Monster Saturday

I’m lying in bed on Sunday morning, feeling like a broken man. Not because of a hangover, but because of how much I did yesterday!

Last week was one of these rare Saturdays when I actually managed to do everything I’d set out to do. Funnily enough, I repeated that feat again yesterday.

I didn’t do anything until after 10am, as we had strong/gale force winds overnight and they didn’t ease off until mid-morning. I had arranged to help my neighbour Donnie take his ram from the ewes, and then he’d help me do the same with mine. We got them all in the trailer and moved them, with me travelling with them in style 🙂

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We put the rams together on another croft that I have started using – more on that in a few weeks. They’ll be happy there for a while & are easily accessible to keep an eye on and feed, right out on the main road!

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After this I caught up on tagging this year’s lambs. Lambs need to be tagged within 9 months of birth, so I tagged the last 5 today, as well as upgrading the slaughter tags in 5 I had bought. You can put a single slaughter tag in a lamb, which apparently markets & buyers prefer, but it means they have to be slaughtered within a year. The ones I bought will be 18 months before they’re slaughtered, so I need to upgrade. I just have 2 ram lambs to tag and that’s it all done. Hopefully I’ll do that on Tuesday.

The 24 lambs I have we’re drenched for fluke and then I moved them to Cross, the next village, where they’re on good grazing for the next month or so.

By this time, it’s getting dark. Back home and to the hen house to collect the day’s eggs and sort them. I now have 95 boxes of eggs ready to go. Anyone fancy some???

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In an unusual act for me, I am going to work tomorrow. I haven’t worked a Monday for a while, but the weather is rubbish and Tuesday looks a lot better. I think tomorrow will be my last day of the day-job this year. No rest for the wicked though, plenty to be getting on with over the next fortnight!

Injured Ram

My one remaining intact ram has a broken shoulder!

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I had the vet over for the vasectomy for the other ram, so I asked him to have a look at this one, as he had a limp and I couldn’t figure out what was causing it.

He started at his hoof and worked his way up the joints until he figured his shoulder was broken! I felt it myself and could feel it click when pressure was applied. He’s been like this for a couple of months but will hopefully be ok for autumn. It’s his front right that is affected, meaning he should still be ok to serve ewes. If a ram injured his rear leg, he’s not much use, but front in manageable (rear takes the weight when he mounts a ewe). We’ll keep an eye on him and the vet will check him in a couple of months.

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!

A new(ish) helper

I had a busy day on Saturday, but made a little easier by my new assistant. Uisdean here has helped me on the croft sporadically for the last couple of years, but should be more regular for the next few months as he is volunteering with me as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award. Here he is in a typical pose, having helped me drench the hoggs.

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My brother Martin is now a regular when it comes to Saturday morning chicken chores and he was with us too. He collected the eggs, while Uisdean & I cleaned out the house. It’s a lot dirtier when we’ve had some wet weather. The hens spend more time indoors, pooing inside and dripping water on the floor. Nice.

After that, we fed the sheep and then went to bury the ram that had died . We had to take him in to the machair to make it easier. Of course I was going to take advantage of having an able assistant – he has to learn how to do these things!

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(I removed the turf and first spade depth of soil, he did the next)

The hoggs were next. I didn’t want to have to start making a pen or move them to a new field for penning, so Bud came in handy. Didn’t take a minute to corner them & he held them in place while I drenched them.

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That was it then, another busy but enjoyable Saturday. Next week will be quiet as we have our first pre-season (football) friendly in Harris against a Uist team. I’ll have to leave home around 9am for 11am kick off and who knows when we’ll be home!

Death of a ram

I’m really gutted tonight. I’m in Skye for some filming tomorrow, and my dad phoned me to say one of my rams had dropped dead 😦

I bought him as a shearling in October 2012 , so he was still a young beast. I checked him on Saturday, and he seemed healthy enough. 3/4 Suffolk, 1/4 Texel was his breeding.

I hate losing the animals you get attached to, rams in particular. They get special attention because they’re valuable, and they do have their own personalities. Its the loss of a £200 asset as well, but the monetary loss is secondary just now. He was due to be replaced this year anyway, as his daughters will be going to the ram, but still not a nice way to go.

Here he is in one of my favourite pictures on the croft: a good looking beast.

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Eye problems – the bright side

I had a great day on Saturday, lots of work to be done and all day to myself. Just perfect.

I was on a bit of a high after making my brilliant discovery earlier and carried on with my croft work.

I had to move all the sheep, as they had been in their current fields for long enough, so set about doing that before the weather worsened. One of the sheep I have is a little old, she should probably have been cast last year, but I gave her one more chance. When she approached me, I noticed she had lost some condition, so I decided to take her closer to the house, so that she gets additional feed. As I enticed her to the gate, I noticed another with some discharge around her eye.

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Some of you may remember I had really bad eye problems last winter, with nearly 1/3 of my flock suffering from infections. That had all started from one gimmer who returned from the moor with a burst eye. This then caused major problems with the sheep and I remember burying an animal on each of the 4 Saturdays in January 2013. Majorly depressing.

I’m taking no chances with this, even though I think it’s just a little conjunctivitis. She has been taken home, along with the one that lost some condition, and another that was limping. I’ll keep an eye on the 15 others she was with and speak to the vet tomorrow about treatment.

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I’m quite relaxed about it, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

I moved the rest of the sheep, after this. They were quite keen to move onto fresh grazing.

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I also went out to feed the rams in the village park. I feed them once a week, or so, just so that they are friendly enough and it allows me to keep an eye on them.

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Another Accident

I haven’t posted much recently, because I had third crofting accident in a month. This one was bad though.

Myself and 2 other crofters were putting our rams out into the village park on Saturday 11th January. I jogged ahead with feed, so the rams would follow me, and ended up slipping on the wet ground. Landed with a bang on a rock which hit me just below the knee.

I was in agony all weekend and went for an X-ray on the Monday, there was no break, just bruising. I haven’t been able to do anything, other than the bare minimum of feeding etc. Back to normal this weekend though.