Lambing Blog

I thought this year I would try to keep a lambing blog. I don't know if I will be able to keep it up to date when I am very busy, and I don't have internet connection all the time so updates could be sporadic! Newest will be at the bottom.


31 March 08

Arrived at first place I am lambing at about 6pm. Van was extremely sluggish and took ages to get here with the caravan. I had to leave later than I'd wanted as the tow bar electrics were getting done in the morning. I got the usual lecture about it being more difficult because of the partitions (built in cages). Word of a advice to anyone with a van, get everything on it when it's new!!!

I am lambing in Dumfries area for the whole of April at two different farms. Got the caravan stuck practically at the gate as it is extremely wet here. Luckily kind man with Landrover dragged it into position for me, and without the caravan the van was able to get into the field. Whether it will get out is another story. Angus helped me to put the awning on last night. Was a beautiful night with blue skies hence I thought I would put it up. However, by 10pm it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain. I woke up at 1am and the caravan was rocking violently. I didn't think the awning (home to Ffi and Mist) would last the night. I couldn't get the pegs in so most of it is tied to the caravan and the fence so I think that's what saved it.

Left - home for the next two months. Right - View from the front of the caravan looking onto hill park with the singles.

1 April 08

Started at first light (about 6am). Ffi and Mist are quite heavily pregnant already so although I'd thought I'd have at least Ffi to help a bit for the first couple of weeks, I've realised I don't have either of them. I will use them to drove twins etc, but only light work. So move over Ffi and Mist, Ghost is here. Thankfully Ghost is a brilliant lambing dog, he loves holding a single, catching sheep, working all daylight hours and so on. He is still hard to handle but I do see an improvement in him each year. The weather is still appaling, very windy and raining. Not great weather for new born lambs. I had three pairs this morning, no singles. The ewes with twins and triplets are brought into a smaller field at night to make it easier to get round anything in trouble in the morning. It's easy to let the ewes which haven't lambed drift into the day field leaving the ewes which have lambed over night in the smaller field. They are then fed in the big field so the lambs don't get mixed up. The ewes are Texel cross Blackies and Mules. The Mules are a recent addition to the flock and they are mostly all gimmers so this is the first time they have had a lamb. It can make them harder to catch but Mules tend to be very kind - they adore their lambs or their neighbour's lamb in some cases, and don't want to leave it - so that makes it easier than some other gimmers. Generally they lamb at the top of the field and I use Ghost to kep one side while I kep the other and hopefully catch them at the top. If they are wild I walk them slowly down to the bottom of the field and get them there. I had a ewe keb this afternoon, so one of the triplets which had already been born will become her lamb.

Ghost on the bike. This is one days worth of mud!

2 April 08

Rain and wind have died down slightly today. Had a disaster with a prolapsed Mule ewe with rotten triplets. Was a real struggle to get them out of her. She seems to be ok and has had a large dose of Anti-biotic. I gave her a lamb today as she has plenty of milk and was looking for a lamb. Fingers crossed she will survive. Having a lamb to rear will give her a better chance as it gives her something to live for.

The kebbed ewe has accepted her new lamb, I took the skin off last night. I will put her and her lamb out tomorrow into the little "garden" field.

Had a complete diaster tonight, while catching a ewe I fell in the mud on some horrible sharp stones and really hurt my fingers on my right hand. The most important hand in terms of lambing a ewe! Luckily my thumb and index finger are ok so hopefully I will manage. Hurt my knee and elbow too, but I didn't let the ewe go so that was the main thing!

3rd April 08

Hand throbbed all night, was murder, but a bit better this morning. Of course I had every remedy under the sun except pain killers. Van is stuck in field because of mud so no chance of going to get some either! Weather is much improved today. The ground is drying up fast and the 6 inches of mud in the awning has receeded to about 3 inches. Long may the dry weather continue! I had a couple of singles lamb today and they got them out themselves. Three more pairs, again no problems which I was relieved about as hand is still causing problems.

Moved all the lambed ewes with twins out of the little field and put them in the small field behind the steading. All the ewes which lambed the previous day came out of the steading field first and went into a big field with plenty of grass.

Spark is about to get her debut. She isn't quite ready for this, but she isn't a dirty bitch and is keen to please me so I will give her a go at shifting some ewes with twins. Her main problem will be patience as she thinks lie down means lie down then get up straight away and carry on. This job should help her with that!

Ewes expecting a single lamb on hill park ground.

This afternoon I put four more pairs of twins into the big twin field. I used Ffi and Mist for this job.

On the right road

Mist looking pregnant (3 weeks to go!)

Once I'd moved them I took Spark into the night field to move three pairs which were born last night and this morning.

This was her second time on a quad bike and she was a bit worried on the way out that the trailer was going to attack us. She was fine on the way home. She was a bit inclined to head them and didn't want to stop at the right point but once they were more than half way she settled down and realised it was a job we were doing!

I decided to use Poppy to sort out the ones needing to come out of the garden. Some needed to join the ones Spark brought to the steading field so they can go into the twin field tomorrow and some needed to go back to the singles field. She did pretty well for a first attempt.

By the end of lambing they should both have learnt a lot.

I've all but emptied the steading, the ewe which kebbed is out in the garden with her lamb. The ewe with the rotten lambs is in a larger pen, she isn't totally decided if she wants the lamb and because she has to get anti-biotics, she will have to stay inside a bit longer.

Then I went round the single ewes, one gimmer had to be brought in to be lambed, this is a job Ghost excels at, and he can take a ewe through a whole flock and never let her get away.

You can see the "garden" on the other side of the dyke, the steading field is through the gate behind where the two ewes are standing. You can just see "keb" ewe with her lamb on the left.

Once this ewe was lambed (everything was correct it was just a big single lamb) I went to the twin field. I had lambed a ewe with rotten twins this morning and I was pleased to see she was on her feet and walking around a bit. Had another pair just been born to a gimmer who seemed very pleased with them. I will leave her in the big field tonight, then bring her into the steading field tomorrow ready to go to the twin field the next day. It's a bit of a walk so leaving the lambs a day to get stronger makes it a lot easier to move them.

4th April 08

Had 3 pairs, 2 singles and a set of triplets before lunch. Rain is back on!

Been busy today so not much time to say anything. Had a ewe prolapse last night, putting a prolapse back in on your own is not an easy task. First of all, the ewe has been working on pushing it out since you last saw her, so she doesn't take kindly to you pushing it back in! Once it's in there are several options on keeping it in there. String, stitching or a harness with or without a spoon. I think the harnesses are the kindest thing for the ewe because she can actually lamb through it. However they are pretty hard to put on when you're trying to keep her in one position, keep the prolapse in and have no spare hands to get the harness on! Anyway, I got it in, got it on, and she went off having a wee, which is the sign it's in properly. She also got an anti-biotic because a prolapse can be caused by infection. It can also just be the pressure of the lambs.

5th April 08

Weather today is mixed. And true to form the law of sod has dictated today would be the busiest day so far. I've had about 12 pairs, 3 sets and a couple of singles. Both sets of triplets needed lambed and quite a few of the twins needed lambed too. Also they were mainly gimmers which makes catching them harder. I decided to leave the ewes in the day field tonight as the night field is a wet hole. I couldn't get up the steep bit on the bike and when I walked I sunk to my knees in the mud. Unbelieveable. When it's not snowing or hailing, it's been quite nice...

I took these pics the other day.

Ghost surverying the twin day field. This field is actually quite dry, the mud is at the gate.

Driving ewes from day field into night field.

The smaller of these lambs has been mis-mothered, which usually means another ewe has pinched it, then abandoned it once her own lambs were born! I tried holding the ewe with Ghost but she was too twitchy and with the lamb being small I decided to catch her and put them inside for the night. Ghost is helping me catch around 98% of the ewes at the top of this field. This is quite a feat really. The few we've had to get at the bottom of the field have been scatty gimmers.

Bike reversed up to the steading door.

Ewe in a pen with her two lambs. She can go back outside tomorrow.

6th April 08

Had a complete disaster this morning, the quad bike broke down. Initially the ignition was frozen solid (it was minus 7!). Managed to defrost it with a kettle but it then broke down on the road several times. Very frustrating because it was on a public road, I couldn't abandon it. Eventually I got it back to base and phone the farm manager to get the spare bike brought up. I then walked round the singles and thankfully there were no problems since I'd been seriously delayed. Spare bike arrived and I am not swapping back! Despite being about ten years older than the one I had before, it's so much better. I had a few mis-mothered lambs today so they are in pens. Also had one ewe with "Balloon teats" which means she has so much milk her teats have sort of swollen up. The lambs struggle to learn to suck so you have to milk some out then "coup" her to give them a sook. These two were quite weak so I milked her into a jug and tube fed them both. The bigger lamb is ok when held on, the little one needs more help. Hopefully they will get the hang of it by tonight and go out tomorrow. The weather is meant to stay cold, we've had a bit of snow, complete contrast from last year when it was brilliant weather.

8th April 08

Even busier now but am about half way through this lot. Weather is still very cold but at least it is dry at the moment. It's Remy's 4th Birthday today. I haven't reminded him in case he demands a cake, the caravan isn't really equiped for baking!

Today has been the first night in quite a while I haven't been struggling on with some disaster until darkness. When lambing outside you must have all the problems sorted before night fall because after that there is nothing you can do. It's a difficult balancing act between seeing everything as late as possible, but getting everything done in time. I certainly haven't had the inclination to write much in this.

The weather ended up raining again but we had a blue sky day most of the day which makes everything a bit easier! Yesterday afternoon I had a ewe put her lamb bed out (prolapsed uterus). I've only seen one other and they are difficult to put back in by yourself so I took her to the shepherd who usually shepherds these sheep for a bit of assistance. The first problem is if you have to catch the ewe, in this case I'd lambed her so she was already caught. However catching them can cause damage and once it's ripped there is no hope. Anyway she was a quiet old ewe and Brian had no problem getting it back in. She is fine today. However, I lambed another ewe today and the lamb bed "followed the lamb out". I tipped her onto her nose straight away so her hind quarters are in the air. It went back in really easily, and the trick is to give them a good shake before you let them down so it shoogles back into place. I did that, let her got and beat a hasty retreat with my fingers crossed. I went back later and she was fine. Angus reckons if you shake them right, it won't come back out. Then I had a ewe with a vaginal prolapse.

In this photo you can see the prolapse, it's about the size of a large galia melon at this point.

I tipped her onto her nose same as the other one, and gentle eased it back in.

And here she is with it back in and the prolapse harness on. There is a webbing square about 1 1/2 inches square which sits over the vulva and magically keeps everything in!

Ready to go on her way.

These are older lambs, 2-3 weeks old.

Poppy's first time on the bike. As usual she was completely laid back about the whole affair.

I used Poppy to help Ghost and I move twins. It has to be said she wasn't particularly helpful and couldn't remember what "lie down" meant. Another year she'll be ok. I hope!

Ghost actually doing the work...

This scene is par for the course. This ewe had a big single and it was stuck. Everything was there, ie head and two front feet so it was quite an easy job to get the lamb out. The lambs tongue was a bit swollen so I milked the ewe and fed him with a tube to ensure he got away to a good start.

Same story with this ewe, I had to lamb her. However she wasn't sure she wanted her lamb so Ghost held her until she decided infact, she did.

9th April 08

Today I've shifted a lot of twins and this afternoon I am planning to shift all the singles out of the single lambing field onto the hill field, then I will combine all the ewes which have still to lamb into the same field, and things should be a bit easier. Last turn I had 4 twin ewes lambing so I took them all into the steading. Was getting a bit short of pen space by this point because the pens had collapsed over night the night before and I had three pairs get mis-mothered so they were still in, plus a couple of ewes which had rotten lambs which I've twinned, but are not taking the lambs yet. Managed to squeeze them all in, just! The ewes are checked 5 times a day, and each time is called a turn, first turn is at first light, second turn after breakfast, third turn before lunch, fourth turn before tea and last turn about an hour before darkness falls. In between those checks, I move ewes which have already lambed into the correct field, singles and twins are kept seperate. Any ewe which has had a dead lamb for whatever reason, has to be twinned with a spare lamb which comes from sets of triplets. No ewe is left with three lambs as it's too many for her to rear sucessfully. Also I have to look after the ewes I have inside the steading and around in the little fields. I have 9 individial pens in the steading and one larger one which is useful for putting a ewe which has been twinned in, to check she is taking her lamb.

10th April 08

Got all the grit ewes combined last night and what a difference it's made. Instead of panicking about what's going on in the other lambing field while I am sorting out problems in one, I can relax - a bit! - and work away in one field most of the time.

This morning I had a triplet ewe with a stuck lamb. I took her down to the steading since three lambs would be asking to be pinched by someone, when I lambed the first one I couldn't believe how big it was. He's bigger than any of the singles I've had so far. When I went in for the next one, there was no more lambs, so she much have absorbed the other two after she was scanned. Ewes expecting triplets are obviously fed a lot more than ewes expecting singles, so it's not surprising he was enormous. It's been heavy showers and sunny intervals today. Unfortunately during a heavy shower I discovered my new flexithane leggings are leaking. There is nothing worse than sitting on a quad bike with leaky leggings. I am going to take them back to the shop and hopefully get another pair - but not until May!

I had a lamb get out of the small field behind the steading, so I went to retrieve him. I picked him up and then heard another lamb bawling it's head off. I couldn't see anything and it sounded echoy like he was down a hole. Well, he WAS down a hole. No idea how he'd got in there, I think it would be the septic tank from years ago when the steading had a cottage attached (and a shepherd lived there). Thankfully it was dry otherwise he would surely have drowned. I managed to hook him up with my leg cleek and he was ok, but very hungry. I found his mother and took him across to her. He drank and drank for ages and she seemed to be happy to have him back. However later he was lost again so she will be going in a pen with her two lambs until she learns to count.

This afternoon brought more high drama! There is a deep boggy bit in the lambing field and ewe complete with lamb at her side, was stuck fast. I sent Ghost in to see if that might convince her to pull herself free, but no chance. Ghost tried to pull her out but she was too deep. I had a quick look at the rest of the ewes to check there was nothing urgent, and went to get Brian. Brian came with his wife and a rope and we managed to rope her head and drag her out. She was a bit weak from struggling but otherwise none the worst for her adventure.

Not a great photo as I took it with my phone while I was waiting for help but you can see the lamb at ground level on the right, and the ewes head on the left. The black bit is her eye...!

Off she goes, filthy but ok.

Then I brought in a ewe who was having trouble, she had twins in her. The problem was ring womb, which is when the cervix does not dilate. She was trying to push the lambs out which was impossible, and would probably have caused her to prolapse eventually. The only thing you can do is put your hand in the ewe and try and try and ease it open. It took about 20 minutes of coaxing but eventually I had my fingers past the cervix up to the knuckle on my hand. Then I found another problem, I could feel four legs and no head. I put my left hand in to give my right hand a rest, and also because if you are right handed your left hand is generally smaller. Eventually I got my hand in and worked out the legs were all front legs and I found head too. You have to feel your way along the lamb to work out which legs are which because if you try and pull the wrong legs then you can cause a bigger mess. I couldn't get the lamb to come so I had to tip her onto her nose and push the second lamb back. Once I'd worked out what was what I got the head and two legs engaged in the "banes" (bones - pelvis). Everything has to be exactly the right angle, particularly if the ewe is tight. It's amazing really, you can be struggling to get the right position then all of a sudden it almost clicks into place and the lamb comes out very easily. The whole process probably took 30 minutes and is very sore on your hand and fingers. However the prize was two living lambs and a healthy ewe.

I've just had my tea and I am now going out to shift singles. I shifted 20 onto the hill this morning but I was hoping to be a bit further on than I am. There is always something to hold you up at lambing time!

The ewe on the right had some how got mixed up as to which lamb was hers. The ewe on the left was happy to have both, but the lamb on the left is really hers. I brought the ewe on the right into a pen so she could settle for the night.

Back inside for the night now. Things are so much easier now everything is in one field. I still have to check everything else but it's not as intense. I shifted 45 singles in total today, Ghost is working like a trooper. Have 42 pairs in one twin field, 17 in the other twin field. Tomorrow I am hoping to shift 33 out of one field to make the 17 up to 50, then I have about 15 pairs still in the old twin lambing field. I will leave them there for a few more days so it's easier to move them. I need to get everything cleared up for moving over to the other farm at the beginning of the week, because Brian will be lambing the hill then so needs everything in good order. Then it will be all guns blazing again. I am lambing about 400 North Country Cheviots there and 80 in bye ewes, texel x blackies same as the ones in the above photo. Maybe tomorrow I will have time to tell you about the excitment in the village when the shop was burgled!

11th April 08

The robbery of the centuary - not. The other day when I went out for the first turn I nearly had a heart attack when a voice said hello. Angus had come over to warn me that the village shop (less than a mile from the caravan) had been burgled in the night, and the robbers, were on the run, he and his boss were worried they'd nick my van! We were imagining idiot young boys to be honest because if you are going to do a robbery, this particular shop would not be the best choice since it's tiny and has hardly any stuff to nick. Plus the owners were on holiday so there would be no money either, lol! The police had caught the getaway driver when he came back through the village to look for his mates (duh). Later on I was at Angus's having my lunch and the phone rang. A friend from further up the valley from my caravan was worried about where I was because two guys had come out the forestry and were walking down the road my carvan sits next to! He had asked them if he could help them and they said they were looking for the caravan park. There is no caravan park! He phoned the police who came and caught them. They were soaked to the skin and wearing jeans and trainers, and had been in the forestry all night, lol! We think they must have got lost and not realised they were heading in a circle back to the scene of the crime. Oh and they weren't young boys, but in their late forties!

12th April 08

Last night I moved 33 pairs along the road to another field so I've got 50 pairs in the one field now. Have a few pairs to shift from the lambing field today as well. It's been heavy rain with more forecast.

This morning I lambed a ewe with twins who was trying to pinch a lamb from a triplet ewe who had just lambed. Unfortunately she had two small lambs and one tiny tiny lamb and the tiny one didn't make it. The other ewe who was pinching had two coming together so I could feel a head and four legs. Luckily she was very roomy so it was easy to find the correct legs.

I had another ewe with a rotten pair this morning. It's a depressing state of affairs really as there is nothing you can do. Hopefully she will recover enough to rear a lamb. I have one ewe who is very ill because of it. She has picked up a bit but has yet to get back on her feet. I managed to hold her up for a little while today and I will keep doing that until she gets her strength up.

14th April 08

Amazingly my very sick ewe is back on her feet. She was so ill a few days ago I didn't think there was any chance she would survive. She isn't eating yet but she is definitely on the up.

This afternoon I will bring all the grit ewes (the ones which haven't lambed yet) into the pens as Brian is coming to take them over to his place. Then at 6pm the farm manager is coming with the landrover to haul the caravan to the other side, where I will start lambing tomorrow. I will be there until the end of the month. Today I will be sorting out the "odds and sods" so that everything is as easy as possible for Brian taking back over.

Yesterday I went to see "Bendy" at lunch time before she was put onto the hill. Bendy is a hogg who was born last year. She never got on her feet so I put her in the pet pen. She had something wrong with her joints, and there was far too much movement, so her legs splayed out at right angles. Despite this problem she was a lovely big lamb. I tried to get her on her feet by putting her in a bag and cutting holes for her legs so they couldn't bend the wrong way this worked to a point so then I made her a string harness which prevented her front legs from going out to the side, and I put a loop of string round her back legs to prevent them from splaying. After about a week of physio-therapy she was completely normal and I twinned her onto a blackie ewe (Bendy is a North Country Cheviot) and told Angus he had to keep her as she was special. Being the only one with a Blackie mother, he knew who she was. She went away to the wintering and has come back a good strong hogg. I also saw Ghost's son Husky in action as Angus used him to gather the hoggs. He is looking very good.

Yesterday I also used Poppy to shift some ewes and lambs out of the garden. Basically she mainly has to stay lying down where I told her, which for Poppy is a real trial because she hates to lie still! However she did a lot better than last time and when an agressive ewe went to break she tackled her head on and turned her. Which means I can forgive her for just about everything!

This morning I had two ewes fighting over one lamb. One ewe was scanned for twins so I assumed it was her lamb and the other one was trying to steal it. However when I lambed her, she had two lambs in her. I left her with her lamb and went to lamb the other ewe. Left her with her lamb and couldn't believe it when both of them ignored their own lambs and took off to find "their" lamb. Usually if they are pinching once they have their own lambs they aren't interested in the other one. So I put all the lambs in the trailer and Ghost took the ewes down to the steading so I could put them into individual pens. They should have settled down by this afternoon and will go outside.

I also had a ewe who had a rotten lamb and a living lamb a few days ago prolapse. This would be due to lingering infection. I got her back into the steading and put the prolapse in and put a harness on her. I gave her a good dose of antibiotic. I was worried as she was still pressing all afternoon but the harness did it's job until the injection had time to work, she looks a bit better this afternoon.

Ffi and Mist shifting singles onto the hill. In the background you can see "some" of the ewes I start lambing tomorrow!

That'll do Mist. Really..! (10 days to go)

Before I went in for lunch I shifted all the odds and sods out of the old twin lambing field and the night field. Now I just have to get the grit ewes down for 4 and the caravan packed up to be towed at 4:30. Nae problems!!

I had a few people ask me about terminology.

Keb - a ewe which has aborted her lambs.

Kep - has various meanings, like, cover one side, or help someone out. You would say, can you come and give me a kep on the road, which would mean can you turn the sheep up into that field etc.

Gimmer - means different things in different parts of the UK, but here it means a ewe having her first lamb so she would be about 2 years old.

Hogg - between a lamb and a gimmer.

Mule - again different in different parts of the UK but these are by a Blue Face Leicester Tup over English bred Black face ewes. If the blackies were Scottish bred, we'd call them Greyfaces.

Wintering - grass let for the winter usually on dairy farms because the cows are inside in the winter. Mainly stock lambs are sent there but sometimes ewes can be sent to wintering too.

Drove - move/drive sheep, or in terms of shifting a drove, it would mean moving a flock.

15 April 08

No time to say much tonight. I got my caravan moved last night and installed across the water. I went back to the other side today to shift what was left in the lambing field. A job I thought would take an hour or so but took 4 hours. I only took Ghost as it was snowing and I didn't want Ffi and Mist getting cold and wet so he could hardly walk tonight with exhaustion. However everything is sorted out and I start lambing Angus's sheep tomorrow. He is going to keep feeding them with the snacker which will be a great help.

I now have mains electric which is more wonderful than I could have imagined, lol. Lights, hot water, fan heater, microwave and toaster, hooray!

I am starting a new page for this lambing, click here Lambing Blog 2