Disastrous start

The week before lambing was due to start was a tough one. Two dead ewes, 8 dead lambs, and a dead turkey.  From my first 5 sets of twins, I have only 2 lambs to show for it.

But the day before the first lambs appeared, I came home to find my turkey dead, with a nasty gash above its eye. I still haven’t figured out what caused it.

  

That was bad enough, but things got worse the next day. I went to feed the sheep around 9.30 (it was a Sunday) and noticed one of the sheep didn’t come. I went to her with some feed & thought nothing of it, as I suspected she hadn’t heard me call due to the wind and she wasn’t due to lamb for another few weeks.

An hour later though, I found these two wee lambs, which had been aborted. 

The next few days saw more of the same. First I lost a ewe to “Twin Lamb Disease” (aka Pregnancy Toxaemia)

  

She looks bright enough here, but was dead within 24 hours. Twin Lamb disease is where the lambs are basically a parasite and all the energy & nutrition goes into them, rather than keep the sheep alive. Horrible seeing them fade away so quickly.

Anyway, the ewes were all moved into their lambing fields. Here are the singles getting their first feed in their new home.   

And then the first live lamb arrived! A cracking Cheviot Texel Cross. 

 

Lambing Update

it’s Sunday afternoon and I am taking a much needed break from lambing. This is the most sheep I have lambed in a single year, and it has been tough. 

I’m going to write several blog posts today, about some of the ups and downs of lambing so far. This is as much for myself as it is for anyone who reads the blog! I’ve found it very useful, going back and reading over posts, several months later.

To date, I am almost two-thirds  of the way through lambing. Still a way to go!

Surprise Ducklings

A couple of weeks ago, I had to let my ducks out of their run, as the stagnant water was becoming a hazard for them. I have to build them a run around the stream on the croft at some point. Trying to clean out the wee pond they had just wasn’t feasible. Anyway, I let them out and off they went, enjoying life. There are 2 black ones and they disappeared very soon after getting out. I would see one most evenings, but not the other. I feared the worst until she appeared last Sunday with 9 ducklings!!

I was in the kitchen and heard all this commotion outside. Bud ran to the back door too, barking, so I guessed something weird was going on. I ran outside and saw a flash of yellow to my left; ducklings!

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Unfortunately I was not the only one attracted by the noise. As I came out, a crow swooped down and flew off with a duckling, which was still wriggling in it’s mouth. I ran after it for a while, but it landed about 1/4 mile away. I had to make a split second decision, so I sacrificed that duckling (which would have been severely injured, probably dead, by the time I got there) to make sure that no predators got the other 8.

They are so fast along the ground so it took me a wee while to get them all collected but they’re now safely in a run in the barn.

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One smaller duckling died during the week, but the other 7 are doing really well.

The other black duck is still out and reappearing periodically. I am convinced that she’s sitting on a nest too, so don’t be surprised if more appear!

Vasectomy (for the ram!)

I now have a ‘teaser’ ram. One of my friends told me about his a few years ago, but I didn’t pay much attention to teasers, until I saw the affect it had on my neighbour’s lambing last year; numerous sheep lambing each day, while I was having a max of 2/3.

Anyway, the process is quite simple. A ram is given a vasectomy and this does strange things to the sheep! The teaser is put in with the ewes 10 days before the ‘intact’ rams. This brings the ewes into season and also synchronises their systems, meaning your lambing period is much tighter. This year I was up at 5am 39 times in 42 days. I was exhausted. Hopefully next year won’t be anywhere near 42 days!

The process with the ram was quite simple.

1. Choose a ram

I have this ram lamb from last year. Wasn’t sure what to do with him, as he is related to too many of my sheep, so this was an easy decision.

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2. Get the vet out

I made the appointment when Bud was over for his own ‘sensitive’ operation. The vet wanted it booked as soon as possible, to avoid fly strike. Suits me, so we got it done the following week.

I had to sit an hold the ram, while the vet did his thing. The animal is given a sedative, the area is given a local anaesthetic and then cleaned.

The job takes around an hour and I’ve been told it’s similar to the process on humans. Tubes from the testes are snipped and a length removed, to ensure it doesn’t grow back and repair itself.

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Quick and painless for the animal. It will actually mean he will have a nice long life here now, given that I won’t have to move him on. Fingers crossed this all works now!

More chicks

I ordered some eggs from Andy at The Chicken Street about a month ago, and they hatched on Mon/Tue of last week. This was quite a surprise, as they were due to hatch the previous Saturday! I candle the eggs and saw that 7/8 of them were fertile and waited patiently for them to appear. Nothing on Saturday and nothing on Sunday. Oh. I was worried.

I’ve had workmen in for the past 3 weeks (they came at short notice, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the eggs in the incubator) and I thought the fact that they switched the power off now & again may have affected the eggs. I was all set to switch off the incubator on Monday morning, but thought I’d leave it until I got home that night. I hadn’t heard any cheeping from the eggs, so was convinced they’d all failed. I was quite surprised to be greeted by these wee ones when I came home!

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Another three hatched over the next 24 hours, leaving 5 in total.

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These are Speckled Sussex and the second batch I’ve hatched of them. Hopefully they’ll be just as nice as last years ones. 2 hens & 2 cockerels. Here is one of the cockerels.

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Incidentally, the work happening at my house is applying external insulation to the walls, as part of a funded scheme. It should be ready in the next couple of days and currently looks like this!

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Lambing is over

I’m lying in bed at 9.30 on a Sunday morning, thankful and relieved that lambing is over for another year. It’s my favourite time of year, but it is exhausting. I worked out that i was up at 5am in 32 of the last 35 days, with my dad doing the early shift those other days.

I’m not sure why this happened, but most of my lambing problems occurred late at night this year, whereas they were all early morning issues in 2013.

Last year I had gimmers rejecting lambs and ewes with no milk, but this year was significantly better. A few late night lambing issues resulted in 1 or 2
am finishes, and that makes it even tougher to get up at 5!!

If it hadn’t been for the set of triplets I lost, I would have said it was one of my most successful lambings ever. Quite often there are a couple of lambs lost to crows/gulls or simple stuff like membrane covering their mouth after birth. Fortunately none of that this year. Every sheep has a lamb, except for the one that lost triplets (she was unwell for a week after her prolapse).

The last one to give birth didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, but the lambs made it out ok.

I came home from work at around 5.30, expecting to spend the evening tidying the house, as I’ve had workmen in. This was not going to happen! First thing I do is check the sheep that’s to lamb and noticed that her water has broken. Excellent, twins will be along shortly. Wrong.

I waited patiently but after an hour or so, I decided to catch her and have a look at what was happening. I needed help doing this, as there was no pen in the field I was keeping her. We caught her, took her into the shed and discovered that it was a breech. That means lamb coming tail first. It didn’t take too long to get the lamb out. While we were discussing how long we should leave it before going in for the twin, out it slipped! Two healthy twins.

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So that’s it. Spent the night inside and let them out early in the morning.

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I’m going to make the most of my sleep for a while now!

Last fortnight of lambing

Saturday 26th April. I still have 2 sheep left to lamb. My first lamb was 32 days ago and I have been up at 5am for 29 of the last 33 days. I cannot wait for this to finish!

The last fortnight has seen mainly ups, but a few downs too.

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I had some difficulty delivering this monster lamb and was is such a rush to run and get the pickup, that I didn’t notice one of my chickens sleeping on top of the wheel. One live lamb but one dead chicken :/

I then had to get the vet out to help deliver this lamb. 2 of us had tried to deliver it, but no joy. I expected a dead lamb, by the time the vet arrived, but he managed to get it out alive. He said another 5 mins and it would have been a goner. The main problem here was that the sheep has a very narrow pelvis and the lamb was as big as she could have managed.

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I’ll have to consider her future, but they’re outside now anyway. The lamb has interesting markings

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This sheep lambed last Thursday (17th), meaning there were 4 left to lamb. Things went very quiet after that, with only one more lamb in the following 9 days!

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I had a set of twins waiting for me at 5am today, so down to the last 2. A set of twins and a single. I cannot wait to get it all finished!

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