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. 

 

A hell of a day

I’m sitting on my bed at 8pm, just having had a shower and feeling exhausted. Today was an unplanned day off work and I expected to take it reasonably easy, but that wasn’t to be the case.

We had a gale today, probably 60mph gusts throughout the afternoon, with strong wind and heavy rain all day.

The ground is totally soaked after relentless rain and is really tough on livestock



Yesterday, I got a load of big bales delivered, so I took the tractor out for the first time in 2015 and moved the bales to the appropriate fields. All was going smoothly until the tractor got stuck in reverse! Not one to give up when I’m in a working mood, I finished job while drivinng backwards.

Next, I checked the livestock. One ewe, scanned for twins, was on her back, and had probably been so for several hours.  I righted her and took her out to my parents barn. I noticed a wee bit of blood round her rear, so I phoned the vet to be safe.



The vet gave her the usual injections but also left me some pen & strep to administer over the next few days.

Fortunately, the blood around the rear was a peck or two by a crow, and not the beginning of her aborting, as I had initially feared. I had hoped it was a peck, but you always fear the worst!

When he inserted the digital thermometer into her, she was so cold it didn’t get a reading. Looks like I got to her in time. She had a heater beside her for most of the afternoon and was eating when I checked her around 7.





While the vet was leaving, I noticed 2 hens, who were standing around looking very sorry for themselves.  They were outwith the hen enclosure and totally soaked. They were so cold, they couldn’t move and didn’t look like they’d last long. 

I took both out to my mother and we both sat in front of the fire, drying them and trying to warm them up. I left them with my mother and went to feed the sheep. When I came back,  I was SHOCKED at what I saw.







I’m so surprised at how well, and quickly, they’ve recovered. They’re in the barn tonight and will be back in the hen house tomorrow.

That’s not it though, there was also a recently-acquired lamb that was suffering from exposure too. It spent the day between a heater and a heat lamp! It too will be kept inside for a few days.



Predictions then are then that hens are fine, the lamb should be ok but I’m worried about the ewe. She’ll need some TLC.

Entrails

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?

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Hens & eggs

Just under 4 years ago, I got my first three hens. Today, I’m not aware of anyone in Lewis, possibly the Western Isles, with more than me.

I remember when I was wee, asking my parents if we could get hens, but being told no as the mink would kill them all.

The mink are now long gone (due to SNH eradication scheme) so that meant no ground predators here, just as had been the case.

Anyway, my first three hens came by accident, almost. My cousin Erica was recently married and was building a house with her husband. She had 4 hens at a house they were renting, but there wouldn’t be space for them at her new house. So, in early 2011, I took them on. Unfortunately one had been run over, so it was only 3 of them that made the journey to Ness.

Here they are, 4th April 2011

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I don’t think any of those ones are still with us, but 2 weeks later I got a cockerel. This was him when he arrived, and he’s still strutting his stuff!

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Slowly the numbers started creeping up. People who got no longer wanted their hens started leaving them with me and before I knew it, there were 45 hens!

18 months ago, I moved them all into one largish hen house but by then I had already made up my mind to go bigger.

I had seen a gap in the market for local eggs and kept meaning to give it a go myself. I was selling eggs at work and covering all my feed costs, so knew it wouldn’t be a loss.

Around this time last year, I decided to change the way I worked. After 10 years on committees and supporting local community groups, I decided to take a step back and help myself instead. I’ll go back to the community stuff at some point in the future – when I have the time, energy and patience. In the meantime, I just wanted to do my own thing, so I just went ahead and ordered 320 hens.

They arrived in July and I have been soldiering on with them since then, until this week. After months of selling eggs privately, things finally came together this week and I got into the shops. I had registered with the Government back in the summer and had an inspection in September. That was all fine but I couldn’t get into the shops until I got my labels and environmental health gave the the all clear, which they did this week.

After a sleepless night on Sunday, I got through my inspection at the first time of asking and got eggs into the shops within minutes! This has been one of the most hectic and exciting I’ve had a a crofter, and it’s given me a taste for more!

My eggs are now available in the two Ness shops, Swainbost & Cross, WJ MacDonald in Stornoway, the shops in Tong and Point, as well as the Community Co-op in Leverburgh, Harris.

Make sure you buy some eggs!

The storm

Well, what a couple of days. It’s not over yet, but I hope that’s the end of the drama anyway.

I suppose the storm build up started on Monday. The forecast was for strong winds, so I had to prepare for it.

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My father and I secured the hen house by anchoring it down with wheelie bins and barrels full of water, around 900kg in total. After that I tidied up as much of the stuff lying about as I could, to make sure it didn’t blow away and cause any more damage.

All good, I thought.

Tuesday was a rough morning & started with a wee interview on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland news programme, talking about the weather, before I went to work. While at work, the forecast for Wednesday was upgraded to an Amber alert by the Met Office and most public services were closed to the public. I work for the council and we were all told to use our own judgement to decide whether it was safe to travel to work or not.

I got home around 5.30 on Tuesday and decided to make sure everything was secure before the wind blew up again. This was the forecast on Tuesday:

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First stop was the hen house. Everything was ok and then my dad happened to phone while I was up there. While on the phone, lightning struck nearby, with the thunder less than half a second later. Now, my hen house is on the highest point of my croft so I decided to get out of there asap! I hung up the phone without saying anything and hurdled the fence beside me and got into the house before my dad phoned back to see if I’d been fried!

So we got through the night ok. I woke up around 2 and put my ear plugs in, as the noise was keeping me awake. I woke up at 6 & noticed my alarm clock flashing, indicating a power cut, before it went off again around 7. We ended up not having any power until after midday, although there was plenty to keep me busy before that.

I went in to check the sheep just before dawn (around 8, which sounds less impressive!) and came back via the hen house. I can see it from my house & looked ok, but, on closer inspection, some of the roof was missing, with several other sections flapping in the wind. I checked the birds inside; one dead and the whole place soaked. I had cleaned it all out on Monday, but that didn’t last long!

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That’s the only photo I have of it, as pictures weren’t really a priority! Fortunately the wind died down a little, gusting probably 40-50mph, so with the help of my neighbours James and Donnie, we managed to replace the missing sheet and secure the rest of the roof.

Another power cut and 3 hours without internet but we can live without that! Credit to the Hydro boys who got us all back up and running, and also the BT guys who fixed the fault. Shame I can’t say the same about Vodafone, as I haven’t had any signal since 8.15am.

After the hectic morning, I went to the Butt & Port to take some photos & video. You can see more of them on the facebook page but here is my favourite

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A busy Monday

I used to blog about busy Saturdays, but that’s not as much the case any more. Since reducing my hours at work, I am off every Monday and I now have a wee bit more time to split work between Saturday and Monday.

This week was a bit of catch-up on Saturday, as I’d been away for work Wed-Fri the previous week. Hen houses were cleaned on Saturday and lots of other jobs too, mainly working on getting electricity connected to my portacabin. My cousin and uncle (both electricians) were over and got most of the work done. It’ll make a difference having power to the place, especially now that it’s getting dark. I’ll also have to work on lighting the hen house – although I’ve got that one figured out in my head.

So Monday was awful, weather wise. We had gale force winds and pouring rain, so it was a day for doing indoor chores. That meant cleaning out the portacabin and organising things the way I want them. Once I have a picture in my head of how I want things to be, it’s not easy to persuade me to do something different – I have to know if my idea works!

Once the portacabin had been sorted, it was off to the lambs with me. The Government announced a new subsidy scheme for less favoured areas earlier this year, with each ewe hogg kept meaning a payment of €100 (around £80). No one seems to be sure when it is kicking in, so I have kept every single female lamb that was born, in the hope of receiving extra payment, but I’m hearing now that it won’t kick in until next year and that means getting rid of this year’s females.

There is one more sale here, on Thursday 16th Oct, so I have gone through my lambs and kept 18 for breeding, with 17 going. There are a few more being kept for the freezer.

These are some of the ones I’m keeping

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As you can see, they are mainly Cheviots, as I am looking to build up my cheviot flock. There are a couple of nice Suffolk/Cheviot crosses in there too, along with some Suffolk/Roussin hybrids. I have plans for them, and we’ll see how they go.

The rest are off to sale on the 16th, and I’ll need to borrow a trailer for the day, as mine won’t take 17.

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Next up is to book in some lambs and pigs for slaughter. October is turning into a busier month than I expected, although I am off to Glasgow for the weekend for some much needed R&R!