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. 



Don’t look any further if you are squeamish or easily offended.

I was cleaning out the hen house earlier today and was just spreading the new wood shavings when I noticed a hen dragging something behind her. Her intestine….

The other hens were pecking away as I lifted her up, and the entrails, and took her down to the barn. Unfortunately it was a total mess around the rear, so I culled her.

Not nice. Anyone know what causes this?



Worst storm I’ve experienced

I am totally exhausted just now. The last 30 hours have been non-stop tension, fear and worry.

After getting everything tied down last night, I went to bed around 11, with the wind gusting around 70/80mph. I slept until 1.47am, when the wind woke me. This was the last sleep I would get until 5am, when I slept for a couple of hours.

The power went off around midnight and is still off now. I was up and around the house numerous times during the night and I was so so worried that the hen house would be damaged. As well as the obvious impact it would have on the hens, it would be financially disastrous for me – my eggs are literally in that one basket! (It is insured, but that’s not the point!)

In the middle of the night, this was the sight that greeted me from the back door – the ‘skin’ on the roof of the portacabin torn to shreds.


After checking the roof was intact, the hen house was next stop. Fortunately it survived the storm, although there are possibly some issues with the doors, which will be inspected properly after the weekend – as long as it survives tonight and tomorrow. I found one hen dead outside, she must have left it too late to head back inside last night.

I had some damage on the roof of my house, slates missing and flashing torn, but not too bad.

The sheep I had moved to the front of my house had a lucky escape, with sheets of metal gouging out chunks of earth right between them


The lambs didn’t fare so well though, 2 dead with another apparently in shock. It’s inside and doing a lot better now.


After moving the lambs to a more sheltered field, I saw the carnage that had been left – and that was only in 2 of the 15 villages in Ness.







Shipping containers and skips blown over, houses stripped of slates and thousands of pounds worth of damage to the church.

In my own village, this boat was flipped – despite being anchored down with blocks and tied to two fence posts, which were ripped out of the ground. It usually takes 6 of us to lift that boat!


I’m in now and totally exhausted. I’ve been worrying and tense since 3pm yesterday and felt a wave of relief when I sat down at 6pm tonight. I just hope that everything makes it through the night ok.

Good & bad

I’ve had such a hectic few months I’m now in Glasgow for the weekend, relaxing. My mind never drifts far from the croft, though.

I have a sense of satisfaction this weekend, I have made progress in the right areas and I am confident that the croft is going to provide a viable income.

Through the day job, I had to pop out to the dump in Stornoway, where I took the opportunity to ask a question about a subject that I’d been thinking of for a while; using old tyres as an animal shelter on the croft. My crofts are flat and offer little in terms of shelter from the wind, and this is a (hopefully) cheap way of doing it.

It was recommended that I contact SEPA though, as there may be an issue in terms of pollution. I did that and applied for a licence which now means I’ll be able to take old tyres from garages etc and create wind breaks with them for this winter.

I’ve also been working on the efficiency of the hen house. I think I’ve got my system in place for ensuring the maximum number of eggs remain clean (I can’t sell dirty ones in shops) and now all I have to do is get my lighting situation sorted and I’m good to go! I think I have finalised my labels too, so hope to get them finished shortly.

I’m on a week’s holiday from work now, so I’m getting round to sorting out all the wee jobs that I can’t get to in a normal week.

The one aspect of the hen house I have to improve is the mucking out; I spend too long moving wheelbarrowloads of it and end up reacting to the wood shavings I put down. This is how I combat it!



One negative from this week was an apparent otter attack on one of my young ducks. I found it like this on Thursday night.


I’ve lost a couple of birds to a buzzard attack in early 2013, but never any to ground predators. I’ll perhaps have to be more vigilant now.

Goodbye Lasarusina

This week I lost one of my favourite sheep. I know that sounds a little bit stupid it was a lamb hand reared from birth. Lasarusina was touch & go to survive her first night last April, unfortunately she died 12 months later. I went to check the hoggs that I moved to Cross about 4/5 weeks ago. I check them about once a week and this time I found Lazarusina on her side, very weak.

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I took her into the shed and gave her food and water. With a bit of help, she managed up on her feet.

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I suspected liver fluke so gave her a drench straight away. All the hoggs were drenched when moved to Cross, so it should have eradicated any issues then. I also phoned the vet but deep down, I knew it was too late. She lasted another couple of days but deteriorated. I eventually made the decision to have her put out of pain, but she died before I could arrange that.

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!

Euthanised lamb

Last week I posted about a vet visit for a lamb that had swollen and bleeding leg.

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Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of matters. The lamb then lost the top layer of skin on it’s leg.

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I was advised to keep it clean and dry and to cover it with vaseline. Basically treat it like a burn. So for 4/5 days, I took the lamb in, cleaned the leg with a drop of iodine in water, dried it and covered it in vaseline. The leg, however, got progressively worse.

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By Sunday morning, I feared the leg was dead. It was black and cold below the knee. For some reason, blood was not circulating as it should.

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I phoned the on call vet and discussed matters. I didn’t want to shoot it, just in case there was something the vet could do, but I already knew the outcome. As it wasn’t an emergency, I told the vet to stop by if she got a call-out in Ness, which she did around 6.30pm.

The diagnosis didn’t take long.

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Whatever was affecting the front left leg had also spread to the other 3 legs. There was little option but to have it put down. This was a swift and painless injection. I’ve seen it done to numerous other animals, but never a lamb. Because they’re so small, it’s injected straight into the heart, meaning they die instantly, instead of the few seconds it takes for a larger animal.

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I think the worst thing about this experience was how lively the lamb was. If you didn’t see its legs, you would have thought it a strong and healthy lamb, as shown here.

Ducks & ducklings

A few weeks ago, I ordered some duck eggs online. 6 came, and I put some of my own in too. The eggs were due to hatch this week, which they did, with mixed results.

I was a little concerned with the eggs, bought off eBay, as the packaging was damaged in transit.

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Nevertheless, in they went, and four weeks later, out pops this wee one

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In the meantime, Innes and I had been busy getting things ready for the adult ducks. They’ve been roaming around for a while, but plans were afoot to get them penned up permanently. Firstly, we dug in the paddling pool for them.

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Then this week, I had Feisean nan Gaidheal’s Coig Latha group visit on Tuesday. They helped build the run for them, as well as learn lots about all the different animals.

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So the ducklings have now hatched

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And will be in the brooder for the next wee while, nice and cosy. 4 of them made it out alive, while a further 3 died during the hatching process. I’m not sure why the mortality rate was so high, but I fear a couple of power cuts in the latter days may have had something to do with it.

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Soon enough, they’ll be able to join the rest in the run – happy days!

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Lost Triplets

My start to lambing 2014 has been tough. I’ve been really busy this past week, so I haven’t been keeping the blog as up to date as I would have liked. I’ve been posting updates on the blog facebook page, but I prefer to keep the blog as a more permanent record of crofting activities.

Anyway, last Sunday was a tough one.

Around 6pm I noticed that one of my sheep due triplets was prolapsing. I phoned the vet and got her penned asap.

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The vet came, fixed the prolapse and then said that the sheep had started lambing. This was actually the first prolapse that I’ve seen and was surprised at how quickly it was resolved. The lambing itself was a slow process, as the sheep took a long time opening up. At this stage, we believed the lambing had caused the prolapse, maybe due to ring womb.

After about 2 hours work, the lambs were out. All 3 alive, and all 3 female. What a high!!

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I had fully expected them to be dead, but was over the moon that they were alive. I left them for a wee while and came back to make sure they were on their feet and had fed. They hadn’t.

I was getting more & more concerned about the black ones, as they were weaker and quieter. I took them into the kitchen, to make sure they were warm, dry and fed. It didn’t take long for one of them to die though.

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I took the two live triplets out to my parents house, where we made sure they were fed and left them under the heat lamp for the night.

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At this stage, the white one was looking strong. It was walking about and drinking from the bottle. The black one wasn’t as strong. By 9am, the white one had died, and the black one was gone shortly afterwards.

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Heartbreaking stuff. I’ve spoken to the vet since then and deduced that the prolapse sent her into early labour, meaning the lambs were born before their lungs has correctly formed. There was little I could do, which is a shame but also reassuring.

A week on from then, the ewe is still not back to normal. She’s a little flat and obviously in discomfort. I’ve given her penicillin during the week, but the vet gave me an anti-inflammatory and stronger antibiotic to give her. Hopefully that’ll do the trick.

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Tough night of lambing

And there endeth my good start to lambing.

I’m sitting at home, buzzing and deflated, if that’s possible. Had quite a dramatic evening; looked out my window at 9pm and saw 4 legs up in the air. You don’t need to be an expert to know that’s not good. A sheep had rolled into the ditch. Fine, I’ll go get her out.

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When I approached, I thought I saw a rabbit run away, turns out it was a lamb! I knew there were two, as she had been scanned for twins. I quickly put the sheep on her feet and waited for the second lamb to come. And carried on waiting….

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She hadn’t really made any effort to give birth to the second one, so after about half an hour, I put her in the trailer and took her out to the barn. I checked to see if I could feel anything, and all i could feel was an ear and the top of the head. Not good.

I had a few goes but no joy at all. My neighbour Roddy came around 10.30, and got to work. He’s very experienced and figured out that the lamb’s head had twisted 180 degrees. He worked for about half an hour, before we decided to call the vet. Did that and we carried on. 5 minutes later, the lamb was out, so I cancelled the vet before he’d left his house! Now, you’d think a long, stressful birth would guarantee the lamb was a goner, but no, it was ALIVE! I couldn’t believe it!

Not a happy ending though 😦 it became apparent very quickly that something was wrong. It wasn’t breathing. We tried the usual tricks, I even attempted a kind of kiss of life, but no. It died. Gutted.

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I think I’d have rathered it be born dead, instead of putting me on that roller coaster. Was horrible seeing the lamb alive but just not able to breathe. It’s lungs just weren’t up to it.

The other lamb is ok, and I just hope the mother is too. It was quite an ordeal for her. I gave her penicillin, along with some food & water. Hopefully that’ll do the trick.

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Sleep now, alarm set for 5.15 :/