chance, and as soon as we could, our ewes and lambs were piled into the trailer, and ferried a couple of miles to their new temporary home.
We discover a couple of new-borns running in the snow
With yet more snow this month, in between the really soggy thawing out periods, the going has been pretty difficult outside. Most of the animals have been moved inside, but we were just a little too late for one of our ewes…
We were feeding all of the animals in the late afternoon as always, and when we got to the sheep we noticed a couple of newborn lambs running about in the snow!
Whilst they looked healthy and dry (their mother had obviously been looking after them), the outdoor conditions were far from ideal. We very quickly moved them into a warm, dry pen (pictured). After a couple of hours, mother and lambs were doing well!
In the meantime, a quick look at our calendar revealed that these lambs were born at the very earliest possible date (taking the time with the ram and the typical gestation period into account), which caught us on the hop!