April 16th - 30th 2008
Today is my first day doing Angus's lambing. Here I am lambing mainly North Country Cheviots with a few blackies which have been put to a texel.
I took Ffi and Mist to shift twins today. I don't like putting them on the bike in case they hurt themselves jumping up or off, so they get the executive transport in the trailer!
North Country Cheviot ewe with her twin lambs. Cheviot lambs are very pretty.
Ffi and Mist taking a side each.
Yes you have to go Mrs.
Mist pushing a pair through the gate.
This Cheviot ewe at the back is trying to steal one of the Scottish Blackface (Blackie) ewe's lambs. Thankfully when I moved them she decided she didn't like them THAT much and went off back to the other ewes. Stealing is a real pain and the thief can be more determined than the mother to get her hands on one of the lambs. Then the mother won't take the lost lamb back so it's important to keep on top of it. I've seen ewes standing behind a ewe which is lambing waiting to steal the lamb as it comes out! NCCs are quite bad as they are such kind mothers. Shetlands are the same.
Ffi looking more pregnant.
Have had three sets of triplets today and several pairs. Yesterday I lambed a set out of a blackie ewe. I needed a spare lamb so lifted one off her. She had loads of milk. However today her vessel has really dropped and the lambs were struggling to get anything at all. I got her into a pen and tried to get them to sook but they weren't having any of it. I milked her into a jug and then fed them with a tube. Hopefully they feel stronger and I'll be able to get them to sook later on today. It's ironic that having too much milk would have killed her lambs. Before I came in for lunch I had a pair of lambs born which were far too early. One had it's head up and the other was lying flat and hardly breathing. I knew the flat one would die, it was just too under developed to live. I took them into the caravan and got the heater blasting on them. I gave them both some colostrum and as I thought the smallest one didn't make it. The slightly bigger one was still living an hour later so I gave him another 30 mls of colostrum. To put it in perspective, a normal sized lamb would need at least 160mls of colostrum and I've only got 50mls in to this lamb. He was sucking my finger so that's a good sign. Like a premature baby he will need a lot of care to pull him through. He is about a quarter of the size of a normal twin. Fingers crossed he'll be alive when I go back after lunch.
This is Golden Boy. He is an amazing looking Pheasant who thinks he is a Peacock. A game keeper friend of Angus's says he is an American Reeves. He is the only one on the Estate and lives near Angus. I have been trying to get a photo of him for ages, this one doesn't really do him justice. He stands flapping his wings when he sees people looking at him and he will attack the quad bike if it gets too close. His tail is almost a metre long.
Have been very busy today as the weather is just getting worse and worse. Have had a lot of ewes with problems with their vessels, mainly too much milk which is pretty frustrating. Also had a hypothermic lamb this morning. This lamb needed and injection of glucose straight into it's stomach. This is a life saving technique and it is amazing how far gone a lamb can be and yet be pulled back by this. It has to be glucose because the lamb needs energy fast. It must be given the glucose before you re-heat the lamb. Because you are injecting into the stomach you must take care that the needle etc is clean. However the lamb must get an injection of anti-biotic as well.
I lambed a set of triplets this morning and when I went back to see them two of the three have bent legs. This is caused by being bent in the womb and should come right with time. I left the worst afflicted lamb with it's mother and took the less afflicted one which had been pinched by a ewe also expecting triplets, as I needed him to twin onto another ewe. I took the thief ewe and put her in "jail" where she will stay until she lambs. The other ewe which had been in jail lambed yesterday.
Oh, and Dinky is still going. Will take a photo if he makes it until tomorrow.
I milked a pint of milk out of the Blackie ewe with the massive vessel. That was out of one side. I don't know if her lambs are going to manage so I might have to lift the lambs.
I forgot to say that Bendy II is still going today and managing to feed off it's mother but she is still decidedly Bendy!
Unfortunately, Dinky didn't make it. I think he was too under developed to survive.
BendyII is ok, she is managing to feed from her mother with no help but I am not sure of the outlook for her. I think possibly the cord has been wrapped round her back end and caused some nerve damage. It might come right but time till tell.
Last night I moved all the twins from two fields, it took hours to do but it was a good job done. I reckon it takes about 15 minutes to shift one ewe with a pair. You can't hurry her and usually when they are young you can't move more than one pair at a time, because they go at different speeds. Angus's sheep are lambing in their own hefts, rather than being split into twins and singles. A heft is a family group and ewe lambs learn where they live on the hill from their mothers. Even when there are no fences they stay on their own part of the hill. The ewes with twins will stay in fields at the farm, the ones with singles will go back onto the hill when the lambs are a week or so old.
Last turn I had a ewe with twins with just a head sticking out, I caught her and lambed her then put her in a pen. I had the same again this morning but with a Blackie instead of a Cheviot. The lambs are a good size so it's not too difficult to sort out the lambing problems.
The lamb I gave glucose to yesterday is ok now and should be twinned later today.
I took these photos of the lad when I was shifting twins with him. Also the videos below. He is a little steadier this year and I think that will be because he has been doing 16 hour days for the last 3 weeks, lol. He still goes like the wind when necessary however, he's some dog!
This morning I had a ewe with staggers. Staggers, or hypocalcaemia is caused by a calcium deficiency. It can happen before or after the ewe has lambed. It is caused by the increasing demand for calcium by the growing lambs and for milk production. It is a lethal disease and comes on very quickly. Within a short time the ewe can be bloated with gas, have a horrendous foamy discharge from her nose, death quickly follows. However, there is a cure. Quite amazingly, an injection of calcium under the skin over the ribs will pull the ewe back from the brink of death within about ten minutes. The ewe must not be moved before she is injected as the stress of even moving her could kill her. So she has to be injected with calcium (at body temperature) and then moved away from any hazards such as a stream, as as she comes round she will be a bit disorientated. Stress can bring on staggers, and an inlamb flock chased by a dog, for instance could easily be afflicted. Although the ewe is saved by the calcium, prior to lambing it can make her lose her lambs, and after lambing can put the milk off her. Older ewes are more likely to be affected.
I've got several lambs which will not "sook" themselves. One is a single lamb who is a 3/4 texel. Her mother has a lot of milk which is making it hard for her to latch on, however she is a soft lamb too. She will get it eventually but couping a texel cross ewe 4 times a day to get the lamb fed is a bit wearing.
Bendy II is no better. She can feed no problem but her legs aren't improving. Each time I see her I give her some "physio" which is basically putting her legs in the right position and making her stand up. Hopefully it will work.
The thief I had in jail has had her triplets. She is hiding at the back of the paddock but did come out today for a drink. Hopefully she will go out later today.
I haven't had to lamb many ewes in the last few days, I had one Cheviot today who had a big-ish single. She probably would have got it out herself but you can't afford to wait and see. The problem with catching a ewe and lambing her is that you are interfering with her maternal instincts and upsetting her. One year I was lambing hoggs which are yearlings when they have their first lamb. They are the teenage pregnancies of the animal world and it's harder to get the lambs out of them so you have to lamb a high percentage of them, and because you've caught them and upset them, they almost always want to run away when you let them go. The best chance of them accepting their lamb is if they get it out themselves. Today's ewe was a gimmer (so she had not had a lamb before either), and I had a feeling she would try to run away too. My technique with these are to leave her lying on her side with her lamb at her nose so that I can get out the way before she gets up. Then hopefully she will not panic when she gets up and will fall in love with her lamb. If she has a pair of twins and I have doubts about her dedication to motherhood, I would just put her in the trailer and into a pen, but you can't pen everything up so you have to develop techiques! Thankfully she decided she did want her lamb so all was well.
As the weather has improved a little, I was able to get everything I had in pens back outside.
I caught part of a discussion on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show the other day and the gist was that it is cruel to keep cattle and sheep in fields without a building for them to go into when the weather is bad. The complaining listener had seen cattle standing in the corner of a field when it was raining. The thing is, that all fields do have shelter, a hedge or a tree, or even a dip in the field. Animals are clever at finding the best spot in the field to shelter from the elements. There is no way animals are happier in a shed, they want to be outside eating grass. I know of plenty of fields which DO have man made shelters in them, and the cattle and sheep never go into them anyway! I was pretty outraged at some of the comments and I would have liked to have phoned in. However having no mobile signal kind of put the kybosh on that, lol.
Only 4 days until Mist is due to have her puppies.
Well, yesterday was pretty eventful! I took Ffi and Mist for a walk at lunch time, and when I put them back in Mist was trembling a bit. I watched her through the caravan window and she was digging her bed up a bit. I hurriedly errected the whelping box and puppy pen and put her in. About an hour later the first pup arrived! With her first litter she dug the carpet up and effectively locked me out of the house while I was lambing and dug for ages and ages before anything came. This time was far quieter and she popped one pup out every couple of hours with no problems.
I had to move a lot of twins last night and Angus came across to help me.
I ended up lifting Bendy II from her mother. I'd let them out of the pen and while her mother was dutifully waiting for her, she just couldn't keep up. I've got her in the pet pen now and I am using Bendy's bag to try and get her on her feet. I do think there is something actually wrong with her and I am not sure she will be fixable unfortunately. She is a tough little so and so, so fingers crossed.
Then I was up all night with Mist who I eventually brought into the caravan as it was too cold in the awning plus I was exhausted. She finished around 4am. At that point I thought the brown dog was a merle! As usual she was completely relaxed and happy. When I took her out this morning she was looking to go back to work. She was happy to be back in with her babies however and is fast asleep with them as I type.
Ffi is quite jealous that Mist has pups and was pushing Mist out of the way to have a look at them!
Last night I moved some singles to the hill. Ghost was going tremendously well. I can't believe he is still going as fresh as the day we started. Not many dogs could handle the work load he's slow coming out of his bed in the morning (he's not the only one!) but once we get going he's on top form. Then I moved some twins out of the other field. It's an endless and time consuming job but I can see the lambing fields emptying so I must be making progress!!
Just got round the sheep this morning when the sky became very over cast and the rain started. By the time I was feeding the "pets" it was a deluge. Apparently it's going to be sunny this afternoon, then the rest of the week is to be good and the grass will grow. I hope so anyway!
I had a lamb which had been attacked by a fox or a badger this morning and it's foot has been half chewed off. There is still some horn left although it is badly damaged, the shape of the hoof is there and I don't think the bone is damaged. I lifted him and he has joined the rest of the "gather up" of walking wounded in the pet pen.
Then I had a gimmer with quite a big prolapse. Angus had arrived to feed the sheep by this point so he helped me get the harness on her. It's a much simpler job with two people.
Mist's pups are doing well. The little one isn't giving me any cause for concern as she is always full and contented. Mist is a great mother and is perfectly happy. However when I take her out for a walk, she still wants to work!
I spoke to soon about the little pup! I think she is too small to get the milk really coming, so while she is still latching on, I am having to feed her with a bottle too.
I have made a little progress with Bendy II, I was getting to the stage where I thought there was no hope for her, however last night I managed to get her to stand four square. Only for a few seconds but with more "physio" I think she might be ok. She is a very strong lamb and a real character.
Yesterday I had a lamb with "Watery mouth". Watery mouth or rattle belly is a horrible disease which affects young lambs. As the name suggests, they start drooling and their stomach swells up. The name rattle belly refers to the fact that if you tap their belly it sounds hollow, which differentiates it from a lamb who has had too much milk. It's a difficult thing to treat and probably a third of affected lambs survive at most. There are a few things you can do for the lamb, it has to be fed with glucose, not milk, because the milk sours in their stomach. There are products on the market which although are preventatives, can be used to treat the lamb too. Spectam Scour Halt which is a spectinomycin is administered into the lambs mouth. It is more common in indoor lambing so when lambing indoors, it is usual practice to give it to the lamb as soon as it's born, while you iodine the navel. Watery mouth is a bacterial infection and can be caused by the lamb sucking on a dirty teat or bit of wool before it manages to get colostrum from it's mother, it can also be caused by the lamb being hungry. Hopefully as I caught it early, this lamb will survive.
I can see a big dent in the number of grit ewes left now. The more which have lambed before I go the easier it will be for Angus, since he will have to do the remainder of his plus mine.
This morning I had a gimmer with a rotten pair. She had prolapsed a few days ago which is a sign something is not right. This is the first rotten ones I've had on this side. I let her run without twinning her. She had a good dose of antibiotics so hopefully she will survive. She isn't a good gimmer however so she will be going "down the road" when she is fat.
What a day, and it's only lunch time! The weather has been horrendous today, fog, driving rain and wind. Not good weather for lambs. In this weather weaker lambs have little chance of survival so I have had to bring quite a few into the pet pen to warm them up. Anything which has been born today must get it's fill of colostrum pretty much as soon as it can stand so I have been catching a lot of ewes and giving the lambs a sook to make sure they are going to survive. Cold and wet weather is a killer. Lambs can deal with cold weather, or wet weather but both together uses a lot of energy.
Mist's little lilac merle is taking about 10-15 mls of lactol every time I feed her so I am cautiously optimistic.
I took this picture of the river today. Couldn't take the camera out anywhere with me!
Complete change in the weather today thankfully! It's quite warm and the sky is blue with hardly any clouds at all. I lifted a lot of triplets today and took them over to Angus's. He is not particularly enamoured at having so many pet lambs but that's the problem when you have a lot of triplets! (Anyone for a pet lamb??) I still have some weak lambs over at the place I am lambing.
I have a lamb which was knuckled over when it was born. It's never come right so I am going to put plaster casts on her front legs to straighten them. It should only take a week or so for her legs to be fixed.
In between lambing and everything else I am trying to pack up the caravan ready for Wednesday morning when I depart for the sunny North.
I have put a new photo of Mist's pups on the puppy page.
Unfortunately the little pup died early this morning. She had been feeding well so it was a bit of a shock. The remaining 5 pups are very strong and healthy.
Kepping one side while Angus brings up the rear.
Preventing this blackie going off with only one lamb.
Spot gets her turned.
Preventing a Cheviot going off with one lamb.
This lamb has been mis-mothered and is hungry. You can see by it's tucked up appearance and slightly sunken eyes that he is a bit dehydrated. He was also bleating and trailing around after other ewes. To begin with he was stolen by another ewe and despite me penning his mother up with her two lambs straight away, once she was let out she began "knocking him off". Once they start that they will not take the lamb back whatever you do. So he came in for the night and I twinned him onto a ewe who had lost her lamb, this morning.
In these videos I am calling Ghost onto the closest ewe who has gone off with one lamb. Because I can't video and see what's going on I had to stop the video a couple of times but you can see he sheds her off himself and brings her up. To get him to bring one and not the other, I shouted In Here to him, which means come in on this one. If he'd come in too soon I would have told him to get out, and he would have cast out to the next ewe. He is really clever at knowing which one I want and I can pull him in and pushing him out as necessary. It is a very important skill at lambing time as you are nearly always bringing one or a few rather than the whole field. If the dog won't pull in it would be completely useless.
Here is Spot moving twins.
Here he is shedding off a ewe with a single who has joined the two ewes with a pair each.
What a day!!!
This morning at breakfast time I decided I would take the awning down in preparation for going tomorrow. I thought Spark, Poppy and Chance would enjoy running around while I was doing it. Having packed it up I put it in the caravan and tidied a few more things away. Truth be told I completely forgot I'd left the young dogs outside. After about 30 minutes I went out to do the sheep and met Poppy and Spark on the door step. No Chance. Chance NEVER wanders, he is the most loyal and biddable dog on the planet so I couldn't believe he wasn't there. Then I saw a van driving away from one of the neighbouring houses and fearing he had been pinched (he is very friendly) I totally panicked. I went round the fields looking for him but there was no sign so I went up to the top of a field where I get a mobile signal to phone Angus and vaguely thought something fell out my pocket when I went to get my phone out. However I was so panic stricken about the dog I didn't look properly to see. Left a message for Angus, drove down the field and saw Chance on the other side of the dyke. PHEW! So I went round the rest of the sheep and left another message saying I'd got him. By this time it was lunch time so I went to get into the van. Next disaster, no van key. I am completely paranoid about losing my van key and usually I put it in a "safe" pocket. But of course because I was looking for Chance, I hadn't. Then it dawned on me that I'd dropped something earlier - oh no. Casting my mind back I remembered which field it was and thankfully since there is only a signal in one part of the field, I knew roughly where it was. Two hours later I had not found the key however and I was starting to think I'd have to borrow a car and drive home (3 hours each way!!) to get the spare key. I suddenly thought if I find this key I will give 50 quid to charity. Within 5 seconds, I found the key!!!
This afternoon Angus came over and we sorted all the grit ewes into two fields and put about 40 singles to the hill.
Tomorrow I will drive home un-pack / re-pack the caravan and start on the next lambing job on Thursday. I am not sure if I can keep a blog there as I won't have much access to the internet. However I spoke to the farm manager and apparently they started lambing a week early so who knows what will be left when I get there!
I have put new photos of Mist's pups on the puppy page. They are growing very well and are lovely fat puppies.
Bendy II is a strong lamb but still not walking. I gave up on "Bendy's Bag" as it didn't work, tried "Bendy's brace" but that didn't work either. Now I've cut four holes out of a plastic box which happened to be the correct height and put her in that. It might work, it might not but Angus will give her every chance to come right.