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!

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.

Scanning

I’ve been a little light on posts here recently, mainly due to them taking a little longer to write, and time isn’t something I have a lot spare of!

Things have been very busy since I started selling the eggs but that’s not what this is about, this is about scanning!

A couple of years ago, I posted about an extremely poor scanning and there you can see pictures of how it’s all done. We have the same setup every year, but fortunately this year was a little better for me.

Scanning is arranged by the Lewis & Harris Sheep Producers Association, of which I am a member. The scanner comes over from Aberdeenshire and blitzes 7,000+ sheep in a week. At around 75p (ballpark figure, not sure what it is this year) per sheep, that’s a profitable week for a scanner!

My sheep went through & I had mixed results. Most of it was ok, but I was very disappointed that 3 of my best sheep were empty. I had put them to the Zwartble ram lamb, as a wee experiment, but 3 of the 5 he had were empty. It’ll be interesting to see if he left anything in the other two, or if it was the work of the other rams that covered him.

I had results of 130%, which is ok, although I’d rather closer to 150. What I mean by percentages is that 130 = 13 lambs out of every 10 sheep.

I have now started feeding, all in anticipation of lambing starting in the last week of March – I can’t wait!

A spot of recycling

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This lovely load of tyres is on its way to my crofts, to (hopefully) provide some shelter for my livestock.  I have flat open crofts, with zero shelter and have decided to try something different.

On this trailer are 30 bales of tyres, weighing over 20 tonnes, to be spread out amongst the crofts that I have and use.  This will provide shelter for the animals and also not be blown away like sheets of corrugated iron!

I applied to SEPA for a Waste Exemption Licence and received the bales free of charge from the council.  I think the council get a landfill tax rebate, as the bales are diverted from landfill and put to a good use.  Basically everyone wins!

They are being dropped off tonight and placed on the crofts tomorrow.

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.

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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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.