A wintry spring

We are taken by surprise

We were enjoying the lovely spring weather and basking in the sunshine.  The ewes with their offspring had all been turned out onto lush green pasture and the lambs were relying less on milk and beginning to nibble the grass.  Everything was going well and we were discussing how much hay we were expecting to get from our newly reseeded field.

The forecast had said that the temperature was going to drop but we wern’t completely taken by surprise when the chilly but sunny morning turned into a wintry blizzard!

The snow came down thick and fast, huge white flakes settling on the ground and everything else.  We couldn’t believe that in a couple of hours it was inches thick and still coming.

There is a small hut in the sheep field but it certainly isn’t large enought ot house the whole flock, so we battled our way through the snow storm to shepherd all of them into the shed.  It was a bit of a squash but at least they were all tucked up warmly for the night.  We didn’t want to risk losing any lambs due to the weather, not when they had come this far.  There were no objections from the sheep, they couldn’t get inside fast enough!

Although both us and the sheep were horrified by the turn of events, the dogs were delighted, barking with excitement and playing wild games in the snow, all except Fin, who laid down and after only a few minutes, resembled a snow dog.

The following morning it was still there, thick as ever but the sun was out, melting it rapidly.  By the end of the day only a few patches were left and we returned to our previously green landscape, turning the sheep back out into their paddock.

That was definitely the worse snow we have had all winter and hopefully we can now move safely through spring without any more hitches.

The kids party

After lambing we are kidding

It’s been an exhausting couple of months, with long nights watching the CCTV cameras, on the lookout for ewes in the process of lambing.  Not so for kidding.  We knew the exact date when the goats had conceived so there was less speculation on when they would give birth.  Our window of watching was much narrower.

It turned out that both Betsy and Lulu had their twins one day earlier than expected but we were prepared and not taken unawares.  Betsy was first, easily giving birth to a boy and girl – Cocoa and Chanel.  Lulu followed up a few days later, with an equally painless (for us anyway!) birth of twin girls – Mitzi and Melody.

We decided to have them disbudded as we have found in the past that people are not keen on owning horned goats.  This would give us a better chance of selling them if we chose to do so.  The visit to the vet wasn’t very pleasant but they all came through it OK and had forgotten all about their traumatic experience by the following day.

They are delightful little creatures, very fluffy and full of fun and Lulu is a fantastic first time mother.  Betsy also a first-timer, loves Cocoa but is not at all keen on Chanel.  When Betsy is busy eating, Chanel sneaks in for quick drink, but to ensure she’s getting enough nourishment, we have to tether her mother to allow her to feed.

Every few days, we are separating the kids from their mothers overnight so that we can have our own fill of milk in the morning.  It’s lovely to have our regular supply back again and as the weeks go on, we can look forward once again to ice cream, butter and cheese!

Lamb land

We are taken by surprise

We were feeling rather smug about lambing this year, everything was ready, or so we thought.

The ewes had been scanned, so we knew who was pregnant and how many to expect, the CCTV was set up and working after the installation of a new cable, thanks to someone who shall remain nameless, chopping up the previous one with a strimmer!

The pens were mostly ready, although we did decide to split a larger pen at the last minute to give us more indivicual lambing space.

Armed with the dates, we sat back and waited, convinced that even though some of the girls had huge udders, they weren’t going anywhere.

However, one evening it ocurred to us that given the date the first tup went in with the girls, they could have given birth two weeks previously.  Realisation set in and a late night check on the girls in the paddock revealed nothing but eyes shining back in the torchlight.

We were convinced that nothing would happen that night and we would at least be safe until the morning.

How wrong could we be.  We slipped out at sunrise and on the way to the field, could hear quite clearly small lamb voices emanating from the tin hut.  One of the ewes had given birth to two pretty little girls.  We carried the lambs inside to a lovely warm straw filled pen and mum followed.  Luckily they were all fine but we stuck them under a heat lamp just to be on the safe side.

That’ll teach us to be complacent.

So far we’ve had 10 lambs, we are feeding two as their mothers are not producing enough milk and we lost one due to an abonormality.

After mother and baby have bonded for a few days, they are transferred to the nursery pen where they can all meet each other and have plenty of space to gambol around.

It’s been very tiring so far and we’re only half way through, there are still plenty of sleepless nights to look forward to!

 

 

Stoned

We have tonnes of work to do

Whilst a lot of the country was suffering under drifts of snow, we too were suffering but it was thanks to mud.

The yard was a disaster zone.  To get to the fields we had to squelch our way through it.  The dogs were covered in it and we were worried about vehicles getting stuck.

In order to fix the problem we got the local quarry to deliver 20 tonnes of gravel and they left it on the track outside.  The only way to get it in, was by shovel and wheelbarrow, then spread it out with a rake.  After a couple of hours the barrow suffered a puncture which put a stop to the work until a new wheel could be obtained.

We were in a bit of hurry to get it done as the scan man, was coming with a trailer load of equipment, to scan the pregnant ewes and goats.  He needed to be able to drive in and out easily, we couldn’t have him getting stuck.

Just in the nick of time, we managed to get most of the yard covered, although there is still plenty more to do.

Thanks to our hard work, the scanning was a great success too.  We were delighted to discover that all but one of our 17 sheep were in lamb and both of the goats that had visited the billy, were in kid, with twins or even triplets.

Merry Christmas from the Croft

We welcome the snow

We’ve had a busy month, packing parcels day and night to ensure they arrive before the big day.  We are looking forward to taking it easy and putting our feet up.

The dogs aren’t interested in lounging around, not when there’s snow outside.  We’ve had a light sprinkling, enough the freeze the mud, thank goodness.

We brought all the lambs indoors for their beauty treatments, ear piercing and feeding up, and then they were off to the mart.  Sorry to see them go as they were a cheeky bunch but a relief to have less mouths to feed over the winter months.

Wishing all our customers and their pets, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all at the Croft.

 

Billy the kids

The girls pay a visit to a billy

We don’t have our own billy goat and are not keen to keep one as they can be quite unpleasant.  They have a particularly strong odour that permeates everything and some can be stroppy and difficult to handle.

Last year we looked without success for a billy for the older girls and even considered AI.  The process was so complicated, we abandoned it in the end and unfortunately, for the first time in years, we no longer have a regular supply of milk.  That also means no cream, butter or cheese, we are having to to buy it.

This year, we are lucky enough to have access to a handsome young boer.  The two younger girls paid him a visit earlier this month which we can only hope was successful.  Although they look like sisters, Lulu and Betsy are actually aunt and niece.  They are two and half years old but only a few weeks apart in age and although they’ve grown up together, their characters couldn’t be more different.  Lulu on the right whose mother is pure white Lily, is cheeky and full of mischief.  She can also be a bit of a bully to the shy Betsy, whose mother Belinda is also Lily’s mother.

If their visit has paid off, we will be delivering kids in March.

In other news we are wallowing about in mud, thanks to all the rain, and the dogs are permantly plastered in it and tracking it into the house.  Roll on the snow!

Fin has had ups and downs too, and has been a bit of a worry.  We are currently trying Slippery Elm powder in and effort to get his digestive system back on track.  He still enjoys his walk, nevertheless, and we have to watch him constantly to ensure he’s not eating something he shouldn’t!

Watching grass grow

The grass is always greener

It has been an inconvenient few months for us with the three acre field out of action.  We have had to keep the dogs off it, as they like to gallop along at quite a pace kicking up sods in their wake, and Jack likes to dig the odd crater or two.

It’s been tricky finding paddocks without sheep to walk them in but thankfully they are actually quite well acquainted with the geese now and no longer bother to chase them.

After seeding we were left with a dull brown field for weeks until the first shoots starting poking through and at first it was very patchy.  Once we had some rain on it, it got a bit of a spurt on and before too long we had a wispy green covering.

It gradually thickened up and by the beginning of October, started to look rather lush.  Since there had been no dogs in the vicinity the rabbits were running riot, much to Daisy’s delight when she finally got access again!

As soon as we were sure that it was well rooted we let the sheep loose in there to graze before winter comes upon us.  They were over the moon to find such a delicious looking crop at this time of year and we are hoping that it will fatten them up, ready for the mart in a few weeks time.

Next year we are hoping for a bumper hay crop but that will depend on the weather.

Penned

Late summer sunshine provides us with an opportunity

We have had some beautiful weather over the last couple of weeks which has persauded us to do some much needed work outside.  The fencing was beginning to show its age, sagging in places with wobbly posts.  The sheep enjoy scratching their backsides on anything that is static causing damage and also practicing their agility skills and snapping wires

Our long term plan was to have metal gates in the middle of 4 paddocks, giving easy access to each and creating a pen in the centre where we could catch the sheep and carry out any essential maintenance work on them.

It was a big job, huge strainers needed to be embedded in the ground to take the weight of the heavy gates and four lines of stock fence had to be either repaired or replaced.  We have no machinery to carry out these jobs so it all had to be done with hand tools and hard work, digging through the clay and bashing in dozens of posts.

On the up side, the dogs enjoyed every minute of it, they spent their days in the fields, sniffing, chasing and searching for rabbits.

It’s now all complete and we are delighted with it.  Just in the nick of time as we are putting the tups in with the ewes and we certainly don’t want any escapees at the moment.

The dogs were more than happy to demonstrate our fantastic new pen.

Polka Dot becomes Patch

A flystrike survivor – not for the squeamish

We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves when we didn’t lose any lambs this year. Just when we thought we were out of the woods one of the boys was hit by flystrike. It was the same lamb that had been rejected by his mother, Geraldine, and had to feed from the goat. He had always been smaller and weaker than the others and therefore vulnerable.

Flystrike is awful. We have seen it once before on a ewe, but it wasn’t as bad as this. Flies lay their eggs on the fleece and the maggots hatch, bury themselves in the sheep’s wool and eventually under the skin, feeding off their flesh. This little boy was badly infected and as we started to clear them from his rear end, they kept moving further up his body. It took us days to rid him of them, every time we thought we’d got it beaten, we found more. Eventually, we put a stop to their migration and then all we had to do was hope he would recover – it can be fatal.

With much TLC from us he did pull through, but there were large areas of bare pink skin all over his back and sides, which we smothered with soothing cream. Now a couple of months later, his fleece is regrowing and he’s almost back to normal, apart from the patchy bits. He is definitely much smaller than the other lambs and probably won’t catch up now. However, he seems happy enough and has a great appetite.

In other news, we have been watching the grass grow and that too is a little patchy!

The stoneage

We find ourselves with a stone circle

We have a 3 acre paddock that produces our hay for overwinter feeding.  We don’t graze the sheep on it until after haymaking and we also use it as a “garden” for the dogs.  They walk around it, chase balls and birds in it, and it gives us plenty of space to try out any new products we may have.

As far as we know the grass in this paddock has been growing undisturbed for at least 30 years and so this year, with our hay crop getting smaller and the quality diminishing, we made the decision to re-seed it.

Although we did consider doing it ourselves for a while, luckily we saw the light and opted to ask for help. We are lucky enough to have a neighbour with all the equipment necessary, and he came in and did it for us.

First of all he had to get rid of all the “stones”. Although only a small sliver had been showing above ground, these stones were more like huge granite rocks and some of them weighed a couple of tonnes!  He spent a long time digging them out and moving them to a huge pile.  There may now be a new mountain range in this part of Scotland, we certainly had enough to make our own stone circle!

Once they were gone he had to plough through a very dense root system, which proved impossible, so he had to resort to an industrial strength rotavator before he could continue.

After rotavation, he ploughed, then out came the discs which broke up all the ground.  All this time he was still discovering more and more stones.

Next came a series of rollers (and yet more stones), followed by the seeder and finally another roller.

It was a long job, expertly done, and one we could never have accomplished on our own, since we didn’t have any of the machinery or knowledge necessary.

All we have to do now is pray for rain and wait for the grass to grow.

In other news, we have had to increase Fin’s medication as although he has improved, he is not healing as we hoped he would.

We have also had a lamb with flystrike.  It was horrendous but we think have managed to save him as he now seems to be recovering.